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. Ruthann Fitzpatrick says:

    thank you-this is wonderful

  2. Hi Sally – On Step 9, requiring refrigeration for 8-9 hours and up to a day, does that mean up to 24 hours? For example, can I make it the night before I plan to serve it for dessert after dinner?

    1. Yes, you can definitely do that! Enjoy, Elaine!

    2. This recipe was amazing! I had never made it had it before and it was better than I could have imagined! The only thing I did differently is that I made my own lady fingers, and I used Triple-Sec instead of Grand Marnier.

      1. I’m thrilled you enjoyed it so much, Brooke!

  3. This tiramisu was heavenly! And very easy to make. I’ve made tiramisu many times and sadly lost my go to recipe; cooked egg custard with whipped cream. But, I’m very happy to have found this! My first time using egg whites in addition to whipped cream & the result was super airy and light. Really delicate. Loved it, but I may add another yolk next time as I was longing for a bit more custard and reduce egg whites. I also add Godiva liquor to my esspresso mixture but enjoy Grand Marnier as well. Thank you for an exceptional tiramisu!

  4. Which espresso coffee is best to use?
    Is Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso coffee okay to use in this recipe?

    1. Hi, Ayesha! Any instant espresso should work just fine. Hope you enjoy this recipe!

      1. Yay thanks for the prompt reply. I’m making it soon 🙂

  5. I made your Tiramisu for Christmas day dessert. It was my first time making a tiramisu, so your step by step instructions were so valuable. It came out perfect and was absolutely delicious – everyone loved it. My sister said as good as any restaurant’s she has ever eaten. I can’t wait for another holiday so I can make it again. This will be my go to special occasion dessert. Thanks for sharing such a great recipe.

    1. I’m thrilled that this was such a hit, Nancy!

  6. I have ground espresso at home. Can I use that? If yes how much should I use that? Sorry for asking such a dumb question :/

    1. Yes you can use your ground espresso! You want a total of one and a quarter cups of strong liquid, so just follow the brewing instructions for the espresso you already have. Enjoy!

  7. I made this for the first time and tried it out on the neighbour before my special day the next day. I really wanted it to be perfect for my birthday lunch with my family. I poured absolute love into the making of this and enjoyed following your instructions. They were so clear. My neighbour told me it was painful waiting the full 9 hours. He said it was the best he had tasted and now knows what a good Tiramisu is.. I used Kahlua and expresso coffee without the Grand Marnier as I have always liked that combination. The biscuit was perfect and the cream divine.. It was received with great delight. Thank you for such an easy delectable recipe.

  8. Best recipe for tiramisu. Very well explained all steps!!
    I had some questions before making the recipe , she promptly replied my queries.
    Recommended this recipe to my friends

  9. The tiramisu was delicious and everyone loved it. However mine ended up rather runny. I took precautions on whipping cream and tried not to overbeat, but I think despite beating until peaks, it may not have been enough. Have read over many recipes for tiramisu without using the raw egg whites. Think next time I will do that.

  10. Andrea Johnson says:

    I’ve made this recipe several times and it is truly THE BEST!! I also used Kahlua in the espresso and Capt Morgan’s in the cream. Today I am combining my cheesecake recipe with this one to make Tiramisu Cheesecake…fingers crossed!!!

  11. I just want to thank you for your clear and well thought out instructions. Your attention to detail really makes a world of difference when trying to follow a recipe!

  12. Susan Rittenberry says:

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. I can’t wait to try this. I was just wondering if this recipe can be made without the egg yolks?

  13. hi, I made it for the second time,but two trays, lol. the whole (Italian)family looooved it.
    I`m making it again this weekend, my sister in law asked me the recipe as well. Its just amazing,i can eat half a tray at once,lol.love it,Thank you so so much

  14. I can no longer find Davidson or other brand of pasteurized eggs! If you know where I can get them please share that with me. Otherwise, do you know if the double boiler step in your recipe will make the yokes safe? If that works I can get a carton of egg whites at the grocery and solve the pasteurizing problem that way.
    I really appreciate the well written detailed write up you are presenting!!
    I live in Pittsburgh, Pa.

  15. Wow I love this recipe. This is the second time I am making it. Last time my friends love it, so I decided to make again.
    Thank you Sally for this wonderful recipe.

  16. I made this with Trung Nguyen Vietnamese coffee brewed in a Bialetti, and added 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg along with the Grand Marnier. Came out phenomenal, loved this recipe.

  17. Hi Sally,
    I would love to adapt this recipe for catering purposes (50 people). Could you helpl?

    1. Hi Loreen! You can double/triple/quadruple the recipe for separate pans. Keep in mind that separate batches may be easier on your mixer and fit better into mixing bowls.

  18. Hi, I want to make this recipe in 4 glasses. Should I make half the recipe or isn’t that enough?

    1. Hi Mila, depending how large your glasses are, halving the recipe would give you more than enough.

  19. This looks like a great recipe! I was wondering why egg whites were used in the cream though. Are egg whites usually included in Tiramisu or is there a specific reason?
    Also, is it okay if I mix the mascarpone and whipped cream together first, and then add the egg yolk mixture? And is there a reason for immediately putting the egg yolk into the mixture/does anything happen if we are not fast enough?

    1. Hi Scarlet! Egg whites are sometimes used in the recipe, sometimes not– just depends on who you ask and which recipe you use. In this specific recipe, they create more volume and creaminess. I would worry that mixing the mascarpone and whipped cream together would deflate the whipped cream. By doing it the way the recipe instructs, the egg yolks help smooth/thin out the mascarpone so it’s easier to fold in the whipped cream.

      1. Thank you soooo much! I saw this a bit late but still made Tiramisu, and it turned out wonderful! I love your recipes!!

  20. Aanya Chopra says:

    I halved this recipe and it turned out great! I have now made this twice and family and friends love it! Thank you so much for this recipe 🙂

    1. I’m so happy it’s been a such a hit, Aanya!

  21. I have made four different recipes over the last 40 years or so. This is by far the best! Thank you (and the Publisher for sharing this outstanding recipe! Now I have to find the book. Mark

  22. Can you make the marscapone cream without the rum?

    1. Hi Theo, For a non-Alcoholic Version you can skip the Grand Marnier and replace rum with milk.

  23. Delicious tiramisu! Wouldn’t change a thing. Made it yesterday with my daughter who’s home from college as we’re stuck inside. The whole family enjoyed it. Thanks Sally!

  24. Hello Sally. Where is the video link to this recipe?

    1. Hi Karen, It is immediately after the sentence “Let’s watch the entire dessert come together in a short video tutorial:”
      Give the video right below this text a few seconds to load. It’s a faded horizontal image of the a piece of tiramisu. Click on the play button in the center to play it. Make sure any ad blockers are temporarily paused on your browser.

  25. Would Disaronno or an almond liqueur be a good substitute for grand marnier???

    1. If you will enjoy its flavor here, then absolutely!

  26. This is the best tiramisu recipe! The proportions and flavors are on point!! Thank you so much for this recipe.

  27. Hi! I had a couple problems with how my tiramisu turned out. I can’t consume alcohol so I didn’t use that, and I used a recipe that had only whipped cream- otherwise all the ingredients were the same.

    When combining the mascarpone/egg yolks, both were room temperature and I did try folding the mascarpone in but there were so many little pieces that prevented it from becoming smooth. So I put it over a double boiler a for a little bit so the pieces could dissolve and then let it sit and chill. This mixture was still a bit thin, but I figured I could use it for the cream- the cream turned out a little bit thin in the end.

    When I assembled the dessert, the lady fingers floated to the top and the cream was far too liquidy, and even though it sat for 9 hours, it fell apart.

    It was a great recipe and super delicious nonetheless, I just wanted to know what I could do to make it more firm.

    Thank you!

    1. I read a tip from a different recipe which stated to whip the Mascarpone straight from the fridge- it might be that it softened too much. Also before folding both mixtures together, make sure that both are smooth; that way there will be no lumps. Hope it works better next time!

  28. I have made this recipe twice now and my family loves it! Thank you!

  29. Hi Sally, thank you for sharing all your great recipes! Can I gently cook the egg whites and sugar (to 160 degrees) before whipping them? I do not have pasteurized eggs whites right now. Thank you!

    1. Absolutely!

  30. Hi! Can I use a light run instead of dark?

    1. Hi! Yes.

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