This classic Tiramisu is made authentically in the Italian way, with espresso soaked ladyfingers layered with a light and airy mascarpone cream, and dusted with cocoa powder to finish. This is a great make ahead dessert and perfect for entertaining!
It wasn’t until a trip to Italy that I realized the gloriousness that is tiramisu. Tiramisu is one of those desserts that you see everywhere, and I’ve had my fair share of it throughout my life.
But I had never tasted it quite like the stuff I had in Italy. Why was it so different?
If you take a look at some of the tiramisu recipes on the internet, you’ll see a huge variation in ingredients.
And I think therein lies the issue.
An authentic Italian tiramisu only requires a small handful of ingredients.
For this recipe we’ll be using:
- a touch of sugar
- a touch of alcohol (I like amaretto or spiced rum)
- …and a dusting of cocoa powder on top
That’s all it needs.
I see so many people using whipping cream in tiramisu, or vanilla extract, and these ingredients are completely unnecessary.
Because of the whipped eggs, the cream is already ethereally light and creamy.
And the focal flavor of tiramisu should be the espresso, not vanilla.
Also, part of what makes an incredible tiramisu is quality ingredients, brought together from scratch.
Tiramisu at cafés and such is probably not freshly made, and likely comes out the back of a Sysco truck half the time.
Freshly pulled espresso, quality cream, and eggs make for an amazing tiramisu with only a few ingredients.
This tiramisu recipe is one of the oldest and most popular on my site, and was originally published in November 2012.
I have since updated it with more step-by-step photos and instructions, and have also added some photos of tiramisu in ramekins, which is how I like to make it for guests.
They are the perfect single-serving portions and look so pretty in the glass.
But I will show you how to make it both ways, in a square 8×8 dish, and in the cups.
To get started, separate 6 eggs, and place 3 of the egg whites in one bowl, and 6 egg yolks in another.
Add 3 tablespoons of sugar to the egg white bowl:
Use a hand mixer to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.
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 you pull a beater out of the mixture and a little peak sticks straight up:
Side note: 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.
Set the stiff egg whites aside, and switch over to the egg yolk bowl.
Add 3 tablespoons of sugar to the 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 mixture piles on top of itself when you let it drip from the beater.
Now it’s time to add the mascarpone cheese!
What is mascarpone?
It’s a mild and creamy Italian cheese, that typically comes in small tubs.
It’s 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 nearly all grocery stores carry it!
Mix in the mascarpone with the hand mixer until incorporated, then gently fold in the stiff egg whites, 1/3 at a time:
Take care not to deflate the egg whites too much as you fold.
Now it’s time to build the tiramisu!
Since we already discussed that the quality of a tiramisu is dependent on the quality and freshness of the ingredients, make sure to use fresh espresso here, and not an instant espresso powder.
If you don’t have the equipment to make your own espresso, stop by a coffee shop to get some. You’ll need the espresso to come to room temperature anyway, so it will be fine for the car ride home.
When the espresso has cooled to room temperature, combine it with a couple tablespoons of amaretto or spiced rum.
Those are my two favorite choices, but marsala 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 enhances the flavors).
To dip, I like to place the espresso mixture in a flat and small dish, so the entire ladyfinger soaks evenly:
The ladyfingers only need a quick soak, about 1-2 seconds.
What ladyfingers are best for tiramisu?
I’ve tried many brands of ladyfingers, and have also made my own.
I find that the best kind of ladyfingers to buy are the smaller and thinner ones, and 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 (for me anyway), 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 this:
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 hard part…letting the tiramisu sit in the fridge for a good 4-6 hours.
This 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.
Serve the tiramisu cold, with a dusting of cocoa powder 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.
- How long will tiramisu keep in the fridge? I wouldn’t keep this longer than a couple days, because the egg whites start to deflate.
- Can you freeze tiramisu? I don’t recommend it.
- Can tiramisu make you sick? 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.
- Can tiramisu be made ahead? Once you assemble the tiramisu, it needs 4-6 hours to properly chill anyway, so it has to be made ahead.
- 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 into the espresso mixture for 1-2 seconds and place into the bottom of a 8x8 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. Enjoy!
Here’s a video I made for you that shows how to make this recipe from start to finish: