Category Archives: Tiramisu


I don’t go nuts on plating as you know. Yet I’m uptight enough to have an aversion to desserts that simply land on a plate in a heap. That’s what happens most of the time with tiramisu, since it’s normally made in a large dish. Try as you might to cut tiramisu into neat squares, by the time it’s scooped out and plated it’s mostly a mess. Sure it still tastes good, but isn’t there a better way?

What about wine glasses? Works for me, and it’s not terribly difficult. But before we get into that, we need to get the tiramisu “cream” made. As mentioned, it starts with a custard. Combine your eggs and sugar in a small saucepan…

…and whisk to combine.

Now whisk in the Marsala. If you’ve only ever eaten tiramisu spiked with Kahlua, you’re in for a treat. Marsala makes a demonstrably better dessert.

Whisk it all together and set it over medium-low heat. For all you sticklers for authenticity who don’t want to cook the eggs, skip this step and leave out the wine, which will make the finished product too liquid-y. I recommend the cooked version, however, not just because it’s safer, but because it’s got more depth and interest.

You want to keep whisking gently until the mixture thickens. Your target temperature is 196, though thick enough to coat the back of a spoon is good if you don’t have a thermometer. Just don’t let it boil.

Allow the custard to cool a bit. While you’re waiting, scoop a pound of mascarpone into a medium bowl and beat it up until it’s smooth. Add the custard.

And whisk to combine.

Now for the whipped cream. Pour the cold cream into your mixer, fitted with the whip…

…and whip to soft peaks. Oops, I overdid it a little. No matter, all is still well.

Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture…

…and you’re done.

Add the sugar to your espresso, and, ladyfingers in hand, you’re ready to assemble.

The standard assembly in a baking dish is easy enough (instructions are in the recipe post below). To do the wine glass thing, use a cutter to cut out circles in your ladyfinger rows that match the circumference of your glasses.

Save those scraps! You can use them for other things. Like ice cream.

Dip the bottom round into the espresso. Get it out quickly before it gets too wet.

Carefully insert it into the glass…

…and cover it with the mascarpone cream.

Now lay down the next level of ladyfingers. Here I needed to break mine up into individual pieces since the whole round wouldn’t fit through the mouth of the glass.

A quick adjustment with the handle of a spoon…

…and a couple more ladyfingers…and it’s time for the espresso. I’m painting it on because pre-moistened ladyfingers are too soggy to work with.

More cream…

…followed by another layer of ladyfingers…and more cream…

…and you’re done. Now chill that for at least a couple of hours.

When ready to serve, dust some cocoa powder into/onto/around the glass. NOTE: This is also not traditional!

It looks nice though, I think.


Filed under:  Desserts & Cookies, Tiramisu | 4 Comments

Tiramisu Recipe

Tiramisu bears a striking resemblance to English trifle, or at any rate the Italian-ized version of it, a preparation called zuppa Inglese, English “soup” or “stew.” Both involve spirit-soaked cakes, laid down in layers and covered with custard. The ladyfingers in tiramisu are soaked in espresso, but the principle is the same.

It’s said that originally tiramisu wasn’t made with a custard, but rather with a simple mixture of raw egg yolks beaten with sugar, to which mascarpone and whipped cream were added. Some contemporary tiramisu recipes do indeed call for uncooked egg yolks. Given that uncooked eggs still carry a risk of salmonella, I see no reason to press the issue. These days most “traditional” tiramisu is made by combining zabaglione (a sweet custard made with Marsala wine) with mascarpone and whipped cream, and that is what I shall do.

I’ll add that the original tiramisu recipes supposedly left out the alcohol, the reason being that it was a children’s dessert. I find that suspect for three reasons. First, zuppa Inglese contains alcohol. Second, since when did Italians ever begrudge their kids a taste of wine? But most importantly, I can’t believe any parents would ever allow their children to consume a dessert with this much caffeine, unless they enjoyed watching them chatter like vervet monkeys who’ve just spotted a snake.

You’ll need:

1/2 cup to 1 1/2 cups espresso, according to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
4 egg yolks
3.5 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
4 ounces (1/2 cup) Marsala wine
16 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy cream
about 40 ladyfingers (made with bread flour if homemade)
cocoa powder for dusting

Combine the espresso and tablespoon of sugar in a small bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, whisk the egg yolks until light in color, whisk in the sugar and then the wine. Stir over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 195 degrees. Set the custard aside to cool.

In a medium bowl beat the mascarpone until light and creamy. Add the room-temperature custard and stir to combine. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip, whip the cream to soft peaks and fold into the mascarpone mixture.

To assemble, secure a 12″ x 9″ baking dish. Dip half the ladyfingers in the espresso mixture one by one (for less of a coffee kick, use a pastry brush to simply paint some espresso on the tops). Lay the ladyfingers down in the dish, covering the bottom. Apply half the mascarpone mixture. Repeat the dipping with the second half of the ladyfingers and lay them into the dish. Add the last half of the mascarpone mixture, and dust with cocoa powder.

Or, you can try a more unusual presentation…

Filed under:  Desserts & Cookies, Tiramisu | 14 Comments