Tiramisu

Tiramisu is a timeless no-bake Italian dessert combining espresso-dipped ladyfingers and a creamy lightly sweetened mascarpone cream. This recipe is from the late Maida Heatter and is easily the best homemade tiramisu recipe that I’ve ever tried.

Homemade tiramisu slice on white plate

A couple months ago, I was sent a new cookbook called Happiness is Baking. This cookbook includes Maida Heatter’s favorite recipes with the foreword written by Dorie Greenspan. I, unsurprisingly, immediately fell in love with my newest cookbook. It’s a collection of 100 foolproof and classic desserts including cookies, cakes, muffins, pies, tarts, and more that range from simple everyday cookies to outrageously indulgent chocolate soufflé cake.

For those not familiar, Maida Heatter is an icon, especially in the baking world. Dubbed the Queen of Cake, her expansive culinary career included 9 cookbooks, recipes for the Times, a restaurant, and three James Beard Awards. Baker and author Dorie Greenspan once said “Whenever someone tells me they want to learn to bake, I tell them to start with Maida Heatter’s books. That’s what I did.” This latest cookbook is a testament to Maida’s legacy. She passed away only 2 months after this book was published. She leaves behind an incalculable amount of inspiration to bakers and cooks all over the world.

While I was sent Happiness is Baking from the publishing house, I was not paid for this post– I genuinely LOVE the book and recommend Maida’s recipes to all. I’ve also tried the Blueberry Crumb Cake and $250.00 Cookie Recipe.

slicing a bite of tiramisu with a fork

Happiness is Baking by Maida Heatter

Tiramisu Video Tutorial

Tiramisu is a classic no-bake Italian dessert combining espresso-dipped ladyfingers and a creamy lightly sweetened mascarpone cream. Now if you’re going to make tiramisu, you have to use the QUEEN OF CAKE’s recipe! It’s an important dessert for an important event. With the inclusion of espresso and alcohol, tiramisu is an adult dessert.

Nothing triumphant comes for free, so expect a good amount of prep work. This recipe requires several bowls and a couple mixing techniques, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. In fact, let’s watch the entire dessert come together in a short video tutorial:

Homemade tiramisu in glass baking dish

Tiramisu Layers

There are 2 components and 4 layers in tiramisu. Each component is layered twice.

  1. Espresso-Dipped Ladyfingers
  2. Mascarpone Cream

It goes: espresso-dipped ladyfingers, mascarpone cream, remaining espresso-dipped ladyfingers, and remaining mascarpone cream. Dust the whole thing with a dense layer of unsweetened cocoa to finish. Maida’s recipe calls for homemade chocolate ladyfingers and if you own this cookbook, I highly recommend using her chocolate ladyfinger recipe included. Most Italian bakeries make fresh ladyfingers as well. However if you’re desiring a simpler and more convenient approach, use a store-bought variety.

What are Ladyfingers?

Ladyfingers (savoiardi in Italian) are a sweet, pretty dry, and finger-shaped sponge cookie/cake. They’re a main ingredient in many desserts including trifles and tiramisu and when layered underneath cream, ladyfingers take on a lovely cake-like texture. You can find ladyfingers in most large grocery stores, Italian markets, or you can purchase them online. Homemade, as the book uses, is an option too.

espresso soaked ladyfingers

Overview: How to Make Tiramisu

The full written and printable recipe is below.

  1. Whisk espresso and Grand Marnier. Grand Marnier makes this a boozier tiramisu because there is alcohol in both the coffee mixture and the mascarpone cream. Grand Marnier’s flavor is great in this dessert, but you can skip it if desired. If you don’t have espresso, purchase espresso powder and follow the measurements in the recipe notes.
  2. Dip half of the ladyfingers in the espresso mixture. Ladyfingers soak up a lot of liquid within 1 second, so make it a very quick dunk. You don’t want them overly saturated and soggy because as the tiramisu chills, they’ll soften up underneath all the cream.
  3. Line dipped ladyfingers in bottom of pan. If needed, cut some ladyfingers to fill in any empty spaces.
  4. Beat mascarpone and rum together. Use quality mascarpone. I like BelGioioso brand (not sponsored– truly what I always use). Though this is primarily an espresso-flavored dessert, tiramisu has rum as well.
  5. Gently cook egg yolks and sugar. Egg yolks are a main ingredient in tiramisu. Use a double boiler or makeshift bowl/saucepan double boiler to cook egg yolks and sugar together. Maida’s recipe also uses the egg whites, which come soon after this step.
  6. Beat egg yolks into mascarpone cream mixture.
  7. Whip heavy cream and vanilla extract into medium peaks.
  8. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone cream mixture. 
  9. Beat the egg whites and salt together until foamy, then slowly pour in sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  10. Fold egg white mixture into mascarpone cream mixture.
  11. Layer half of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers. An offset spatula helps.
  12. Dip and layer remaining ladyfingers.
  13. Top with remaining cream mixture, then chill for for 2-3 hours. 
  14. Dust with cocoa. After chilling for a couple hours, dust the top layer with a dense layer of unsweetened cocoa powder. Use a sifter. This is a classic finishing touch to the entire tiramisu dessert.
  15. Chill overnight. You can chill it for up to 1 day, so it’s a great make-ahead dessert recipe.

layer of espresso soaked ladyfingers in glass baking dish

The mascarpone, rum, and egg yolk mixture as well as the whipped cream:

2 images of mascarpone cream and whipped cream

The mascarpone mixture and whipped cream combined:

Tiramisu mascarpone cream in glass bowl

The whipped egg white mixture and the final mascarpone cream mixture:

2 images of tiramisu filling in glass bowls

Let’s layer:

Layering tiramisu in glass dish

Ladyfingers and mascarpone filling in baking dish

Ladyfingers and mascarpone filling

Slice of tiramisu on server

How to Slice and Serve Tiramisu

As with most layered desserts, you can’t be nervous to just dive right in and start serving! Serve square portions. Make even cuts with a sharp knife, wiping the knife clean between each cut. A small metal serving spatula to remove the slices is massively helpful.


Common Tiramisu Questions – Answered

Though this isn’t my first time preparing tiramisu, I will say that this is one of the best homemade tiramisu recipes that I’ve had– and I definitely encourage you to try it! Here are 4 FAQs and answers that will help you get started:

  1. What kind of rum do I use in tiramisu? Dark rum is best, but you can use brandy or your favorite coffee liqueur.
  2. Egg whites or whipped cream? Most tiramisu recipes use whipped egg whites OR whipped cream in the mascarpone cream layers. Egg whites contribute a more airy texture, while whipped cream makes the filling a bit more rich. This recipe actually uses both, so you’re getting both delightful textures.
  3. Are the eggs cooked? Tiramisu is a no-bake dessert. The egg yolks are gently cooked on the stovetop, but the egg whites are raw. Purchase pasteurized eggs because they are safe to consume raw.
  4. What size pan to use? This particular tiramisu recipe yields a large volume and the pan will be very full. Make sure your pan is large enough. I recommend a 9×13 inch dish with at least a 12-14 cup capacity. This 4 quart dish is wonderful too.
Print
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Slice of tiramisu on white plate

Tiramisu

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 12 hours
  • Yield: serves 12
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

This recipe is from the late Maida Heatter and is easily the best homemade tiramisu recipe that I’ve ever tried. Review the recipe notes and video tutorial before starting. Tiramisu tastes best when chilled overnight, so this is a wonderful make-ahead dessert.


Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/4 cups (300ml) very strongly prepared espresso, warm or room temperature
  • 6 Tablespoons (90ml) Grand Marnier*
  • 4045 ladyfingers*
  • 16 ounces (about 2 cups; 450g) mascarpone, cold or at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) dark rum
  • 4 large pasteurized eggs, separated*
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar, divided*
  • 2 cups (480ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder

Instructions

  1. You need a large 9×13 inch baking pan/dish with at least a 12-14 cup capacity. Set aside and have ready to go!
  2. Dip half of the ladyfingers: You will form 2 layers each of dipped ladyfingers and mascarpone cream. Let’s begin with the 1st layer of ladyfingers. Whisk the espresso and Grand Marnier together in a shallow bowl. One at a time, quickly dip each side of the ladyfinger into the espresso mixture. You don’t want to over-saturate the ladyfinger with liquid because then the ladyfingers will taste soggy. Just a quick dip on each side. Arrange the dipped ladyfingers in the baking pan to make one solid layer. If needed, cut some ladyfingers to fill in any empty spaces. Reserve remaining espresso mixture and ladyfingers for another layer.
  3. Begin the mascarpone cream: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the mascarpone and rum together on medium speed in a large bowl until smooth. Set aside.
  4. Prepare a double boiler for the egg yolks: If you have a double boiler, use it in this step. If you don’t, place a heat-proof bowl over a small pot of simmering water over medium-low heat. Don’t let the water touch the bottom of the bowl.  Using a whisk or eggbeater (I simply use a whisk), whisk the egg yolks and 1/4 cup (50g) of granulated sugar together until light and foamy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately pour into the mascarpone mixture. Beat on medium speed until combined.
  5. Whip the heavy cream: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and vanilla extract together on medium-high speed until medium peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. Medium peaks are between soft/loose peaks and stiff peaks– and are the perfect consistency for the tiramisu cream. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.
  6.  Beat the egg whites: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a *clean* whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt together on medium-high speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase to high speed and slowly pour in the remaining 1/4 cup (50g) of sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form, about 4-5 minutes. (Do not over-beat as the egg whites will become dry.) Fold into the mascarpone cream.
  7. Spread half of the mascarpone cream evenly over bottom layer of ladyfingers. An offset spatula helps spread it neatly and evenly.
  8. Dip remaining ladyfingers: Dip remaining ladyfingers into remaining espresso mixture and arrange one-by-one on top of the mascarpone layer. Gently press each down so they are nice and compact. Using an offset spatula, spread remaining mascarpone mixture evenly on top. If you’re using a large enough pan, it should all fit (but it will definitely tower high!). Refrigerate uncovered for 2-3 hours.
  9. Add cocoa layer, then chill: After a couple hours in the refrigerator, sift or strain a dense layer of cocoa powder all over the top. Wipe the rim of the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then refrigerate for at least 8-9 more hours and up to 1 day.
  10. Using a sharp knife, slice chilled tiramisu into servings. Wipe knife clean between cuts. A small metal serving spatula is helpful for removing the slices.
  11. Cover leftover tiramisu and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: Prepare tiramisu through step 8. Tightly cover and freeze for up to 3 months. Remove from the freezer, evenly dust the top with cocoa, then thaw in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. (Can thaw covered or uncovered.)
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, KitchenAid Hand Mixer, 9×13 inch Baking Dish or 4-Quart Dish, Sieve, Offset Spatula, Metal Serving Spatula
  3. Smaller Recipe: Halve this recipe for a 9×9 inch or 10×10 inch square baking pan.
  4. Espresso: For the espresso, combine 5 Tablespoons instant espresso powder in 1 and 1/4 cups hot water. This is stronger than brewed espresso and perfect for tiramisu. In a pinch, use super super super strong black coffee.
  5. Grand Marnier: This addition makes this a boozier version of tiramisu because you have alcohol in both the coffee soak mixture and the mascarpone cream. Grand Marnier’s flavor is lovely in this dessert, but you can skip it and stick with just the dark rum.
  6. Ladyfingers: Ladyfingers (savoiardi in Italian) are a sweet, pretty dry, and finger-shaped sponge cookie/cake. They’re found in most large grocery stores, Italian markets, or you can purchase them online. You can also make them from scratch– there are many recipes online! I use 2 standard packages of ladyfingers for this recipe.
  7. Eggs: Maida Heatter’s recipe calls for 5 large eggs, but in hopes to slightly reduce the volume of mascarpone cream, I reduced down to 4 large eggs. Both the egg whites and egg yolks are used in the mascarpone cream. An egg separator is helpful. The egg yolks are gently cooked, but if you’re concerned with eating raw eggs, purchase pasteurized eggs because they are safe to consume raw.
  8. Sugar: I increased the sugar by 2 Tablespoons for a VERY slightly sweeter cream. This is still not an overly sweet dessert.
  9. Non-Alcoholic Version: Skip the Grand Marnier and replace rum with milk.

Recipe reprinted in partnership with Little, Brown and Company. Recipe from Happiness is Baking by Maida Heatter, foreword by Dorie Greenspan

Keywords: Italian dessert

More Specialty Desserts

251 Comments

  1. I’ve made this twice now and it’s fabulous! Get’s rave reviews from everyone who tries it. I halved the quantity both times as it was just for 2 or 3 people and that worked really well. I also follow the recipe exactly as it’s written and the flavor is divine. Thank you for such a great recipe!

  2. Great recipe!

  3. I’ve made this three times, it’s just THAT good!!! I don’t use any alcohol in it, and I personally don’t think it’s really necessary. The only thing I do differently is add a splash of vanilla extract to the espresso to soften it a little because I don’t like things too bitter. Other than that, I follow exactly as stated, and even though it uses a lot of bowls, it’s DELICIOUS! Like go back for seconds or thirds delicious. Thanks for the amazing recipe! I’ll probably make this once a month from now on

  4. This recipe is great! It’s a lot of steps (especially if you make the ladyfingers from scratch also) but totally worth it. PSA, do NOT try substituting half-and-half for the cream. The second time I made this recipe just now, they were out of regular whipping cream at the grocery store so I was like, maybe half and half will work? Don’t do it! It doesn’t really whip and the marscarpone cream is way too liquidy as a result. Don’t just assume that it will probably work… save yourself from my fate and just make sure you get the correct ingredient! I learned a valuable cooking lesson—and it still tastes great of course—but I’m going to try again tomorrow because I was making it to give to someone else as a gift.

  5. Hi Sally, the recipe notes mention using 5 TBSP ‘instant’ espresso powder with 1.25 hot cups water to make the coffee soak. I have King Arthur Espresso Powder but the label doesn’t say that it’s ‘instant’. Can I use this King Arthur Espresso Powder to make my coffee soak or is that really not the same thing as the ‘instant’ espresso powder which you are referring to in the recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Gina, That is a wonderful product and works well here! Enjoy!

  6. Have made this recipe twice now. Once as written and once with only 60mls of Grand Marnier. Both times came out excellent. The one time with less Grand Marnier just tasted slightly less boozy. Do not recommend substituting anything.

  7. Hey! I’ve made this recipe a couple of times now and absolutely love it.
    Just a quick question, I’ve stopped myself making it once before because I forgot it had to chill overnight and I didn’t have the time for it.

    Do you think it is possible to maybe throw it in the freezer for a shorter period of time for a similar effect in a rush?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Adam, you can, but you risk uneven chilling / freezing by rushing it in the freezer. It’s really best to give it its full chill time in the fridge for best results!

  8. Sophie LTY says:

    I can’t believe I just ate the most delicious tiramisu of my life… My parents, my brother and I finished it in two days. It was so good! I’ll definitely make this tiramisu recipe for the rest of my life.

  9. The first thing I need to say about this recipe is that it’s doubtlessly a really good tiramisu recipe. But make sure you really get the right ingredients. I made the non-alcoholic version and I used ultra-pasteurized cream because it was the only one I could find and it whipped up terribly. Also, the ladyfingers were just store-bought, and they were soggy, flimsy, and reeking of artificial flavorings. Make sure to get instant espresso and not real espresso too. This isn’t the recipe’s fault, it’s mine, so make sure to get pasteurized cream, good ladyfingers, and instant espresso!

  10. Christa Mathew says:

    Hi Sally, I have a pot luck next week and I wanted to make this but I don’t get any alcohol here in Kuwait. I know you said I can substitute the Rum with milk, for the ladyfingers dip, just wanted to know what quantity of milk I should use.
    Also, what other kind of Liqueur can I use, I think I have some non alcoholic ones available here.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christa! You can use the same amount of milk in place of the Grand Marnier. Grand Marnier is an orange-flavored liqueur, so if you have anything similar to that available, it might be a good substitution. Hope you enjoy the tiramisu!

      1. Christa Mathew says:

        Thank you so much!! 🙂 I will try that and let you all know how it goes 🙂

      2. Christa Mathew says:

        Hi Sally and Lexi, I tried out the Tiramisu yesterday! It tasted simply amazing and as I mentioned earlier I did the non-alcoholic version since we don’t get alcohol here in Kuwait and yet it tasted so good!
        My only concern was that I felt my Mascarpone cream filling was a bit runny and not as stiff as I thought it would be and hence I couldn’t slice it out well and the pieces weren’t as clean a slice as I wanted it to be. Why would that happen and how can I change that?

      3. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Christa, it sounds like your whipped cream may be too thin and it’s making the entire cream layer too runny. Are you using heavy cream or heavy whipping cream? If you decide to try the recipe again, try whipping it into sturdier peaks (closer to stiff peaks). That will definitely help. Thank you so much for giving this recipe a try!

      4. Christa Mathew says:

        Hi , I used whipping cream itself but yea will definitely try to make it more stiff. To be honest I felt the mascarpone mixture was more runny than the whipping cream mixture. Also, I felt it that as it stayed in the fridge for another day, which would be 48 hours later, it became less runny and I was able to cut out cleaner pieces.

  11. Hi Sally and friends!!!!
    Y’all are awesome!!!
    I was wondering how I would go about making mini tiramisu?
    I was thinking with a muffin pan and muffin liners, the only problem would be the cream sticking to the muffin liner.
    I was thinking if chopped the lady fingers a little bit than they could fit in the bottom. Then you layer on the cream, then the chopped ladyfingers, then the cream and then dust them all with cocoa powder?
    Just wanted to get you thoughts?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emma, we haven’t made a mini tiramisu before but it sounds like a fun idea! We fear it would get a bit messy with the cupcake liners as you mention, but what about serving them in a jar or small cup, similar to our no-bake cheesecake jars?

      1. Yeah, thanks for the quick reply the suggestion, I’ll let you know if you I try either of those ways!!!!

  12. This is amazing! I first had it served to me without the rum. I then made it without the rum and it tasted great! Thank you!

    I did make it with coffee instead of expresso. For those of you who bought rum? How much did it cost?

  13. Promod Pratap says:

    Hi, I saw a bottle of cold-brewed coffee concentrate at Trader Joe’s and I was wondering if this would work (and if anyone had any experience with it). The concentrate is 3X as concentrated as cold-brewed coffee.

  14. Hi Sally, do you have a calorie count per serving of this tiramisu? Thank you! XX

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Betty! We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

  15. Would chocolate liqueur be a nice substitute for grand marnier?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rawan, you can use the same amount of milk in place of the Grand Marnier if you don’t have it. Grand Marnier is an orange-flavored liqueur, so if you have anything similar to that available, it might be a good substitution. Hope you enjoy the tiramisu!

  16. This was a hit, but my mascarpone cheese curdled when i added the rum. Do you know why this happened?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Judy, it’s likely the mascarpone causing the issue. If it’s too cold, it won’t combine as nicely. It’s possible yours was still a bit too cold, allowing it to come closer to room temperature will help next time. Let us know if we can help troubleshoot further!

  17. Thank you for your response. I will make sure the cheese is at room temp next time.

  18. By far the best recipe out there for Tiramisu. Each time I make it I am told it’s the best homemade Tiramisu anyone has ever had. I believe them because I’ve tasted it and it’s incredible.

    The secret to this entire recipe is to let it sit for AT LEAST 48 hours in the fridge to set up. 72 hours even. The longer it sits, the better it is.

    I also use Gluten-free ladyfingers (you can buy them on Amazon) and since they’re just soaked in booze and espresso, no one ever knows the difference. Makes for a great gluten-free dessert without really sacrificing anything.

  19. Made this before & followed step by step – outrageously delicious; one of the best things I ever made!! 🙂
    I’m planning to do an alcohol-free version for kids – as per the notes in the recipe, do I just add milk directly to the mascarpone? What about artificial rum extract; would that work? Also, can this recipe be halved for a smaller yield, or will the proportions be thrown off?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ana, correct, simply replace the rum with milk and add with the mascarpone. You could certainly try adding a 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of rum extract if you’d like. And yes, you can halve this recipe for a 9×9 or 10×10 square pan. Enjoy!

  20. If I can’t (or don’t have time) to bake ladyfingers, I know store bought can suffice.
    However, do you or your readers have any thoughts on WHICH pre-made ladyfingers are suitable ? Some are crispy, some are rather soft/almost spongey – and they seem to be made in many different places. Does anyone feel comfortable offering an opinion on this ?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Susan! We link to the ones we enjoy using in the blog post above – under the heading “What are Ladyfingers?” They’re deficiently more crisp than soft. Hope this helps!

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