As a baker and sweet-lover, I have a hard time picking favorites. Favorite cookie? I have too many to count! Favorite pie? You can’t make me decide between key lime and strawberry–it’s impossible. But when it comes down to it, I’m loyal to tiramisu. Any time I see this decadent Italian creation on a menu, I have to try it. And once in a while, I have such a craving for this creamy, coffee-soaked dessert that I have to make it myself.
The good news is that once you master a few simple techniques, making your own tiramisu is easy. Plus, since it takes a few hours for all those decadent flavors to meld together, tiramisu is the perfect make-ahead dessert. Let’s dive in!
5 large egg yolks
1½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons Marsala wine or other liqueur, divided
½ teaspoon salt
2 cartons (8 ounces each) mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 package (7 ounces) soft ladyfingers, split
1 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa
Step 1: Heat Things Up
In a double boiler (read: a metal or glass bowl placed over a simmering pot of water), whisk together the egg yolks, ½ cup sugar, ⅓ cup Marsala and ½ teaspoon salt. You can use an electric hand mixer for this step or beat the old-fashioned way with a whisk. Let the mixture thicken over the heat until a thermometer reads 160º. Don’t have a thermometer handy? You’ll know the mixture is ready when it falls off the whisk and pools in a ribbon-like fashion. Remove from the heat and stir in the mascarpone cheese until smooth.
Test Kitchen tip: If you don’t have Marsala, a fortified wine similar to sherry, on hand (or don’t care for the taste), feel free to substitute dark rum, coffee liqueur or, my personal favorite, amaretto.
Step 2: Whip, Whip, Whip
In a second bowl, whip the cream and remaining sugar until soft peaks form. Begin by using the medium setting on your hand mixer and gradually increasing to medium-high or high as the cream thickens. You can tell that the cream is approaching the soft peak stage when the beaters begin to leave trails in the cream. Once you see those trails, test your cream by pulling your beaters out and tipping them upright. If the cream drips off, you still have some work to do; if the cream forms those soft peaks (similar in texture to a thin sour cream), you’ve got your whipped cream just right. Be mindful not to overwhip–it can go from cream to butter faster than you think! Learn more about how to get the right consistency here.
Once your whipped cream is ready, gently fold it into your mascarpone mixture, and set aside.
Test Kitchen tip: Chill your bowl and beaters in the fridge ahead of time. The cool temperature will help the cream whip up faster.
Step 3: Go for a Dip
In another dish, combine the coffee, espresso powder and remaining Marsala wine and stir until the espresso powder is dissolved.
Dip eight of the ladyfingers briefly into the mix and place on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Be careful not to leave the ladyfingers in the mixture for more than a second or two or they’ll become too soggy and break apart when you try to remove them.
Pro tip: If you don’t have a springform pan, a 9-inch baking dish will work just fine!
Top the ladyfingers with a third of your mascarpone mixture, about 1½ cups. Then layer on more ladyfingers, this time arranging them in the opposite direction–this crosshatch pattern will make your tiramisu more stable. Continue layering cream and ladyfingers until you have three layers of each, topped with mascarpone.
Step 4: Chill Out
Cover and refrigerate your tiramisu for at least six hours or overnight. This time allows all those delicious cream, coffee and liqueur flavors to blend together for a truly decadent dessert. Before serving, loosen and remove the ring of your springform pan and sprinkle with a dusting of cocoa powder. Feel free to substitute chocolate shavings for cocoa powder. Tiramisu keeps well in the refrigerator for up to two days–if it lasts that long!
Love this Italian masterpiece? We’ve got plenty more.