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 at the age of 102 last week, only 2 months after this book was published. She leaves behind an incalculable amount of inspiration to bakers and cooks all over the world. I’m truly honored to share this cookbook and her tiramisu recipe with you today.

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.

I prepared Maida’s tiramisu recipe a few times, serving it to our neighbors one night and halving the recipe for just us the week prior. 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

How to Make Tiramisu

Before beginning this recipe, I encourage you to have all of your ingredients ready. You need strong espresso, Grand Marnier (optional– see below), ladyfingers, mascarpone, rum, eggs, sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, salt, and unsweetened cocoa powder.

  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. Arrange dipped ladyfingers in the baking pan to make one solid layer. 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. Make whipped cream. Whip heavy cream and vanilla extract into medium peaks.
  8. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone cream mixture. 
  9. Whip egg whites, salt, and sugar. 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

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.

Slice of tiramisu on server

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!

Slice of tiramisu on a white plate

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. 🙂

More Specialty Desserts

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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
  • 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: Italian dessert


  1. You are just the best, Sally:)
    I received my new Cookie recipe book yesterday, by yourself, from Amazon. Excited! I’m not a cook, but love baking.
    Di – Bracebridge Ontario Canada

    1. Amazing!! I hope you love the cookbook – thanks for ordering it! 🙂 Happy baking!

  2. I’m so glad you’ve put a tiramisu recipe on your blog, Sally!!! Every other one I’ve tasted has been (far) less than mediocre, but no doubt your recipe will be amazing….thank you Sally!

    1. This is absolutely the best tiramisu I’ve ever made! I hope you enjoy it just as much 🙂

  3. Holly Knight says:

    Adding Grand Marnier to the mascarpone? My mind is blown. Thank you for posting!! I can’t wait to try this version!

    1. SO GOOD! I hope you love this recipe, Holly! Would love to know what you think if you try it 🙂

      1. Thankyou so much for the recipe Sally! That was so sweet of u. I will buy the ingredients today and get started on it for Fathers Day! Just by looking at it I know it’s a winner and as fantastic as the most expensive restaurants version we had it at years ago. I so can’t wait to make it!
        Love and hugs Holly!!

  4. Haven’t tried this yet, but WILL BE!

  5. I purchased Happiness is Baking A few months ago and love the instruction that Maida gives for each recipe. I must admit I already have a tried and true recipe for tiramisu but I will definitely give this one a try too. Who could say no to the Queen of Cakes recipe. Thanks for sharing this Sally!

    1. It’s such a wonderful cookbook! I’m glad you love it, too 🙂 If you try this recipe I’d love to know what you think!

  6. Tarana Vevaina says:

    I was literally waiting for the day you will publish Tiramisu recipe. This recipe seems perfect. I have tried many of your recipes and they are always a hit.
    Can’t wait to try this. Thank you for making our life easier ❤️

    1. Thank you so much Tarana! Let me know what you think if you try this recipe 🙂 Happy baking!

  7. My son comes home from Germany for a visit in August. Tiramisu is his favorite – can’t wait to make this for him!

    1. Sounds like the perfect reason to make this!! Hope it’s a hit with your family, Rita 🙂

  8. What can I use to replace for a non – alcoholic version

    1. Hi Patty! Skip the Grand Marnier so the soaking mixture is just espresso. Use milk instead of rum.

  9. Erin R Kitzman says:

    I’m super excited to make this for my husband! I can’t seem to find a link to the video – am I missing it?

    1. Hi Erin! If you temporarily pause any ad blockers, the video shows right up. 🙂

      1. Erin R Kitzman says:

        Thanks! I’ll try turning any ad blockers off!

      2. Erin R Kitzman says:

        Update: I was able to watch the video and make this recipe this past weekend. I followed all your instructions and it came out BEAUTIFULLY! I had a little trouble getting the egg whites to stiffen up the first time around (I think I got some yolk in there) so I had to try again. The second time it worked perfectly though. I managed to surprise my husband. He LOVED it. Thanks for a great recipe! 🙂

      3. SO GLAD TO READ THIS!! 🙂

  10. Can’t wait to try this recipe! I have been looking for a good tiramisu recipe and I know this will deliver! Thanks Sally.

    1. I hope you love this recipe, Carol! Let me know what you think if you try it 🙂

  11. Laurie Scarcello says:

    I have been looking for a better tiramisu recipe than I currently have been using! I will make this for my Italian husband and see what he says. Looks wonderful to me. Thanks for adding it to your recipes.

    1. I hope it’s a hit with both of you! Would love to know what you think if you make it 🙂

  12. Alison O'Haver says:

    What funny timing! I was planning to make Tiramisu this weekend for my husband for Father’s Day and was going to use a recipe I found in my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, but maybe I’ll try this instead. I don’t have any Grand Marnier and we prefer more subtle alcohol flavoring anyway, so I will skip it and just use some Kahlua for the run, which I did already buy for this purpose!

    1. Perfect timing! If you try this recipe I’d love to know what you think! Happy baking 🙂

  13. I have never made or even had tiramisu (though I have tried tiramisu ice cream), but this version looks delicious, Sally! My mom has added this to the list of possible desserts for her birthday this month, so maybe I will be trying it out! I would love to make homemade ladyfingers, too. Sounds like lots of fun! I need to stock up on recipe books; Happiness Is Cake is definitely on the list now! Thanks for posting all these great recipes, Sally!:)

    1. I think this would make an excellent birthday dessert for your mom! If you try it, let me know what you think 🙂 Thanks Erin!

    2. OMG Erin! That’s a great idea to make the lady fingers from scratch too! This way I can make them fluffier or denser!
      Now we have to find a good recipe for ladyfingers. ha!

  14. Sally, is the book also with metric conversions?

    1. Hi Jenny! There are no metric measurements in Happiness is Baking. Here’s the listing for it if you want to peek inside it, too!

  15. Hi, can we omit the egg whites in this recipe since I don’t have pasteurized egg in my country. Thanks Sally.

    1. Definitely. Add that sugar and salt with the heavy cream and vanilla extract when you make the whipped cream.

  16. Wow!! I LOVE tiramisu… it is MY dessert lol but I have never tried my hand at making it. I might need to try this soon. I’m trying your Black Forest layer cake this weekend for Father’s Day for my dad and husband. Unfortunately, they do not like tiramisu haha! I was wondering if you could link the pretty white scalloped cake stand you’ve been using recently? It’s so adorable! I did a Google search and I’m wondering if you got it at Pier 1? Oh, AND I bought myself a copy of that toddler cookbook! LOVE your content! Do you think those little cheddar crackers would freeze well? Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Holly! You’ll definitely be pleased with Maida’s recipe. I absolutely love it! America’s Test Kitchen Toddler and Baby cookbook is another current favorite cookbook– we’ve used it many times! The homemade cheese crackers freeze pretty well. Thaw at room temperature.

      The scalloped cake stand in some recent photos including my strawberry shortcake cake is from pier 1! It’s a few years old.

  17. This looks absolutely incredible! I love tiramisu but have never made it with both egg whites and whipped cream. And the addition of the Grand Marnier sounds amazing. This is going on my to-bake list!!

    1. Thank you so much Tessa! I would love to know what you think if you end up making it! 🙂 Happy baking!

  18. Sally. I cannot wait to try this Tiramisu. I discovered a couple Maida Heatter recipes over 25 years ago in a magazine. And I have made her Buttermilk Chocolate Three Later Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting countless times. I’m baking it tomorrow for my Dad for Father’s Day. Thankyou for demonstrating and sharing her recipe. You’re the best. I’ve kearned so much from you

    1. Thank you so much, Sue! It is quite an honor to share one of her recipes with my readers 🙂

  19. I just love tiramisu! Looks so delicious and perfect for hosting!

  20. Hi Sally,
    Due to religious reasons, I cannot use any alcohol. I see that the Grand Marnier can be omitted but is there a substitution for the rum as well?

    1. Hi Sarah! You can use milk in place of rum.

  21. I am just starting to bake. Instead of whipping or heavy cream (I’m ashamed to ask) can I use frozen Cool Whip?

    1. Hi Kruptyna! No need to be ashamed, sometimes the store-bought stuff is just more convenient. Thaw it first. Since it’s already sweetened, I would reduce the sugar in the other two portions (the egg yolk and egg white mixtures).

  22. Hi! I don’t take any kind of alcohol. What can I use instead of rum and Grand Marnier?

    1. Hi Razna! Skip the Grand Marnier (no substitutions needed) and use milk instead of rum.

  23. Shawna Varela says:

    This is delicious, first of all! Yum!

    I need some advice though. My cream mixture came out way too fluffy. It made the cream layer too sloppy looking (but delicious) and I had a lot of cream left over. I may have whisked it too much but I wasn’t getting stiff peaks. Suggestions?

    The tiramisu came out delicious if sloppy looking. 🙂

    1. Hey Shawna! I’m so glad you tried this tiramisu. I wonder if the whipped cream was over-whipped? The egg whites take quite a bit to whip into stiff peaks. And I find that if you use an offset spatula to spread the mascarpone cream layer in, it looks much neater.

  24. Hi Sally,

    What can be the substitute of Rum for Non Alcoholic version of tiramisu.


    1. Hi Nida! Happy to help. See recipe note.

  25. Thank you so much for this recipe! Tiramisu is one of my husband’s favorite desserts and he said this was the best one he’s ever had!! Will definitely be making this again, and again 🙂

  26. hi, sally. would this recipe be enough to fill up a standard sized trifle bowl? 😀

    1. Definitely!!

  27. Paul Miller says:

    I made a Tiramisu from a recipe that used Kahlua. Is this recipe with Grand Marnier and rum much different in flavor?

    1. Yes, it has the flavors of Grand Marnier and rum instead of the Kahlúa flavor you’ve had before. Feel free to swap out and use Kahlúa if desired!

  28. John Cooper says:

    hi, Sally.
    It’s perfect! i tried it out last week and it was really mouth watering.
    can you also help me the for recipe of this cake.
    My daughters birthday is coming soon i wanna surprise her.

  29. This recipe is just what I was looking for! I’m hoping to make it for my mom’s birthday this weekend, but I am just wondering how long in advance I can make it – do you think it would be ok if I made it the day before or even two days before? Also, are the ladyfingers the crunchy kind or the soft kind.

    1. Hi Erin! Store-bought ladyfingers are usually crunchy. You want crunchy ladyfingers for this. They soften when dipped and layered. You can make this 2 days in advance, no problem. Cover tightly and keep refrigerated.

      1. Thanks so much for your quick response!! My mom is going to love this!

  30. Can you post the recipe for lady fingers?

    1. Hi Nikki! I’m not able to publish that recipe from the cookbook as well, but it’s a wonderful book! You can find homemade lady finger recipes online too!

      1. Sally – I understand. Thank you for the recipe. I am making this in a few weeks for a dinner party.

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally