Classic Tiramisu


Tiramisu is the all-time most classic dessert recipe in the Italian lectionary.  You will find it on 75% of the menus in Italian restaurants.  There is a good reason for all of this – it is really good and actually fairly easy to make.

Origin and history:

Unlike many Italian dishes, tiramisu is relatively new on the scene.  It was “invented” in a famous restaurant in Treviso called Le Beccherie in 1969.  The restaurant is still there (2016).  Treviso is about 50km. north of Venice.

The dessert starts with zabaglione (or sabayon as they say in France).  This mixture of egg yolks and sugar is the beginning of many Italian desserts; so, if you learn to make tiramisu, you will be ready to prepare a whole range of luscious treats.  The zabaglione is poured over Lady Fingers, which are crunchy sweet biscuits shaped like a finger.   They are very absorbent and are quickly soaked in expresso or coffee along with some liqueur or rum before adding the zabaglione.

Lady Finger have an interesting history.  They were first developed in the 1600’s in the Duchy of Savoy, which was in the northeastern corner of Italy.  Usually the box is labeled Savioaridi Lady Fingers.  For almost 400 years they were use almost exclusively  as a teething biscuit for babies.  Nobody thought to use them in a dessert until 1969.

The word “tiramisu” means “a pick me up” and possibly refers to the caffeine in the expresso used to soak the Lady Fingers and the cocoa powder used to dust the top.  A better explanation is that the owner of Le Becherrie restaurant had a beautiful young apprentice whose maiden name was “Tiramisu”.  I’m going with the love theme.

Time Required:  90 minutes

Servings:  12


  • 6 egg yolks (save the egg whites and make meringue cookies)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of mascarpone cheese (they usually come in 8 oz. packages so you’ll need two)
  • 1 pt. of heavy whipping cream
  • 16 oz. of Imported Italian Savioaridi Lady Fingers (Available in any good market. Alessi is a good brand and comes in a 7oz. package – get two of them)
  • 1 large cup of strong coffee – 10 oz.
  • ½ cup of Kahlua, other coffee flavored liqueur or rum (you can add almost anything)
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder


  • Double Boiler (if you don’t have one, simply find two pots that nest or fit inside the other. I like a wok sitting atop a stockpot.)
  • 8” x 13” Glass baking dish (this is a fairly standard size)
  • Electric mixer


  1. Beat the cream with the mixer until you have stiff peaks.
  2. Brew a strong cup of coffee and set aside to cool in a shallow bowl. Add the Kahlua or other liqueur.  Later, you are going to dip the Lady Fingers into the cooled coffee/liquer mixture.
  3. With no heat, combine the egg yolks and sugar in the top of the double boiler. Bring the water in the lower part of the double boiler to a boil.  Insert the top part and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly until thick and lemon colored.  This is your zabaglione.
  4. Pour the zabaglione into a large mixing bowl. Add the mascarpone cheese and use mixer to combine – about 15 seconds.
  5. Gently fold in the whipped cream with a wooden spoon. Mix well but don’t overdo it – about 20 seconds is fine.  Set aside.
  6. Open the Lady Fingers and plan how you are going to lay out two layers. Leave a little gap between the Lady Fingers.


  1. Put the first layer in the bottom of the baking dish. When you are happy with the layout, take each one of the Lady Fingers and quickly dip them in the coffee/liqueur mixture and replace in the dish.  These cookies absorb moisture like crazy, so make it a quick dip.
  2. When you have the first layer ready, pour one-half of the zabaglione over the top and smooth out with a rubber or silicone spatula.
  3. Dip the remaining Lady Fingers and lay out the second layer.
  4. Pour the remaining zabaglione over the top and refrigerate for at least 3 hours up to overnight.
  5. Sprinkle the cocoa powder over the top just before serving.

(based on a recipe from

Categories: Classic Desserts, Classic Italian Dishes

1 reply

  1. Can’t wait to try this recipe

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