Tiramisu Cake: A layered, Italian espresso-infused mascarpone dessert, in cake form. Get your caffeine fix, plus a boozy kick!
Would you look at that tiramisu cake?
I mean, what a stunner! Imagine the reaction this would get from your guests!
There’s just nothing like an amazing cake recipe to make a special occasion. They give that wow factor like nothing else!
But if you have a coffee lover in your life, you’re going to want to make them this tiramisu cake recipe!
Table of Contents
- What is tiramisu cake?
- What’s great about this tiramisu cake recipe
- What does tiramisu birthday cake taste like?
- Special equipment
- How to make tiramisu cake
- How to serve tiramisu cake
- Expert tips
- A few more of my favorite Italian recipes
What is tiramisu cake?
The word tiramisu means “pick me up” in Italian. It’s pronounced “TIER-ah-mee-sooh” or “tier-ah-MEE-sooh.”
Tiramisu is a classic dessert made with ladyfingers soaked in espresso and layered with a fluffy, sweet cheese filling and whipped cream. It’s soft, creamy, and rich, and it’s got a toasty, warm flavor from the coffee and alcohol.
If you want to learn more about it, click here: Classic Tiramisu Recipe.
This recipe is just like the traditional Italian dessert, only in layer cake form.
Rather than using ladyfingers, aka Savoiardi, we are baking three layers of genoise.
Genoise is just like a light, fluffy sponge cake, with the added richness of melted butter. If you’ve ever made homemade ladyfingers, it’s pretty much the same thing. Only instead of piping it into long lines, you just bake it in cake pans.
The genoise is cooled and then soaked with a rich coffee syrup. I added brandy for a boozy kick, but if you don’t like the taste you can totally leave it out.
The filling is light and fluffy, yet rich at the same time. It’s made with mascarpone, which is a soft, buttery Italian cheese similar to our cream cheese (but without the tang). It’s folded together with an egg and sugar mixture, then lightened even more with whipped cream.
When the genoise, coffee syrup, and mascarpone mousse have all had a chance to meld, it’s pure heaven. Moist, soft, and so creamy, with tons of rich flavor. We frost it all with whipped cream and sprinkle it with a little cocoa powder for garnish.
What’s great about this tiramisu cake recipe
- Tastes amazing: The coffee, brandy, and marsala flavors come together in the most delicious way!
- Light yet rich: The texture is unlike anything else. Rich and creamy, yet whisper-light!
- Stunning presentation: Your guests’ jaws will drop!
What does tiramisu birthday cake taste like?
If you like tiramisu then you’ll love this cake! It’s got all the same flavors, but in layer cake form.
The first thing you’ll notice is the creamy richness. The cake is covered with my famous whipped cream frosting and the filling is very rich and creamy as well, with a hint of marsala wine.
Marsala is a sweeter wine that’s been fortified with brandy, so it has a very deep, toasty flavor.
The cake layers are soaked in an espresso-infused simple syrup that also has a touch of brandy.
So everything comes together in a cohesive way and all the flavors speak to one another. It’s incredibly delicious!
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this showstopper of a cake.
Genoise is a light and airy sponge cake that’s enriched with a kiss of butter. Because it’s so spongy it really soaks up the espresso syrup well.
You’ll need three 8-inch diameter layers of Genoise to make this tiramisu cake. You can find tons of details on how it’s made here: Genoise Cake.
This forms the base of the simple syrup soak. Warm or hot water are best, but it’s not critical.
This ingredient may also go by the name “instant espresso powder.”
I typically order it online; here’s a link: Instant Espresso Powder.
Brandy is a spirit that’s made by distilling wine. It has a fruity, slightly sweet taste and gives a pleasant warmth at the back of the throat.
This ingredient is also used in the soak, but if you don’t want to use it you can leave it out.
Just a little bit, to sweeten the syrup.
This is a very eggy dessert! There are a lot of eggs in the cake layers as well as the filling.
The eggs and egg yolks provide a rich flavor and allow lots of air to be incorporated, so the final result is almost mousse-like.
The rough texture of granulated sugar creates friction with the eggs and helps to create that airy texture.
You can sub for another type of sweetener if you like. As long as it has a crystalline texture and swaps 1:1 for granulated sugar it should work.
Marsala wine is typical in a lot of Italian desserts, particularly tiramisu.
It’s a sweet wine that’s fortified with brandy, so the flavors of the soak echo those of the filling.
If you would prefer to make a tiramisu cake without alcohol, I’d suggest leaving this ingredient out.
Mascarpone is basically just Italian cream cheese. The texture is nearly identical, but the flavor is more mellow and less tangy.
Use full-fat heavy whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks. If you are outside the US, this product may also go by the name “double cream.”
Whipped cream frosting
I love this to ice the cake because it’s quick and easy to make and it’s more stable than regular whipped cream.
One batch should be more than enough, and you can find all the details here: Whipped Cream Frosting.
I forgot to show this one in my photo, but the top of the cake gets garnished with a dusting of cocoa powder.
For what you see in the images and video here, I used regular unsweetened cocoa powder. But you can use any kind of cocoa you like!
If you have these tools in your kitchen, recreating this recipe should be a snap!
- Measuring cups and spoons: So your ingredients can be measured precisely. Baking is a science!
- Large mixing bowl: You’ll need either metal or glass.
- Whisk: For whipping up the filling as it cooks.
- Medium pot: Filled with simmering water, over which to cook the eggs.
- Springform pan: An 8-inch diameter springform pan with tall, removable sides makes the assembly of this so much easier!
- Silicone spatula: For folding ingredients together and making sure you get every last drop!
- Offset spatula: Makes frosting the cake a breeze!
- Piping bag and tip: To make the garnish. I like a 16-inch featherweight bag and a jumbo round tip.
- Fine-mesh sieve: For dusting the cocoa.
How to make tiramisu cake
Let’s walk through the process, step by step.
Step 1: Make the cake layers
You’ll want to bake these in three 8-inch diameter cake pans that have been greased, floured, and lined with circles cut from parchment.
I’ve got a dedicated post to the cake layers here: Genoise Cake Recipe.
Step 2: Make the filling
Set a metal or glass bowl over a medium pot with about an inch or two of simmering water, and add the egg yolks, sugar, and marsala.
Cook the mixture over this double-boiler style setup, whisking, until it becomes thick. It should register a temperature of around 150 degrees F.
Next, add the mascarpone cheese.
Once that’s incorporated, fold in the whipped cream.
That’s your tiramisu filling made! Pop this into the fridge while we make the soak for the cake.
Step 3: Make the coffee syrup
This is super-simple. Just whisk the espresso powder, brandy, and powdered sugar into the water until everything is dissolved together.
Step 4: Assemble the cake
Place the first round of genoise in the bottom of a springform pan, and soak it with about 1/3 of the syrup.
Smooth about half the tiramisu filling on top.
Then top it with another cake layer, and repeat.
Soak, add filling, layer on the last circle of cake, and soak again.
Finally, place the whole thing in the fridge to chill and set up. The longer this sits the better it gets! And that goes for the flavor as well as the texture.
Similar to tres leches cake, this needs some time to absorb all the liquid. I like to give it at least overnight; 24 to 48 hours is even better.
Step 5: Frost and decorate
Place your serving plate upside-down on top of the springform pan, and flip both over in a swift motion.
Remove the sides and bottom (which would now be on top) of the springform, and cover the cake in whipped cream.
Again, I have a dedicated post for that here: Whipped Cream Frosting.
Dust the top with cocoa powder.
And pipe on the garnish.
How to serve tiramisu cake
Cut the cake into slices and present it on serving plates.
It can be enjoyed chilled or at room temperature.
Make the genoise ahead
There’s a lot going on in this recipe! A lot of components and a lot of steps. It’s a labor of love!
But making the cake the day (or even a few days) before can really help it all to feel more manageable.
Give it lots of time
Lots of time in the fridge will help this cake to hold together, as well as improving its taste.
The filling stiffens up as it chills, the cake absorbs all the liquid, and the flavors “meld” into something truly magical!
If you don’t want to use the marsala wine or brandy, you don’t have to. You can just leave them out and have a coffee-flavored cake.
Or, you can make a chocolate version that is non-alcoholic and (nearly!) caffeine-free. Just use the filling recipe found here: Chocolate Tiramisu.
I like the 8-inch size best but yes, you could do it in a 6-inch size as well. It could just get a little wobbly since it’s so tall.
Nine inches may come out a little flatter than you would like.
The short answer is no, but I find the springform to really make the assembly so much easier.
The first time I made this, I did not use a springform pan. The filling really wants to slide out the sides. It can be frustrating, even for an experienced baker.
A tall-sided springform pan holds everything together and upright, and just makes the whole process foolproof.
This 8-inch diameter cake cuts into 10 generous slices.
The nutritional info in the recipe card below reflects a serving size of 1/10th of the whole cake.
This cake can keep at room temperature for a few hours, or in the fridge for several days, maybe a week.
Or you can wrap it tightly and keep it in the freezer for around 3 months. Thaw it in the fridge.
A few more of my favorite Italian recipes
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For the genoise cake
For the espresso simple syrup
For the mascarpone filling
- 4 (72 g) egg yolks, large
- 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (80 g) dry Marsala wine
- 16 ounces (453.59 g) mascarpone cheese, cold
- 1 cup (238 g) heavy whipping cream, cold
To make the genoise layers:
- Whip the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large mixing bowl on high speed until tripled in volume (approx. 5 to 7 minutes).
- Sift in about 1/2 of the cake flour, and fold it in gently until almost combined.
- Fold in about 1/2 of the melted butter, then sift in the remaining flour, folding gently until amost combined.
- Fold in the remaining butter and tranfer the batter to the prepared pans.
- Bake until the cakes are set on the edges, deeply golden, and springy in the centers (approx. 20 to 25 minutes). A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
- Cool completely in the pans, then run the tip of a sharp knife around the edge to loosen the cakes before turning out.
To make the espresso simple syrup
- Stir the hot water, instant espresso powder, brandy, and powdered sugar together in a small bowl.
- Place one layer of cooled genoise in the bottom of a tall-sided 8-inch springform pan.
- Soak the cake with about 1/3 of the espresso mixture, and top with half the mascarpone filling.
- Repeat, then top with the last layer of cooled genoise and soak with the remaining espresso mixture.
- Frost with whipped cream frosting, dust with cocoa, and top with dollops of whipped cream frosting..
To make the mascarpone filling:
- In a medium mixing bowl set over a pot of simmering water, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and marsala wine together until pale, thick, and doubled in volume.
- Remove from the heat, and stir in the mascarpone.
- Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks, then fold into the mascarpone mixture.
To make the whipped cream frosting:
- Place the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl.
- Fit the mixer with a whisk attachment, and whip on medium speed until the mixture is smooth.
- Turn the mixer down to medium-low speed and pour the heavy cream down the side of the bowl in a very slow and steady stream.
- When all the cream has been added, turn the mixer up to medium-high and whip until the frosting holds stiff peaks.