Classic tiramisu is a delicious no-bake Italian dessert that features espresso-dipped ladyfingers and a cloud-like whipped mascarpone all finished with a light dusting of cocoa powder. It is a favorite among many and is finished in minutes!
Why it works
Tiramisu is a delightful layered Italian no-bake dessert made with just a handful of key ingredients. There isn't a lot of prep or fuss needed to assemble the dessert, and it tastes better the longer you let it sit and let the flavors infuse together.
There are a couple of different methods to make tiramisu, this particular recipe is one of the easiest methods for making the recipe. It comes from The Barbuto Cookbook, which is from an Italian restaurant of the same name. Since it is one of the easiest, I highly recommend it to anyone new to making tiramisu.
What does tiramisu mean
In Italian, tiramisu translates to "pick me up." I believe it gets its name from the espresso in the ladyfingers. The dessert is also a lovely pick me up after a delicious dinner and the perfect way to end an evening.
Tiramisu is made with two components repeated to make four layers.
- Coffee-dipped ladyfingers
- Airy and sweetened mascarpone.
You should begin with a layer of lady fingers, then slather on half your mascarpone. Add the remaining lady fingers then the remaining mascarpone. Finish with a dusting of cocoa powder. I also like to add shaved chocolate on top for more visual appeal.
Is there alcohol?
This is a personal choice for you. This recipe, and many traditional versions of the recipe do contain alcohol, but it is not a requirement at all. You can omit the alcohol and instead opt to use only espresso.
If you do whish to use alcohol, this recipe in particular calls for Kahlua which is not traditional for the recipe. Amaretto, cognac, or rum are frequently used, but there are a few recipes that even include Marsala.
I suggest trying the recipe as written, if you want to add the alcohol. If you want to be more adventurous next time, experiment with your favorite liquor.
Unlike other classic tiramisu recipes, this is a shortened version that does not require eggs. It speeds up the process even more without sacrificing on flavor.
- Ladyfingers - Also known as savoiardi in Italian. They are crisp, and very airy cookies that have a sponge cake-like texture once introduced to liquid. You can find them at most grocery stores and Italian food shops. You can also find them for purchase online, or even make your own! If you cannot find ladyfingers, you can use any dry and very lightly sweetened cookie or cut sponge cake.
- Espresso - We use this to dip the ladyfingers and add flavor. It is great if you have any leftover espresso. You can use instant espresso mixed with water, coffee, or cold brew.
- Kahlua - The Kahlua is added to create more depth in the coffee flavor as well as add a bit of a kick. You can omit it entirely or replace it with another alcohol such as rum, cognac, or amaretto.
- Mascarpone - Traditionally, tiramisu will always have mascarpone. The best way to describe mascarpone is a less tangy and creamier cream cheese. Many grocery stores carry it in the specialty cheese or cream cheese areas. You can also find them in specialty Italian shops or sections. If you absolutely cannot fund mascarpone, you can substitute with cream cheese, but it will have more of a cheesecake flavor than a classic tiramisu.
- Heavy cream - This is where we get into our quicker and easier method for this delicious Italian dessert. We whip the mascarpone with the heavy cream until it reaches light and airy peaks. I actually didn't have enough heavy cream so I substituted half the heavy cream with creme fraiche and it is delightful.
- Sugar - We use granulated sugar in this recipe, but you can use powdered sugar as a substitute.
- Salt - The salt enhances the flavors of the ingredients. The original recipe does not specify the type of salt to use, but I highly recommend using fine sea salt.
- Vanilla - Originally the recipe calls for both vanilla bean and vanilla extract. I only had vanilla bean paste, so that was all I used. I don't think it is necessary to use the vanilla bean if you don't want to spend extra for it. Doubling the vanilla will work just fine. I did use extra vanilla bean paste though because it is delicious.
Putting together this classic tiramisu recipe is so easy, here is a brief rundown of how we make it along with some tips. A more detailed explanation (along with ingredient amounts) is below on the printable recipe card.
- Warm the espresso and kahlua together. Don't bring it to a boil or simmer. It should be about the temperature of a comfortable bath. Set aside and keep warm.
- Whip the mascarpone with sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the cream and beat until light and airy. It is important to not overmix otherwise the mixture will start to get grainy and taste greasy.
- Briefly dip the ladyfingers into the espresso mixture and layer in your pan. It should be just a brief introduction as the ladyfingers soak up the liquid fast and will get soggy and break apart if you aren't careful.
- Layer the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Repeat the layer. I like to use a piping bag with the mascarpone just to make it easier for myself, but it isn't necessary.
- Top with a healthy amount of cocoa powder. Add chopped or shaved chocolate if you want to be fancy.
Absolutely! This recipe is great when prepared a day or two ahead of time. I actually recommend making this dessert a day ahead so it has plenty of time to set and really let the flavors infuse and develop.
Don't worry! Your dessert will still taste amazing. Try scooping it into small ramekins and serving it that way instead of a sliced dessert.
Yes! Wrap it well, then store in an airtight container. I like to double wrap it in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and find a large enough container to keep it in. It will stay good frozen for up to a month. thaw in the refrigerator for several hours.
Yes, you can! If you want to make enough for a 9x13 pan, you only need to multiply the recipe by about 50% instead of doubling it completely.
Classic Tiramisu Recipe
- 1 cup (240ml) brewed espresso or strong coffee
- ¾ cup (180ml) Kahlua, or preferred alcohol, optional
- 1 ½ cups (360ml) mascarpone
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ cups (300ml) heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste optional
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 24 ladyfingers approximately
- cocoa powder for dusting
- Mix together the espresso and Kahlua in a bowl. Heat until warm, but not hot. Set aside, keeping warm.
- Add the mascarpone, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt to a mixing bowl. Beat until the mascarpone is smooth.
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl, then add in the heavy cream.
- Whip using a whisk attachment until the mixture is light and airy, but with a sturdy structure. Take care to not overmix the mixture otherwise the mixture will become grainy and greasy tasting.
- Quickly dip the ladyfingers in the warmed espresso mixture and line the bottom of a 9x9 square baking pan. You may need to cut the ladyfingers to fit, this is normal. Do not dip the ladyfingers too long in the liquid otherwise, they become mushy and break apart.
- Spread half the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers and spread into an even layer.
- Top the mascarpone with another layer of dipped ladyfingers.
- Add the remaining mascarpone and spread evenly.
- Allow the tiramisu to set covered in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Dust with cocoa powder to finish.
- You can replace the Kahlua with rum, cognac, Grand Marnier, or another preferred alcohol.
- I was able to replace some of the heavy cream with creme fraiche with success and felt it helps the tiramisu set faster.