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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 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.
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Slice of tiramisu on white plate


  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 12 hours
  • Yield: serves 12 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: Italian


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.


  • 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


  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.


  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: tiramisu, no bake dessert

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hello! Can the Grand Marnier be substituted with orange blossom water? Can orange zest be added? Or would these overpower/clash with the espresso flavor/aroma?

    1. We haven’t personally tried it but that should work. Grand Marnier is an orange-flavored liqueur so the orange blossom water should be a nice compliment, but we’re unsure of how strong that flavor would come through in place of the liqueur. Orange zest would also be a wonderful addition if you enjoy the flavor! We’d love to know how this turns out for you.

    1. Hi Emily, I used grand marnier for soaking the ladyfingers and kahlua in place of the dark rum and got RAVE reviews. Best tiramisu my family has ever had and they are big fans!

  2. I needed to use espresso and the dark rum. The flavor was not intense enough with Captain Morgan’s rum and strong coffee.
    Will definitely definitely make again.

  3. This recipe was absolutely awesome!! All the videos, tips, and notes were so helpful in making sure the cake came out perfect. I’d say to definitely watch the videos and read all the notes thoroughly BEFORE starting your bake– you won’t regret it! Also, I made this recipe for my mom’s birthday (she doesnt eat sugar), and I altered the recipe to be sugar free. I subbed in granulated allulose in place of the sugar, and halved the amount. It came out great!

  4. It’s the best recipe for tiramisu- it’s never failed me. The instructions are so clear that it makes it easy for even an average cook to get the best results- thank you so much.

  5. Hello Sally!
    I love your website and recipes!
    Is there an alcohol free version of Tiramisu?
    My husband loves it but has an allergy to alcohol.
    Also, can I make espresso without an espresso machine?
    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Susan! See notes after the recipe for details on making espresso and also how to make this tiramisu alcohol free. Hope it’s a hit!

  6. This recipe is it! (I eliminated the alcohol from this recipe.) Up until I made this recipe, my all-time favorite Tiramisu, believe it or not, was sold at an Italian deli at a local gas station. I’ve had Tiramisu from about 4 or 5 different places over the years and the Italian Deli is the best.
    I had never made my own Tiramisu before this recipe. But when I made this without alcohol (I had emailed Sally’s and was told to replace the rum with milk and eliminate the Grand Marnier all together) it matched the Italian Deli’s recipe! I was thrilled. It’s THAT good! Everyone who ate it, loved it, and it is definitely a WOW recipe; a real winner! My mother-in-law said it was the best Tiramisu she’s ever had. I now can make the BEST Tiramisu right in my own kitchen. Thanks so much Sally!

    1. Thank you so much for your glowing review, Diana! We’re so glad you love this tiramisu recipe.

  7. I made this for my dad’s birthday and it was AMAZING. I prepped the whole dessert the night before, then left it until the next night. The soaked ladyfingers were tender and soaked with the espresso, and the cream was perfectly sweetened and light. I went to Starbucks and bought a cup of straight espresso, and replaced the rum with Kahlua. I definetly recommend!

  8. Came out fantastic! My only question, how did you come up with 1 1/4 cups of espresso? I had to make 2 Moka pots full of espresso (3 oz/cup and pot holds 3 cups, so 18 oz. total).

  9. Made this following directions to a tee. Was unbelievably epic! Hats off to the late Maida Heatter and to you Sally for posting. Belissimo!!!

  10. Sally I’ve made this 3 times already and it’s always absolutely fabulous. The only question i have is why my marscapone rum mix separates, i see yours no problem, I’ve tried letting it at room temp, I’ve mixed them cold, that’s usually the culprit, but i don’t understand why it separates. Other than that it tastes and looks and feels amazing. Since i was around 5 I’ve had the best tiramisù from a very expensive pastry store and this recipe is it! I just hope i can fix that tiny problem );

    1. Hi Dani, this can be frustrating with mascarpone. It can quickly separate if accidentally over-mixed or over-worked, so try skipping the mixer when mixing the rum and mascarpone together. Use a spoon and mix *just* until combined, no longer. Then in steps 5 and 6, fold the whipped cream and egg whites in very gently.

  11. We’re not alcohol people,can I omit it for this recipe? I found authentic lady fingers and really want to make this tiramisu! I’ve made so many of your recipes and they all so far have become family favorites! Thank you, Stacey

    1. Hi Stacey, see recipe notes for non-alcoholic version. Enjoy!

  12. I used the recipe as written except I substituted kahlua for the rum and it was THE BEST tiramisu I have ever had. Look no farther, this is the recipe you need. It’s worth every bit of effort and money.

  13. I’ve made this recipe twice now and it is the best tiramisu. I didn’t use the Grand Mariner either time, but other than that followed the recipe as written. It is definitely worth the time and effort. My family loved it. I make it the night before for the following evening. Well written instructions makes it easy. Thank you, Sally!

  14. Hello Sally,
    I’m planning to make this Tiramisu for my dinner party (14 guests) on July 22. I have watched the video. I want to know if you used store bought Lady Fingers. Would the quick dip be used for homemade and store bought?
    I made your pineapple/coconut cake for my last dinner party and several women wanted your recipe. Big success.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Teresa, We are so happy you enjoyed the pineapple coconut cake! We used 2 standard store bought packages of ladyfingers for this recipe. See the recipe notes for details.

  15. Can I use marguerite cookies in this? The only ladyfingers I could find are very soft. I couldn’t find the savoiordi.

    1. Hi Laura, we haven’t tested that substitution, but it should work just fine. Let us know how it goes!

  16. WOW this is some special desert. Followed the recipe exactly and it was truly amazing. A great desert for grownups, too much liquor for kids. I’ve never had tiramisu this delicious or decadent. What a great treat for those who appreciate tiramisu.

  17. I’ve made this once before and it was so good! My friends who love tiramisu said it was the best they’ve had. Question- is chilling overnight necessary? Or could I make in the morning for dinner the same day?

    1. Hi Michelle, you need at least 8-9 hours in the refrigerator after adding the cocoa layer in step 9, so that should work fine!

  18. This is the absolute best tiramisu! Worth every bit of effort! I will never buy tiramisu again. This recipe is life altering-ly good! The Grand Mariner adds a richness and depth of flavor that is incomparable (without tasting like an orange).

  19. Hi,
    I would like to make this recipe and I was wondering if it can halved. It would be for six people and I’d rather not have too much leftover as I will eat it ALL!

    1. Hi Naz, that shouldn’t be a problem — simply halve all the ingredients. Enjoy!

  20. Hi Sally,
    I love all of your recipes! I am SO looking forward to making this next week! Can I use a Rum & Coffee Liqueur in place of the dark rum? Also, can I use just regular eggs or do they have to be pasteurized? Thank you!

    1. Hi Christine, you can certainly try the rum & coffee liqueur in place of the dark rum. Tiramisu is a no-bake dessert — the egg yolks are gently cooked, but if you’re concerned with eating raw eggs (the whites will be raw), purchase pasteurized eggs because they are safe to consume raw.

  21. Hi Sally,

    I tried to make this tiramisu today however the mascarpone and egg-sugar mixture started separating and curdling before I could even fold the whipped cream in.

    Any suggestions that may help?


    1. Hi Julia, It’s likely the mascarpone causing the issue. If it’s too cold, it won’t combine as nicely. If you try again try bringing the mascarpone to room temperature.

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