This is the BEST tiramisu recipe! Layers of mascarpone custard, espresso and Kahlua-soaked ladyfingers, and cocoa powder make up this wonderfully authentic Italian dessert.
Growing up, we sometimes frequented the Olive Garden for a family dinner out, and that meant multiple things: lots salad and breadsticks, leaving with a fistful of Andes mints, and getting a piece of tiramisu for dessert. I fell in love with this dessert at first bite as a kid and I still love it so much all these years later.
I first tackled tiramisu at home more than 10 years ago, when I first saw a recipe pop up in an issue of Cook’s Illustrated. However, that recipe utilized raw eggs and, while truly authentic, I just couldn’t get past it, even using pasteurized eggs. I re-worked the recipe with a cooked custard and I think it’s just absolutely fabulous.
The savoiardi are perfectly soft and loaded with flavor, while the mascarpone mixture has a light and smooth texture. I’ve made this multiple years for Christmas Eve and it’s always met with high praise and requests for seconds.
How Do You Make Tiramisu?
Tiramisu is traditionally made by layering ladyfingers that have been soaked in espresso and alcohol with a mascarpone cheese custard and a dusting of cocoa powder.
Many recipes call for using raw eggs in tiramisu, but I just couldn’t do it, so I made a cooked custard instead (much like you would do to make pastry cream) and beat it into mascarpone cheese with heavy cream. The flavor and the texture is superb.
One of the most important notes is to very quickly dip and roll the ladyfingers in the spiked espresso mixture so that they maintain some texture. If left to sit for even a few seconds, they will become mushy and disintegrate.
Can You Make Tiramisu Without Eggs?
An egg-based custard is definitely the traditional way with tiramisu, but you can make a perfectly delicious tiramisu without them!
In fact, a few years ago I set out to make a very easy and less time-intensive version of tiramisu and turned it into a tiramisu trifle. I scrapped the custard and instead simply folded whipped cream into the sweetened mascarpone cheese for a lighter, mousse-like texture that could be easily layered. You could certainly use that filling recipe instead of the custard here.
What Type of Alcohol is Used in Tiramisu?
Most recipes use Marsala wine in tiramisu, however I have always loved Kahlua, since it pairs so well with the espresso that’s already in the recipe. Use any of these, or your favorite liquor:
Rum (dark rum would be best!)
Coffee liquor (i.e. Kahlua)
Almond liquor (i.e. Amaretto)
I grew up thinking that tiramisu was a restaurant-only dessert, and I’m so happy to have proven myself wrong.
If you want something extra-special for a birthday, dinner party or holiday, this recipe is sure to please.
To Use Up the Extra Egg Whites, Try These Recipes:
Stir coffee, espresso, and 2½ tablespoons Kahlua in a wide bowl or baking dish until espresso dissolves; set aside.
In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat yolks at low speed until just combined. Add sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1½ to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once or twice. Add ⅓ cup of the heavy cream to yolks and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20 to 30 seconds; scrape bowl.
Set the bowl with yolks over a medium saucepan containing 1 inch of gently simmering water; cook, constantly scraping along bottom and sides of bowl with heatproof rubber spatula, until mixture coats back of spoon and registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 4 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir vigorously to cool slightly, then set aside to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
Whisk in remaining 4 tablespoons Kahlua until combined. Transfer bowl to standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, add mascarpone, and beat at medium speed until no lumps remain, 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer mixture to large bowl and set aside.
In now-empty mixer bowl, beat the remaining cream at medium speed until frothy, 1 to 1½ minutes. Increase speed to high and continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks, 1 to 1½ minutes longer. Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set mascarpone mixture aside.
Working one at a time, drop half of ladyfingers into coffee mixture, roll, remove and transfer to 13 by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. (Do not submerge ladyfingers in coffee mixture; entire process should take no longer than 2 to 3 seconds for each cookie.) Arrange soaked cookies in single layer in baking dish, breaking or trimming ladyfingers as needed to fit neatly into dish.
Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers; use rubber spatula to spread mixture to sides and into corners of dish and smooth surface. Place 2 tablespoons cocoa in fine-mesh strainer and dust cocoa over mascarpone.
Repeat dipping and arrangement of ladyfingers; spread remaining mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers and dust with remaining 1½ tablespoons cocoa. Wipe edges of dish with dry paper towel. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours. Cut into pieces and serve chilled. Leftovers can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.