Who cares if it’s the quintessential 1990s dessert. (What will be the quintessential dessert of the new millennium, I wonder?) It’s still one of the most die-and-go-to-heaven treats there is, and, more to the point, I’ve never blogged the recipe.

I thought about adapting the recent Cook’s Illustrated version, but they skip the zabaglione step and use raw egg yolks. RAW EGG YOLKS! What am I, Rocky? (Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, not Bullwinkle’s.) So I went back to a more traditional, and admittedly more labor intensive recipe.

Below the cut: Tiramisu, the Photo Blog.

I’ve adapted the recipe from Cooking for Engineers, where Michael Chu has also photo blogged tiramisu. I do things a little bit different from Michael, but the recipes are nearly identical.

First, the mise en place:

You’ll need 8 to 12 ounces of espresso, four large egg yolks, 1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine (mine’s dry; I don’t think it makes much difference), coffee liqueur, 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, ONE pound cake (yeah, I thought I would need two), 16 ounces (2 packages) of mascarpone cheese, cocoa powder, and a hunk of semisweet chocolate for grating.

Traditionally, you would use lady fingers instead of pound cake. I’ve used lady fingers, angel food cake, and pound cake. They all work fairly well.

This recipe is designed for a 12 inch by 8 inch pan of tiramisu. I like to use my 8 by 8 inch glass dish because I have an air-tight top for it. Since I had leftover ingredients, I made a couple extra “individual size” tiramisus in ramekins. You’ll see that in a moment.

Let’s get to work.

1. Brew your espresso. For 12 ounces of espresso, I added 2 tablespoons of sugar, 3 tablespoons of coffee liqueur, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Stir to dissolve sugar and let this cool in the fridge.

2. Whip the four egg yolks until they look creamy and begin to turn pale. Do this in a sauce pan that can fit over a stock pot, like a double boiler. Now add the 1/2 cup of wine and the 1/2 cup of granulate sugar, and continue whipping until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Continue whisking this over simmering water . . .

. . . until the zabaglione sauce thickens. This will be obvious. Continue whisking off the heat until the underside of the sauce pot is cool enough to touch. Put the zabaglione sauce in the fridge.

3. Whip the 1 cup of cream to the soft peak stage.

4. Whip the 16 ounces of mascarpone cheese until it is fluffy. Do NOT even dream of substituting regular cream cheese here. Sure, it’s cheaper, but the flavor is all wrong.

5. Add the zabaglione sauce to the mascarpone cheese and continue beating or whipping until the two are well mixed. Now fold in the whipped cream.

6. Fill the bottom of your glass dish with slices of pound cake. I cut slices about 1/3 inch thick.

7. Here’s where I got lazy. I poured the espresso mixture over the cake layer, and then poured off the excess. You’re supposed to dip the slices individually, but why hassle with that? I would have to do it that way for the second layer anyway.

8. Spoon a bit less than half of the mascarpone/whipped cream/zabaglione over the cake layer. If you’re making this in a 12 by 8 dish, you would use a full half of the mixture. Spread it out. Put on another layer of cake slices. This time, you’ll need to dip the slices in the coffee mixture; I poured espresso onto a dish, and then put my slices onto the dish, flipping once before adding each slice to the tiramisu. Once I had tiled in the second layer of cake, I added the rest (mostly) of the mascarpone mixture. Spread THAT out, and you’re almost done.

9. This is when I realized I had leftovers of everything, so I made two ramekins of tiramisu. Then I powdered everything with cocoa powder.

10. And because you can never have too much chocolate, I shaved semisweet chocolate over the tops of everything. Et voila!

11. Chill for four hours or longer in the refrigerator. The mascarpone layer should firm up nicely, but slicing can be a little challenging.

That order again, from bottom to top:

mascarpone mixture
mascarpone mixture
cocoa powder
shaved chocolate

Once, I added about four ounces of chocolate to the zabaglione and made chocolate tiramisu. The cheese layer was heavier than usual, thanks to the chocolate, and it was richer, of course. I suspect there are all manner of variations out there, but these are the only two I’ve made.


Live blogging tonight, hopefully at eight.



  1. Stamper in CA says:

    I have only had Tiramisu from Trader Joe’s…not my cup of tea, but yours is probably a lot better.I hate angel food cake and lady fingers, so that could be part of why I don’t like it.

  2. dcr says:

    Tiramisu was the “quintessential 1990s dessert?” I don’t think I’ve ever had it.

    I wonder if one could make Tiramisu as a cheesecake?

  3. sxKitten says:

    So, uh, when you planning your next trip to BC?

    I’m just askin’ …

    PS. Dean’s off to Vegas today, but I’ll be around not long after 8.

  4. Pat J says:

    quintessential 1990s dessert

    I plainly lived in the wrong place in the 90s, then. I never had tiramisu till sometime around 2000, IIRC.

    I’ll have to try this recipe sometime. Bookmarking… now.

  5. Pat J says:

    PS, when Xmas gets closer, I’ll have to post my Welsh grandma’s trifle recipe. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

  6. Suisan says:

    Supposedly creme brulee is the cliche aught-aught dessert.

    Tiramisu was pretty common in the nineties to the point that jokes were made about it.

    According to restaurateurs that I know, citrus tarts and bread puddings are showing up on almost every menu as the “go to” dessert. I do enjoy a good Meyer Lemon tart. And the bakery near Dear Butcher’s shop makes an excellent pomegranate tart.

    By the way, with all the cream, coffee, and chocolate in various tiramisus, you’d think I’d like it. But I don’t. The texture of the cold fat of the marscapone mix melting in fatty streaks on my tongue never appealed.

    But thanks for putting up instructions! Do love a good recipe blog.

  7. Walnut says:

    Sis: store-bought is variable in quality. I suspect they omit the zabaglione entirely, so the creamy layers will have a bland taste. I’m not sure how much you’d like this dessert, though — you’re not much of a coffee drinker, are you?

    Dan, you can turn anything into cheesecake :)

    Chris, fun talking to you last night, until we both got ourselves depressed 😉

    Pat, I’m looking forward to the trifle recipe. It seemed for a while that every LA restaurant (except for the Asian restaurants!) had to offer tiramisu and creme brulee. I don’t know what the “in” dessert is these days.

    Suisan, so creme brulee is back? I like the funky-flavored ones. There was a restaurant in Pasadena which made one flavored with a single bay leaf. I thought it worked.

  8. Lyvvie says:

    I’ve used amaretto instead of coffee liqueur because can I find coffee liqueur here? No. Not even coffee brandy. So amaretto it is. And it’s damn fine. I’ll have to try this with angel food-cake. Angel-food cake? Angelfood cake. Who cares.

    I also notice you hold your whisk the same as your pen.

    Quintessential dessert for the noughties? Hmmm…

  9. Lyvvie says:

    I made a few calls and the answer for us in Edinburgh area of Scotland as to dessert favourite of the naughties is: Caramel apple pie in custard soup. Ah yes! Our cafe favourite! They make a deep layered apple pie in shortcrust, cover the top in thick caramel fondant and then pour over heavy lashings of hot, eggy custard. It is wonderful!

  10. Stamper in CA says:

    Nope, I’m not a coffee drinker and don’t care much for coffee ice cream either.
    Gimme cheesecake.

  11. Walnut says:

    The Noughties. I like that. I’m gonna call it that from now on.

    Amaretto should work just fine. Hazelnut liqueur would be even better (Frangelico).

    Caramel apple pie in a custard sauce . . . that sounds awesome. I’ll have to find a recipe.

    Sis, I have yet to master cheesecake. Give me time.

  12. Julia Sexson says:

    i’ve had the zabaglione version of tiramisu, and i just can’t get with it. i’m not a doctor, nor do i have any sort of immune system problems, and the raw-egg version just tastes better to me. i’ve even eaten it up to 3 days after i made it and have had no problems.

    and yes, one can make a tiramisu cheesecake. anyone who’d like the recipe can email me at joolz.sexson@gmail.com and i will be happy to pass it along!

    here’s my tiramisu recipe:

    6 x-l egg yolks, at room temperature
    ¼ c sugar
    ½ c good dark rum, divided
    1½ cups brewed espresso, divided
    500 g mascarpone cheese
    30 savoiardi
    Bittersweet chocolate, shaved or grated
    Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

    Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high speed for about 5 minutes,
    or until very thick and light yellow. Lower the speed to medium and add ¼ c rum, ¼ c espresso, and the mascarpone. Whisk until smooth.

    Combine the remaining ¼ c rum and 1¼ c espresso in a shallow bowl. Dip 1 side of each ladyfinger in the espresso/rum mixture and line the bottom of a 9 by 12 by 2-inch dish. Pour half the espresso cream mixture evenly on top.

    Dip 1 side of the remaining ladyfingers in the espresso/rum mixture and place them in a second layer in the dish. Pour the rest of the espresso cream over the top. Smooth the top and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 4 hr or up to overnight.

    Before serving, sprinkle the top with shaved chocolate and dust lightly with dutch-process cocoa powder, if desired.

    and yes, one can make a tiramisu cheesecake. anyone who’d like the recipe can email me at joolz.sexson@gmail.com and i will be happy to pass it along!

  13. Walnut says:

    Oh, good pick up on whisk-holding, Lyvvie. I was wondering if anyone would notice that!

    Thanks for the recipe, Julia! I might just get that cheesecake recipe from you, too :)

  14. […] Oh so cleverly I split some of my ground beef, using some for burgers (tonight), some for meatballs (tomorrow night). Mostly, though, I made Karen another tiramisu. My plan is working: thanks to this calorie-loaded confection of mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, eggs, espresso, and pound cake*, my wife has gained three pounds. If I can get her into the low nineties, my job is done. […]