Classic Tiramisu

5 from 1 vote

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Classic tiramisu features layers of coffee-soaked ladyfingers and a sweet mascarpone filling topped with a generous dusting of cocoa powder. This decadent dessert is surprisingly easy to make and requires no baking!

Why you’ll love this tiramisu recipe:

Whipping up tiramisu at home is a breeze, truly! This dreamy Italian dessert can be assembled and chilling in your fridge in less than an hour thanks to this easy small-batch recipe.

  • Flavor – The intense coffee flavor and slightly boozy taste are balanced with sweetened mascarpone cheese filling. 
  • Texture – Classic tiramisu alternates between layers of spongy ladyfinger cookies and velvety filling. It’s a melt-in-your-mouth combination!     
  • Ease – This easy tiramisu recipe is prepared in advance and chilled in the fridge. No baking required!
  • Traditional – This tiramisu is prepared in traditional way using egg yolks tempered with hot sugar syrup.

Due to the caffeine and alcohol, this is more of an adults-only treat. That makes it the perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day or a date night at home, though! 

If you’re looking for a recipe the entire family can enjoy, try my tiramisu layer cake and tiramisu eclairs instead. Both are inspired by this classic tiramisu recipe! 

A dish of tiramisu with a serving missing.

What is tiramisu?

Tiramisu is a layered Italian cake, traditionally made with coffee-infused ladyfingers, mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar, and flavored alcohol.

Tiramisu translates to “pick me up” in Italian, possibly referring to the caffeine content in the espresso!    

Key Ingredient Notes:

  • Freshly brewed espresso – I highly recommend getting a freshly brewed espresso. I usually get it from our local coffee shop. You can substitute 2 teaspoons of instant espresso powder mixed with 2 ounces of water for the double shots of freshly brewed espresso. Keep in mind that instant espresso powder tends to have a stronger, more intense coffee flavor.
  • Amaretto liqueur is a sweet and aromatic almond-flavored liqueur that complements the coffee and mascarpone flavors in tiramisu. You can also use Disaronno, a popular amaretto liqueur brand.
  • Egg yolks give the mascarpone filling a custard-like texture and provide structure to the tiramisu layers.  
  • Mascarpone cheese is a soft Italian cheese with rich and creamy taste and smooth texture. Mascarpone typically has a higher fat content than cream cheese, contributing to its luxurious mouthfeel. 
  • Heavy cream – Whipped heavy cream lightens the mascarpone filling, giving it an airy, delicate texture. 
  • Ladyfingers, aka savoiardi, are dry sponge cookies that perfectly soak up espresso and amaretto.
  • Cocoa powder adds a layer of chocolate flavor to the top of the cake. 
Ingredients to make a classic tiramisu recipe.

How to make this traditional tiramisu recipe:

1. Prepare the espresso mixture

  • Combine the espresso, water, and amaretto in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Choose a wide enough bowl that can fit the ladyfingers.

2. Make the filling

  • Combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook for about 8 minutes or until the syrup reaches 244°F.
Boiling water with a thermometer reading 245 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Add the egg yolks to an electric mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat until they turn a pale yellow color, about 5 minutes. 
An egg in a mixing bowl and the egg being beaten.
  • Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the yolks while the mixer is still running on low speed.
  • Then, increase the mixer speed to medium, and beat for 4 minutes. 
Eggs being beaten on the left and the eggs turned into tiramisu filling on the right.
  • Add the mascarpone cheese and vanilla extract, and whip until combined, about 30 seconds. 
Vanilla extract being added to a bowl of tiramisu filling and whipped tiramisu filling.

avoid overwhipping

Be careful to whip the mascarpone just until it’s smooth and fluffy. Continuing to whip can cause the cheese to curdle, which will impact the taste and texture of the recipe.

  • Pour the heavy cream into a separate mixing bowl, and whip until stiff peaks form. 
  • Gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture until well combined. 
Mascarpone being whipped and then folded into tiramisu filling.

3. Assemble the tiramisu

  • Dip 10-11 ladyfingers into the espresso mixture for 2-3 seconds each. Then, arrange them in a single layer at the bottom of an 8×8-inch baking dish.
A bowl of tiramisu filling and a ladyfinger cookie being dipped in espresso.
  • Spread half of the filling over the first layer of ladyfingers.  
  • Repeat the layers one more time using the remaining ladyfingers and filling. Don’t forget to dip your ladyfingers in the espresso mixture! 
Four images showing the process of layering ladyfingers and mascarpone filling for tiramisu.
  • Dust a generous amount of cocoa powder over the top of the assembled cake. 
  • Cover the cake, and refrigerate it overnight before serving. Enjoy! 
Tiramisu without cocoa on the left and dusted with cocoa powder on the right.

Tips for Sucess:

  • Quickly dunk the ladyfingers in the espresso and amaretto mixture. You want them to be completely coated but not so wet that they become soggy. 
  • Don’t use regular coffee. Classic tiramisu recipes are known for their strong coffee flavor, which can only be achieved by using freshly brewed espresso or espresso powder. Buy espresso shots from a coffee shop if you have to. It’ll be worth it.
  • Use cold heavy cream. Keep your heavy cream in the fridge until you’re ready to use it, as chilled heavy cream whips up more easily. 
  • Let the cake chill overnight to allow the layers to fully set.

Make-Ahead Tips:

Classic tiramisu recipes need to be assembled the day before you plan on serving them.

Plan on preparing the cake just 12-24 hours in advance, because tiramisu has the best flavor and texture the day after it’s made. 

Storing Tips:

  • Store leftover tiramisu in a covered dish in the fridge for 4-5 days. 
  • Assembled tiramisu is freezer-friendly, too! Prepare the tiramisu in a freezer-safe container, and don’t add the layer of cocoa powder. Cover the cake, and freeze it for up to 3 months
  • Let the frozen cake thaw in the fridge overnight, and add the cocoa powder when you’re ready to serve. 
A square of classic tiramisu on a plate with a fork holding the corner bite.

Tiramisu FAQs:

What is the difference between Italian and American tiramisu?

You’ll find variations of tiramisu recipes based on the creator’s personal preferences and experiences. Typically, Italian tiramisu is prepared using raw eggs and Marsala wine. Meanwhile, American tiramisu skips the raw eggs and uses various types of liqueur.   

Does classic tiramisu contain alcohol?

Most tiramisu recipes, including mine, contain alcohol! Dipping ladyfingers in a blend of coffee and alcohol is essential for achieving the traditional flavor and texture of the cake. It’s important to note that the cake will have a slight alcohol content if the added liquor or wine isn’t heated up and cooked off. 

What is a good substitute for mascarpone cheese?

Mascarpone cheese might be challenging to find if you don’t have access to specialty food stores. While there are several substitutes for mascarpone in other recipes, you can only use cream cheese when making tiramisu. Keep in mind that the flavor will be slightly different, as mascarpone cheese is a little sweeter and tangier than cream cheese.   

A square of classic tiramisu on a plate.
5 from 1 vote

Classic Tiramisu

Prepare this classic tiramisu recipe ahead of time, and enjoy a taste of Italy at home. No baking required!
Prep: 15 minutes
Chill Time: 12 hours
Total: 12 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 oz freshly brewed espresso 2 shots Note 1
  • ¾ cup (175 ml) hot water
  • ½ cup (120 ml) Amaretto liqueur Note 2
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) water
  • 4 (72 g) egg yolks
  • 8 oz (225 g) mascarpone cheese cold Note 3
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream cold
  • 20-22 ladyfingers
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder natural or Dutch-processed

Equipment

  • 1 Mixing Bowl with a Whisk Attachment
  • 1 (8×8) Baking Dish

Instructions 

To prepare the espresso mixture:

  • In a medium bowl, combine espresso, water, and amaretto.
    2 oz freshly brewed espresso, ¾ cup hot water, ½ cup Amaretto liqueur

To make the filling:

  • In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring it to a boil over medium heat and cook until the syrup reaches 244°F (118°C), about 8 minutes.
    ½ cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons water
  • In a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment, beat the yolks until pale yellow color, about 5 minutes.
    4 egg yolks
  • While the mixer is running on low speed, slowly pour in the sugar syrup into the yolks. Then increase the speed to medium and beat for 4 minutes.
  • Add mascarpone cheese and vanilla extract and whip until combined, about 30 seconds.
    8 oz mascarpone cheese, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • In a separate mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream until hard peaks form.
    1 cup heavy cream
  • Add the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture and gently fold until well combined.

To assemble the cake:

  • Prepare 8×8-inch baking dish.
  • Dip 10-11 ladyfingers into the espresso mixture for 2-3 seconds and arrange them into one layer in the prepared baking dish.
    20-22 ladyfingers
  • Add half of the filling over the first layer of ladyfingers and spread it evenly.
  • Then repeat the layers one more time with the remaining ladyfingers and filling.
  • Generously dust cocoa powder all over. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
    2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Tips & Notes

Note 1: You may substitute 2 teaspoons of instant espresso powder mixed with 2oz of water for double shots of espresso. Keep in mind that instant espresso may have a slightly different flavor profile than freshly brewed espresso. It tends to be more concentrated and may have a stronger, more intense coffee flavor.
Note 2: Amaretto is a sweet and aromatic almond-flavored liqueur that complements the coffee and mascarpone flavors in tiramisu. You can also use Disaronno, which is a popular brand of amaretto liqueur.
Note 3: Cold mascarpone cheese will help preventing the filling from splitting. Mascarpone cheese is what makes tiramisu a tiramisu. While cream cheese might be a possible substitute, it has slightly sweeter and tangier flavor, which will affect the flavor of the final tiramisu.
Storing Tips: 
– Store leftover tiramisu in a covered dish in the fridge for 4-5 days. 
– Assembled tiramisu is freezer-friendly, too! Prepare the tiramisu in a freezer-safe container, and don’t add the layer of cocoa powder. Cover the cake, and freeze it for up to 3 months. 
– Let the frozen cake thaw in the fridge overnight, and add the cocoa powder when you’re ready to serve. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 913kcal, Carbohydrates: 73g, Protein: 15g, Fat: 57g, Saturated Fat: 33g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Cholesterol: 440mg, Sodium: 145mg, Potassium: 203mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 36g, Vitamin A: 2234IU, Vitamin C: 0.4mg, Calcium: 173mg, Iron: 3mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian

Hi, I’m Shinee!

Welcome! I’m so happy you’re here! I believe anyone can cook restaurant-quality food at home! And my goal is to help you to become a confident cook with my easy-to-follow recipes with lots of tips and step-by-step photos.

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