How to Make Traditional Tiramisu

Tiramisu is a popular coffee-flavored dessert that hails from the Veneto region of Italy. Although many accounts date this delicious dessert to the 1960s, there is some evidence that it may have originated in the 17th century. Regardless of its invention date, tiramisu remains a popular treat that’s most often featured as a cake, but sometimes appear in the form of a trifle. Many fine restaurants feature tiramisu on their dessert menus and though its preparation might seem elaborate, traditional tiramisu is simply too good not to enjoy at home.

Recipe Overview

To make traditional tiramisu, you’ll need about 45 minutes of preparation time. This recipe provides between 12-14 servings. A 9×13 glass baking dish is the ideal container in which to prepare this dessert. A rectangular cardboard cake form is perfect for keeping the layers neat and clearly visible, and while it’s not essential in terms of taste, there’s something about those polished layers that make this dessert such an enticing vision to behold.


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 package ladyfingers (17.5 oz.)
  • 1 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups mascarpone cheese
  • 1 ¾ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 6 ½ tbsp warm water
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp espresso
  • 2 cups Kahlua (or brandy)
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Using fresh ingredients is ideal for this recipe as older ingredients can break down and detract from the success of this tiramisu.

Prepare the Baking Dish

To begin your tiramisu, line the baking dish with parchment paper so that the edges stick up over the sides; this will help keep the layers in place. Then, place the cardboard form in the dish. The form and parchment paper will provide you with stable support for when you remove the cake from the pan.

Combine Sugar and Egg Yolks

To begin your tiramisu, combine the sugar and egg yolks in a metal mixing bowl and set it atop a pot of boiling water. If you have a double boiler, you can use that. Heat the mixture on low heat for about ten minutes, taking care to stir continuously. Then, use your mixer to whip the yolks until they thicken. You should see it yellow slightly as well.

Mascarpone Goodness

Next, add dollops of the mascarpone to the whipped yolks and mix until they’re combined. Then, place the mixture in another bowl and clean your mixing bowl. You’ll need it for the next step. Some people opt to use cream cheese as a substitute for the mascarpone, but it will alter the taste and texture; mascarpone is an essential ingredient for traditional tiramisu.

Keep It Cold

The next part involves your freezer. Place a metal bowl into the freezer for about twenty minutes, allowing it to get cold. This chilled bowl will help keep your ingredients cool and lead to a better-formed tiramisu. Place your whipping cream into the bowl. Use your mixer to whip it, forming soft peaks.

Combine the Whipped Cream and Mascarpone

At this point, the temptation to sample ingredients will be great, but persevere; you’re only at the halfway point. Fold your slightly stiffened whipped cream into the mascarpone. Next, you’ll need to dissolve the espresso into warm water. When it’s well combined, pour the Kahlua (or brandy) into the coffee.


The next step takes a bit of time, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll need to soak each ladyfinger in the espresso and Kahlua mixture for about five seconds each. For a more intense flavor, leave each one in the mixture for ten seconds. After they’ve soaked, you can place them onto the bottom of your glass baking dish so that they form two rows.


Once your coffee-and-liquor-soaked ladyfingers are in place, you’ll want to scoop half the mascarpone mixture over them. Then, place another layer of ladyfingers atop the mascarpone mixture. Cover this layer with the remaining mascarpone mixture. Then, liberally dust the cocoa powder atop the dessert. If possible, use high-quality cocoa powder to ensure a deep, rich flavor.


After you’ve dusted the tiramisu with cocoa powder, you’ll need to refrigerate it so it can set. You can serve it after it’s chilled for several hours, but it’s ideal if you can refrigerate it overnight. To serve, you can lift the entire tiramisu onto a serving platter or you can simply slice into it where it sits in the glass dish. Finally, the time has come for you to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Bon appétit!