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.
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.
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:
There are 2 components and 4 layers in tiramisu. Each component is layered twice.
- Espresso-Dipped Ladyfingers
- 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.
Overview: How to Make Tiramisu
The full written and printable recipe is below.
- 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.
- 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.
- Line dipped ladyfingers in bottom of pan. If needed, cut some ladyfingers to fill in any empty spaces.
- 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.
- 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.
- Beat egg yolks into mascarpone cream mixture.
- Whip heavy cream and vanilla extract into medium peaks.
- Fold whipped cream into mascarpone cream mixture.
- Beat the egg whites and salt together until foamy, then slowly pour in sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Fold egg white mixture into mascarpone cream mixture.
- Layer half of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers. An offset spatula helps.
- Dip and layer remaining ladyfingers.
- Top with remaining cream mixture, then chill for for 2-3 hours.
- 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.
- Chill overnight. You can chill it for up to 1 day, so it’s a great make-ahead dessert recipe.
The mascarpone, rum, and egg yolk mixture as well as the whipped cream:
The mascarpone mixture and whipped cream combined:
The whipped egg white mixture and the final mascarpone cream mixture:
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:
- What kind of rum do I use in tiramisu? Dark rum is best, but you can use brandy or your favorite coffee liqueur.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
More Specialty Desserts
- Tiramisu Crepe Cake
- Crème Brûlée
- Amaretto Cheesecake
- Chocolate Soufflé
- Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding
- Homemade Eclairs
- 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*
- 40–45 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
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spread half of the mascarpone cream evenly over bottom layer of ladyfingers. An offset spatula helps spread it neatly and evenly.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cover leftover tiramisu and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- 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.)
- Special Tools (affiliate links): KitchenAid Stand Mixer, KitchenAid Hand Mixer, 9×13 inch Baking Dish or 4-Quart Dish, Sieve, Offset Spatula, Metal Serving Spatula, Double Boiler
- Smaller Recipe: Halve this recipe for a 9×9 inch or 10×10 inch square baking pan.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sugar: I increased the sugar by 2 Tablespoons for a VERY slightly sweeter cream. This is still not an overly sweet dessert.
- 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
Reader Comments & Reviews
Hi! I am going to be making this recipe to be served in two days. Can I make it today, or should I wait until tomorrow? Someone in the comments said it tastes even better after 48 hours so I’m hoping I can make it today!
Hi Kate! You can make this 2 days in advance, no problem. Cover tightly and keep refrigerated.
Curdled after adding egg yolks. Ruined the tiramisu. Instructions are confusing and don’t see need for egg whites
I have made this 3 times now and absolutely everyone loves it (there is a lot to share here but so worth it). Thank you for a great recipe!
Would I be able to substitute Kahlua for the Grand Mariner; and continue to use the dark rum as written?
Would I be able to substitute Kahula and use Sweet Marsala wine in place of the dark rum?
Hi Donna, I’m sure either of those substitutions would be fine. We’ve tried this recipe with Kahlua instead of the Grand Marnier and the feedback was all positive.
I’ve always wanted to make tiramisu but was intimidated by the process until I found your recipe. The detailed instructions were easy to follow and it came together beautifully! And the taste?!? … Out of this world!!! Thank you for sharing this recipe with your followers. I’ll definitely be making it again!
Do you have any homemade lady finger recipe suggestions?
I’m excited to try this one as tiramisu is my favorite dessert but I have never attempted making myself!
Hi Kayleigh, Maida’s recipe calls for homemade chocolate ladyfingers and if you own this cookbook, we highly recommend using her chocolate ladyfinger recipe included.
Wow. Just…wow. This recipe is a SLAM DUNK! My mom wanted a tiramisu for her birthday and neither myself nor my husband had ever made one before. My default place to look for recipes is Sally’s so I was excited to see she had a recipe. I will say, 24 hours makes a HUGE difference. We tasted it about 6ish hours post and it had quite a boozy bite. Not a bad thing, just a not what a normal tiramisu tastes like! Fast forward to the next evening and we cut slices about 30 hours post and WOWZA! So smooth and balanced. Definitely worth the extra wait!!
What is a good substitute for the dark rum?
Hi Jason, You can use brandy or your favorite coffee liqueur. Or simply replace the rum with milk and add with the mascarpone.
Can you please tell me how many ounces of Lady Fingers you use for this recipe? Thanks!
Hi Claudia, We are unsure how many ounces but we use 2 standard packages, or 40–45 ladyfingers.
Made this multiple times. Gave the recipe to family members. Always a hit.
This is also delicious for breakfast with a warm cup of coffee 😉
What can i use as a substitute for mascarpone?cream cheese?
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 ?
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!
I was planning on making this for Thanksgiving, but to have on Friday. Would it be okay to let it sit in the fridge for more than overnight?
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?
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!
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.
Thank you for your response. I will make sure the cheese is at room temp next time.
This was a hit, but my mascarpone cheese curdled when i added the rum. Do you know why this happened?
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!
Would chocolate liqueur be a nice substitute for grand marnier?
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!
Hi Sally, do you have a calorie count per serving of this tiramisu? Thank you! XX
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
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.
I wanted to make an ‘authentic’ tiramisu for my coffee addicted nurse colleague, as usual Sally’s recipe to the rescue, never made tiramisu before, it is awesome- although I had to make changes with what I already had – didn’t have espresso, used 2 tbsp(British size) instant coffee mixed with 300g hot water, left to cool, then mixed in the brandy. Also used dark Caribbean rum. I used a 9 x 13 rectangular deep baking tin, lined with baking paper with an overhang, then put a piece of cardboard on that, then another piece of baking paper on top of the cardboard ( this helps to remove the whole tiramisu). I found I needed more boudoir biscuits than stated, 90 I used. After lining the pan with the first layer and setting aside- found they had dried when ready to spread over the filling, so I lightly brushed with more coffee mixture, but not too much so that it made the biscuits soggy. I grated over dark chocolate before spreading on the filling & second layer. I finished the top with more grated dark chocolate & dark cocoa powder.
Will definitely be making again, despite all the steps and different bowls. Also did it all with an electric hand whisk.
Thanks Sally- another winner!
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?
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?
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?
Yeah, thanks for the quick reply the suggestion, I’ll let you know if you I try either of those ways!!!!
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.
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!
Thank you so much!! 🙂 I will try that and let you all know how it goes 🙂
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?
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!
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.
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!
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.
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?
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!
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.
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?
Hi Gina, That is a wonderful product and works well here! Enjoy!
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.
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
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!