Tiramisu Recipe

Tiramisu is a classic no-bake Italian dessert made with lady fingers, coffee, and cream. This easy version is about as luscious as it gets, and you can even make it ahead.

Did you know Tiramisu means “lift me up”?  Perhaps it’s the espresso… or the rum… or the whipped cream… or the thin layer of powdery unsweetened cocoa over the very top. Every single part of this traditional Italian dessert is special.

And one thing is for sure; Tiramisu lifts everyone’s spirits. The chocolate lovers, custard fanatics, and the something-sweet-but-not-too-sweet people all adore it. How many other desserts can do all that?

Recipe ingredients:

Labeled tiramisu ingredients in various bowls.

Ingredient notes:

  • Egg yolks: The custard uses a lot of egg yolks, but no egg whites. Hold onto the whites, though!  You can freeze them for meringue later.
  • Mascarpone cheese: An Italian cream cheese that is usually sold in small plastic tubs in the cheese, dairy, or deli section at grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can make a substitute with cream cheese and heavy cream. For every 8 ounces of mascarpone you need, mix together 1/4 cup heavy cream with 8 ounces of softened cream cheese.
  • Espresso or strong coffee: Brew a cup of your deepest, darkest coffee, then chill it. To use instant powdered espresso, combine 1 tablespoon espresso powder with 1/4 cup hot water.
  • Dark rum: Substitute an equal amount of light rum, coffee liqueur, brandy, or cognac. If you have a bottle, use Marsala, a sweetened Italian wine with a nutty flavor. It’s a common ingredient in authentic tiramisu recipes. You can also substitute 1/8 teaspoon rum extract mixed with 2 tablespoons water, or just add more coffee.
  • Italian ladyfingers: Oblong, very dry sponge cake cookies, aka savoiardi. They don’t taste like much all by themselves, but they’re the backbone of this dessert. You should be able to find cellophane wrapped packages of lady fingers at almost any well-stocked grocery, made by Italian brands such as Delallo, Balocco, Vicenzovo, or Marini.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder: Much more than just for show, the cocoa melts onto the top whipped cream layer and tastes incredible. Dutch processed or natural are both fine.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. To begin, make the mascarpone filling. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together in a medium saucepan. Add the milk, then cook over medium heat on the stove, whisking constantly, until boiling.
    Making tiramisu custard in a pan.
  2. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Pour the hot custard into a bowl and cover the surface of the custard with a piece of plastic wrap. This prevents a tough skin from forming on the custard as it cools. Pop the bowl into the refrigerate and chill for at least an hour. While the custard is chilling, take out the mascarpone cheese and let it soften at room temperature.
    Tiramisu custard covered with plastic wrap to chill.
  3. Once the custard is chilled, blend it with the softened cheese. You can use an electric mixer with a paddle attachment or a spatula, working by hand. Set the filling aside.
    Tiramisu custard mixed with whipped cream.
  4. Make the whipped cream. Beat the cream and vanilla together using an electric mixer and a whisk attachment. The whipped cream should be fluffy, with stiff peaks.
    Whipped cream in a bowl.
  5. Mix together the coffee and rum. Arrange a layer of individual cookies flatly on the bottom of the dish you plan to serve the tiramisu in.
    Lady fingers in a white rectangular baking dish.
  6. Next, brush the cookies with the rum/coffee liquid. They’ll soak up the coffee and soften over the next few hours.
    Lady fingers being brushed with rum and coffee.
  7. Then spread half of the mascarpone custard over the ladyfingers, smoothing it out with a spatula.
    Mascarpone filling spread over lady fingers.
  8. After that, top with half of the whipped cream, smoothing that out, too. Repeat the steps with more ladyfingers arranged on top of the whipped cream. Then more coffee/rum. Then the remaining custard. And finally, the rest of the whipped cream.
    Whipped cream on tiramisu.
  9. Before you chill the tiramisu, sprinkle the entire top with unsweetened cocoa. Wrap with plastic wrap or foil.  Then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving, to give the ladyfingers a chance to soften and the cake to set up.
    Tiramisu being dusted with cocoa powder.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Don’t over-soak the cookies. If you don’t have a pastry brush, you can quickly (really quickly!) dip the ladyfingers into the coffee liquid, pulling them out as soon as possible. Then arrange them in the baking dish.
  • Don’t skimp on the cocoa. The denser the layer of chocolate on top, the less likely it is to stick to the plastic wrap or foil. Wipe the edges of the dish to keep the cocoa from going everywhere as you move it.
  • Cutting tiramisu: I usually take the rustic route and scoop out portions with a big spoon, but you can slice it into neat squares using a sharp knife, wiping the blade clean in-between cuts. A small metal spatula helps coax the pieces out of the dish.
  • Make ahead: You can make this the morning before you plan to serve it, or even the night before. However, it doesn’t freeze well because of the whipped cream layers.
  • Leftovers: Chilled Tiramisu makes a heavenly breakfast with fresh berries (I won’t tell) a delightful afternoon snack with a demitasse of espresso, or an unforgettable midnight snack. If you’re lucky enough to have any left, that is!

A piece of tiramisu on a blue plate with a fork.

More delicious desserts:

A piece of tiramisu on a blue plate with a fork.

Tiramisu Recipe

Tiramisu is a classic no-bake Italian dessert made with lady fingers, coffee, and cream. This easy version is about as luscious as it gets, and you can even make it ahead.
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Chilling time: 5 hours
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 523kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 6 egg yolks (see note 1)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 pound mascarpone cheese (see note 2)

For the whipped cream:

For the cake:

  • 1/4 cup espresso or strong coffee chilled (see note 3)
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum (see note 4)
  • 2 (3 ounce) packages lady fingers (see note 5)
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting (see note 6)

Instructions

To make the filling:

  • In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Stir in milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly.
  • Boil for 1 minute; remove from heat. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, placing wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Remove mascarpone cheese from the refrigerator so it softens while the custard chills.
  • In an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a spatula, blend chilled custard with softened mascarpone cheese until smooth. Set aside.

To make the whipped cream:

  • In an electric mixer fit with the whisk attachment, or with an electric hand mixer, beat cream and vanilla until stiff peaks form. 

To assemble the cake:

  • In a small bowl, combine chilled espresso and rum. Separate the lady fingers horizontally and arrange a single layer in the bottom of an ungreased 11-inch by 7-inch baking dish (about 16 lady fingers).
  • Brush with the espresso-rum mixture. Spread half of the custard mixture over the lady fingers, then top with half of the whipped cream.
  • Repeat with remaining lady fingers brush with the espresso-rum mixture, remaining custard mixture, and remaining whipped cream. Sprinkle with cocoa as desired (1 tablespoon or up to ¼ cup).
  • Refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Video

Notes

  1. Egg yolks: The custard uses a lot of egg yolks, but no egg whites. Hold onto the whites, though!  You can freeze them for meringue later.
  2. Mascarpone cheese: An Italian cream cheese that is usually sold in small plastic tubs in the cheese, dairy, or deli section at grocery stores. If you can't find it, you can make a substitute with cream cheese and heavy cream. For every 8 ounces of mascarpone you need, mix together 1/4 cup heavy cream with 8 ounces of softened cream cheese. 
  3. Espresso or strong coffee: Brew a cup of your deepest, darkest coffee, then chill it. To use instant powdered espresso, combine 1 tablespoon espresso powder with 1/4 cup hot water.
  4. Dark rum: Substitute an equal amount of light rum, coffee liqueur, brandy, or cognac. If you have a bottle, use Marsala, a sweetened Italian wine with a nutty flavor. It's a common ingredient in authentic tiramisu recipes. You can also substitute 1/8 teaspoon rum extract mixed with 2 tablespoons water, or just add more coffee.
  5. Italian ladyfingers: Oblong, very dry sponge cake cookies, aka savoiardi. They don't taste like much all by themselves, but they're the backbone of this dessert. You should be able to find cellophane wrapped packages of lady fingers at almost any well-stocked grocery, made by Italian brands such as Delallo, Balocco, Vicenzovo, or Marini.
  6. Unsweetened cocoa powder: Much more than just for show, the cocoa melts onto the top whipped cream layer and tastes incredible. Dutch processed or natural are both fine.
  7. Don't over-soak the cookies. If you don't have a pastry brush, you can quickly (really quickly!) dip the ladyfingers into the coffee liquid, pulling them out as soon as possible. Then arrange them in the baking dish.
  8. Don't skimp on the cocoa. The denser the layer of chocolate on top, the less likely it is to stick to the plastic wrap or foil. Wipe the edges of the dish to keep the cocoa from going everywhere as you move it.
  9. Cutting tiramisu: I usually take the rustic route and scoop out portions with a big spoon, but you can slice it into neat squares using a sharp knife, wiping the blade clean in-between cuts. A small metal spatula helps coax the pieces out of the dish.
  10. Make ahead: You can make this the morning before you plan to serve it, or even the night before. However, it doesn't freeze well because of the whipped cream layers.
  11. Leftovers: Chilled Tiramisu makes a heavenly breakfast with fresh berries (I won't tell) a delightful afternoon snack with a demitasse of espresso, or an unforgettable midnight snack. If you're lucky enough to have any left, that is!

Nutrition

Calories: 523kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 44g | Saturated Fat: 26g | Cholesterol: 257mg | Sodium: 62mg | Potassium: 78mg | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 1568IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 144mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @CulinaryHill or tag #CulinaryHill!

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  1. Candace

    I think it is a must to make it a day ahead. The flavors truly need to blend. I have made it several times and it was always better the next day.

  2. Raquel

    Happy Birthday to you Meggan! This tiramisu looks fabulous! I am going to have to try your recipe. Stopping by from the fun Food Blogger group. Loving your site!

  3. Kathleen @ hapanom

    That’s so cool that you and your brother share the same birthday! Happy birthday to you both! This tiramisu looks like such a wonderful way to celebrate :)

    1. Thank you so much, Kathleen! Now that I have gone through the process of having kids myself, I realize how crazy the timing is to have 2 kids born on the same day, 2 years apart!

  4. That is SO FUN that you and your brother share the same birthday! Happy Birthday! This looks like such a great way to celebrate! xo

    1. Justine we had some great joint birthday party sleepovers growing up. Imagine 10 boys playing basketball in the living room and 10 girls squealing while playing dress-up upstairs, then our worlds would collide for pizza and cake. Fun times!!! :)

  5. Happy Birthday Meggan! The tiramisu looks so moist and beautiful, and amazingly easy to cook! Pinning!5 stars

    1. Thank you so much for the pin, Maggie! :) I think it’s just as pretty to look at as it is tasty to eat!

  6. Happy birthday!

    1. Thank you Philipp! :)

  7. Happy B-Day Meggan! You know I love tiramisu and had lots of it last week, but after seeing this one, I’m craving more! Can’t wait to try it! Looks great!

    1. Thank you, Mira! You are definitely the Tiramisu girl. :) I hope you are staying warm!

  8. Janette @ Culinary Ginger

    Firstly, happy birthday, again. Secondly, I don’t think there’s many people who don’t love tiramisu, it is the perfect birthday dessert. Your recipe looks devine.5 stars

    1. Thank you so much, as always. :) It’s a lovely dessert, pretty to look at and even better to eat. The first day, I ate 1/3 of the entire cake and I’m pretty sure I got a buzz….

  9. Quibbler

    Happy Birthday to you (and your brother) Meggan – and thanks for another wonderful recipe!

    1. Thank you very much. :) I definitely had a fun day!

  10. Rachel (Rachel's Kitchen NZ)

    Oh, yes a firm favourite – would love a piece now and it’s only breakfast time:)!!!5 stars

    1. Rachel, I ate it for breakfast 3 days in a row! :) It certainly gets me off to a cracking start! Thank you!

  11. This is a dessert I always thought I didn’t really like, but how wrong could I be! You’ve persuaded me to give this a go some time when I have guests, Meggan. It seems pretty easy, especially as you don’t have to make any cake.5 stars

    1. I think you might like it, Helen! Sometimes I make it with weak coffee (I’m not a coffee drinker) instead of espresso and you could also leave out the rum.. I cannot imagine what other components might give you pause. ;) Thank you so much!

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