Homemade Tiramisu (No Ladyfingers!)

This is without a doubt the most decadent dessert I’ve ever made, and I’ve made some powerfully fattening dishes.  I’ve made chocolate tiramisu, a dessert so rich that I couldn’t eat a very large piece.  I’ve made a tiramisu ice cream loaf cake with homemade mascarpone (it was just not the same as the real thing) and coffee pudding ice cream.  Chocolate peanut butter pies, pumpkin cheesecake, dark chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and raspberry filling.

Tiramisu is a dessert that is probably richer and more caloric than you would initially imagine, considering that it is fairly light on the tongue (and the stomach).  Italian for “pick-me-up,” it is a standard on menus in both Italian and American restaurants.  Typically, it is made with savoiardi, a French sponge cookie known in English as ladyfingers.  I went with a homemade genoise (sponge cake) instead, because it would be more fun, and easier, not having to dip each individual cookie.  Espresso-dipped ladyfingers are layered with a cream made of mascarpone cheese and Zabaglione.

Zabaglione is an Italian custard dessert in its own right (Sabayon in French), generally served with fruit such as figs or berries.  Traditionally, it is made with Marsala wine, though originally Moscato d’Asti, a light, sparkiling Muscat wine, was used.  In this recipe, I used a combination of brandy and rum because I thought they would go well with the espresso syrup used, but feel free to use one of the aforementioned wines (or Cognac, Sherry, Port, etc.).  If you prefer an alcohol-free Zabaglione, you can use water.

Actually, although French Sabayon is often served sweetened for dessert, you can also make it unsweetened, flavor it with a number of herbs and spices, and use it as a custardy sauce alongside a main dish.

This is labor-intensive, but completely, 100% worth it, I promise.

Homemade Tiramisu (12 servings)

This recipe makes enough for one 8×8 square pan and one 5×5 square pan (see the Le Creuset square bakers for the two sizes I used) with a little of the genoise left over.  If you wanted to make one larger tiramisu, since you bake the genoise in an 11×17 sheet pan, you could use a 7×11 inch baking dish, or something similar.


For the Genoise Sponge Cake:

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. sugar, divided
  • 1 c. cake flour, sifted

For the Zabaglione (Sabayon):

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. brandy
  • 2 tbsp. rum

For the Mascarpone Cream:

  • 1 recipe zabaglione
  • 8 oz. mascarpone, at room temperature
  • 1 c. whipping cream, chilled
  • 2 tbsp. sugar

For the Espresso Syrup:

  • 2 c. hot espresso or strong coffee
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate, grated

For garnish (optional):

  • cinnamon or cocoa powder
  • chocolate shavings
  • berries or other fruit


For the Genoise:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, line with parchment paper, and spray the paper with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whip egg yolks with vanilla and 1/4 c. of the sugar, until yolks are very light and have increased in volume.
  3. In another medium bowl, whip egg whites (with a clean whisk) until foamy and beginning to thicken.  Add remaining 1/4 c. sugar and beat until medium peaks are formed.
  4. Sift half of the flour into the egg yolks, and fold to combine.  Fold in one half of the egg white mixture, followed by the other half of the sifted flour, and the other half of the egg whites.
  5. Spread batter evenly into sheet pan, and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and slightly puffed.  Remove and set aside to cool.  Cut pieces of genoise to fit into the baking dish you’ll use for tiramisu.

For the Zabaglione:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar, brandy, and rum until combined.
  2. Set over a double boiler over medium heat, and whisk until mixture has thickened.
  3. Set aside to cool.

For the Mascarpone Cream:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk mascarpone until it is lighter and fluffier.
  2. In another bowl, whisk whipped cream until it has thickened slightly.  Add sugar, and whip to soft peaks.
  3. Stir zabaglione into mascarpone, and whisk until smooth.  At first, the mascarpone may break up into small pieces, making the mixture look lumpy, or curdled, but just continue whisking, and it will eventually smooth out.
  4. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture.

For the Espresso Syrup:

  1. In a bowl (or jar), place the espresso, sugar, vanilla, and chocolate.  Whisk (or shake) to combine.


  1. Place one layer of genoise into the bottom of your baking dish.
  2. Pour espresso syrup over the genoise until it is saturated but not soggy.  If in doubt, use a little less than you think you’ll need – too little won’t hurt it, but too much might.
  3. Spread half of the mascarpone cream over the genoise.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  6. Cut out pieces and garnish as desired.

6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    how are you!This was a really excellent Topics!
    I come from milan, I was luck to come cross your website in digg
    Also I learn much in your topic really thank your very much i will come later

  2. 2

    Nancy said,

    Can this be made a night before??

    • 3

      Amanda said,

      Nancy – I haven’t tried it, but I don’t see why not. Like many cold, layered desserts it may even improve overnight!

  3. 4

    Christina said,

    Delish w/ the ladyfingers

  4. 5

    I’m going to try this. Not using brandy or rum though. Can I substitute brandy extract? and can I use cocoa powder instead of chocolate shavings? Thanks.

    • 6

      Amanda said,

      Terribly sorry this reply is so, so late. But just in case you do see this, there are a couple of different substitutes possible for non-alcoholic zabaglione. Because it’s going into tiramisu, I would suggest cold coffee or espresso, with a little brandy extract if you like to mimic the brandy flavor. And of course, you can use cocoa powder instead of chocolate shavings as a garnish.

Comment RSS · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: