This traditional Tiramisu is unlike any you’ve ever tasted, and many readers have declared this the best they’ve ever tried! It’s a classic Italian dessert and authentic no-bake recipe made with espresso soaked ladyfingers layered with a light and airy mascarpone cream, and dusted with cocoa powder to finish.
Most of us have had Tiramisu plenty of times in our lives, but probably not like this. It wasn’t until a trip to Italy years ago that I realized how incredible it can be. The Tiramisu there tasted SO different from any tiramisu I’d ever tried. And I really wanted to know why.
If you take a look at some of the tiramisu recipes on the internet, you’ll see a huge variation in ingredients. And therein lies the issue. An authentic Italian tiramisu only uses a small handful of ingredients, and they are:
- a touch of sugar
- a touch of alcohol (I like amaretto or spiced rum)
- a dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder on top
The airy, light texture of true Italian authentic tiramisu comes primarily from whipped eggs. It’s what gives the tiramisu an ethereally light and creamy quality.
I see so many people using heavy whipping cream in tiramisu, or even cooking and thickening the filling in a double boiler almost like a pudding. This is not how this Italian no bake dessert is traditionally made, and to me, none of these versions compare to the traditional method.
They simply aren’t as good, and I say that as someone who loves all things heavy cream and whipped cream. But not here!
There is also no need to add vanilla extract here. This is a coffee-flavored dessert, and adding additional flavors prevents you from tasting the nuances of the espresso or coffee you’re using.
Why This Recipe Is The Best
Incredibly airy, light texture and creaminess – We achieve this by using the classic method of whipping eggs, which giving the dessert a light mouthfeel and creaminess.
Only 7 ingredients – You don’t need a million ingredients to make tiramisu, and in fact, I think that makes it worse. This version is elegant, minimal, but with an incredible flavor and deliciousness.
Customizable to different serving styles – I have made this both in single serving ramekins and also in one big dish. I share below how you can customize the serving you prefer, and the pros and cons of each.
The most divine, pure flavor – This is the best tiramisu because it has such a clean, fresh flavor. The sweet and rich mascarpone really allows the flavor of the espresso to bloom on the palate. It’s so, so good.
Since first posting this recipe in 2012, I have since updated it with the option of making the tiramisu in individual ramekins (or you can do the 8×8 dish). Over time I’ve come to prefer the individual cups for guests.
While you can cut the tiramisu into slices (as shown in my photo above), it is very delicate. It takes a lot of practice plus building the structure properly with sturdy ladyfingers, plus a thorough chilling so the mascarpone is as firm as possible.
I’ve also noticed that storebought mascarpones vary in terms of thickness, which can affect the end result. You don’t have to worry about all this when you do the individual ramekins.
Since first posting this recipe, I have tried several brands of mascarpone, and I have been absolutely astounded by how much they vary. For best results, I recommend using Belgioso brand.
Whole Foods’ brand of mascarpone is way too thin, and Vermont Creamery’s mascarpone in my opinion has a chalky texture.
In this post, I will show you how to make tiramisu both ways, in a square 8×8 dish, and in the cups. The choice is yours.
Tips for Best Results
Use really fresh eggs – This is not the time to use old eggs from the back of the fridge, not only because they’re not as fresh, but because the yolk will be more likely to break, and we need to separate the yolks and whites cleanly for proper whipping.
Use packaged ladyfingers – I almost always say homemade everything is better when it comes to food, but I’ve found that packaged store-bought ladyfinger cookies actually work best here because there’s absolutely no moisture in them. I’ve made homemade ladyfingers many times, and while delicious, I always found them to be inferior as an ingredient for tiramisu because they’re so much more trouble to get right.
Make at room temperature – For the best mixing and texture, you’ll want to use room temperature ingredients here, especially the mascarpone.
Step by Step Overview:
To get started, separate 6 eggs, and place 3 of the egg whites in a medium sized bowl, and 6 egg yolks in a separate large bowl. The remaining 3 egg whites are not needed here, and may be saved for another recipe.
Make sure there’s no yolk in the white
As you separate the eggs, make sure that absolutely no egg yolk gets into the raw egg whites bowl, or else the egg whites will not whip properly. It may be safest to separate the eggs in a different bowl one by one so that if a yolk breaks, it doesn’t ruin the whole batch. Older eggs are more likely to break.
Add 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar to the egg white bowl:
Use an electric mixer to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks (you may also use a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment). At first, with about 30 seconds of whipping, the mixture will look foamy (left photo), but after a couple minutes of whipping, the egg whites will start to thicken (right photo).
You’ll know the egg whites have reached stiff peaks when the mixture has a fluffy consistency, and when you pull a beater out of the mixture, a little peak sticks straight up, like this:
Do not overwhip
If you’ve never whipped egg whites to soft or stiff peaks before, make sure you take care not to over whip the egg whites. After stiff peaks, the egg whites will curdle and you’ll have to start over again. If you’re using a stand mixer, it’s especially important not to walk away while it’s whipping.
Set the stiff egg whites aside, and switch over to the egg yolk bowl. Now add 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar to the raw egg yolks:
Whip this mixture for a couple minutes, until the mixture goes from bright yellow (left photo) to a pale yellow color (right photo):
It should be thick, and you can see that the egg mixture piles on top of itself when you let it drip from the beater.
Are raw eggs safe?
You are more likely to get sick from the lettuce in your salad than raw eggs, as lettuce is actually the most common food linked with food poisoning.
The risk of salmonella from raw eggs is minimal. If you Google ‘how many eggs have salmonella,’ you will see articles (like this one from Slate) that discuss this risk, and it’s estimated that about 1 in 20,000 eggs has salmonella. That number is small enough that I just go ahead and normally eat raw eggs when the situation comes up. Ultimately, this is a judgment call, and you will need to use your own discretion based on your health.
Now it’s time to add the mascarpone, which is a mild and creamy Italian cheese that typically comes in small tubs. It’s one of my favorite ever ingredients, and the base for this incredible Strawberry Tart and my favorite Peanut Butter Pie. Mascarpone is often compared to cream cheese, but the flavor is SO different, and the texture is much nicer in my opinion. You can see how creamy and smooth it is here:
The flavor of mascarpone is unlike anything else, and it’s essential for this recipe. Fortunately, it is widely available and should be easy to find.
Mix in the mascarpone with a hand mixer until incorporated, then gently fold in the stiff egg whites, 1/3 at a time, taking care not to deflate the egg whites too much as you fold.
Now it’s time to build the tiramisu!
Espresso vs Coffee
Espresso is the superior choice for tiramisu over coffee, though you may use strongly brewed coffee if you prefer. Since there are so few ingredients, the quality of the tiramisu is dependent on the quality and freshness of the ingredients, so make sure to use fresh espresso here, and not an instant espresso powder.
If you don’t have an espresso machine or the equipment to make your own, stop by a coffee shop to get some (some grocery stores even have coffee stands inside). You’ll need the espresso to come to room temperature anyway, so it will be fine for the car ride home.
In a small bowl, combine room temperature espresso with a couple tablespoons of amaretto or spiced dark rum. Those are my two favorite choices, but marsala wine and brandy are also commonly used if you prefer those instead. Also, feel free to omit the alcohol if you don’t want it, but it does enhance the flavors.
To dip, I like to place the espresso mixture (or coffee mixture) in a flat and small shallow dish, so the entire ladyfinger soaks evenly:
The ladyfingers only need a quick soak, about 1-2 seconds.
What ladyfingers are best?
Look for dry and crunchy Savoiardi ladyfingers, and not the soft and spongy cake ladyfingers. I’ve tried many brands of ladyfinger biscuits, and have also made my own. I find that the best kind of ladyfingers to buy are the smaller and thinner ones. My go-to brand is Natural Nectar, which I find at Whole Foods.
Whole Foods also sells their own brand of ladyfingers imported from Italy, but they’re twice the size of the others (they’re in the photo below), and I think thinner layers taste better (I used Natural Nectar for the glass ramekins).
As far as making your own, I’ve concluded that it’s not worth the trouble, and often times the homemade ladyfingers are not as dry, and won’t soak up the espresso as well.
As you soak the cookies, place them in a 8×8 square dish in an even layer:
Then pour over a layer of the mascarpone cream to cover, and repeat:
You can also make the tiramisu in small glass ramekins, like below. Just break apart or cut the ladyfingers to fit the glass.
I like making tiramisu this way because the single-serving portions are really nice, and it looks pretty!
And now comes the hardest part…letting the tiramisu sit in the fridge for a good 4-6 hours, covered tightly in plastic wrap. This chill time lets the layers soak into each other and lets the flavor meld. Additionally, if you’re making the 8×8 pan, the tiramisu must be chilled close to the 38 degree range in order to hold when cut into squares. This lets the mascarpone cheese and everything else firm up.
Then you can dig into the ramekins with a spoon, or cut squares from the 8×8 pan.
How to Serve
Serve with a dusting of cocoa powder on top of the tiramisu. I use this dusting wand (affiliate) and it gives the most even layer on top. I find it’s best enjoyed the same day, but the next day is okay too. The eggs will deflate a little bit by the next day, but it still tastes great.
Enjoy! And there’s a full video below the recipe on how to make the tiramisu, if you’d like more guidance. Check out all the Dessert recipes in my recipe index.
Recipe FAQ and Tips:
I wouldn’t keep this longer than a couple days, because the egg whites start to deflate.
Unfortunately I don’t recommend it. It will be so inferior compared to making it fresh.
If you do a Google search, you’ll see that the CDC estimates 1 in 20,000 eggs to have salmonella. That’s a small enough risk that I take my chances (and haven’t had an issue). If you prefer, you can purchase pasteurized eggs for this recipe, and there are also tutorials online for pasteurizing eggs yourself.
Once you assemble the tiramisu, it needs 4-6 hours to properly chill anyway, so it has to be made ahead, to a degree. I recommend making it no more than 1 day in advance.
- 3 egg whites*
- 6 egg yolks*
- 3 +3 tbsp sugar
- 8 oz mascarpone cheese at room temperature
- 1 cup freshly pulled espresso cooled to room temperature
- 2 tbsp amaretto or spiced rum
- 3-4 dozen ladyfingers storebought or homemade**
- cocoa powder for dusting
- In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites and 3 tbsp of sugar together with a hand mixer, for about 3-5 minutes until the egg whites hold stiff peaks.
- In a separate bowl, whip the egg yolks with the remaining 3 tbsp sugar for 2-3 minutes until the egg yolks are thick and pale yellow in color.
- Add the mascarpone to the egg yolks and whip until combined.
- Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the egg yolk mixture and set aside.
- In a small flat dish or bowl, combine the espresso and amaretto.
- Dunk each ladyfinger fully into the espresso mixture for 1-2 seconds and place into the bottom of a 8×8 dish, or into individual ramekins. Don’t let the ladyfinger soak so much that it falls apart, just a quick dunk to let it absorb a little bit of espresso.
- Once the ladyfingers have formed a single layer in the bottom of the dish, spread 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers.
- Arrange another layer of espresso soaked ladyfingers on top, and spread over the remaining mascarpone cream.
- Cover the top of the dish with plastic wrap and let the tiramisu refrigerate for 4-6 hours.
- Serve cold, with a light dusting of cocoa on top. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.