Tiramisu

5 from 11 votes
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Tiramisu is a popular Italian dessert, a sweet “pick me up” to enjoy after dinner. The recipe is easy to prepare, requires no baking, and you can make it ahead of time.

Need a main course before serving your tiramisu? Try my delicious homemade lasagna, chicken Milanese, and baked ziti.

Slice of homemade tiramisu on a white plate.

Recipe Science

  • The cream is stabilized by whipping mascarpone with eggs and sugar, incorporating air that creates a light, fluffy texture essential for layering.
  • Soaking ladyfingers in espresso not only infuses them with flavor but also adds moisture without making them too soggy, provided they are dipped quickly.
  • The dusting of cocoa powder on top acts as an antioxidant-rich finish that complements the sweetness of the dessert and adds a subtle bitter contrast.

Why It Works

This easy tiramisu recipe is a no-bake dessert perfect for sharing. To create a light, cakey texture, it starts with soaking crispy ladyfinger cookies in a boozy coffee mixture. The cookies are then layered between a decadent mascarpone cheese filling that’s lightly sweetened to balance the bitterness of the coffee.

My version cooks the egg yolks to destroy harmful bacteria, then uses whipped cream instead of egg white to lighten the cheese filling. The dessert preparation requires refrigeration to meld all the flavor and layers together, making it a great dessert to prepare the day before. Now you can slice and serve!

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ingredients to make this tiramisu recipe.
  • Alcohol: Traditionally, sweet marsala wine, light or dark rum, or coffee liqueur is used.
  • Eggs: Use the egg yolks to create a rich layer for the cake. My recipe does not use raw egg whites for food safety reasons.
  • Sugar: Granulated sugar sweetens the mascarpone cheese layer and whipped cream.
  • Flavoring: Vanilla extract adds a sweet baked taste.
  • Cheese: Mascarpone cheese creates a rich, velvety texture and spreadable consistency. It’s an Italian cheese made from pasteurized milk, cream, and citric acid. The taste is mild (about 45 to 55% fat level), with a hint of sweetness.
  • Cream: Use heavy whipping cream to whip and lighten the mascarpone cheese.
  • Coffee: Use a strongly brewed medium or dark roast coffee or espresso. Just chill before using, or the ladyfingers will fall apart when dipped. Another quicker option is to use a bottle of cold brew for a pleasant, smooth taste that’s not as bitter.
  • Cookies: I use my homemade ladyfingers, which are a little denser, but you can always use a store-bought package from the grocery store. Depending on how many layers you want, you need about 24 to 26 cookies (a 7-ounce package).
  • Cocoa: The bitter cocoa powder complements the flavor of the coffee.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

Now you know how to make the best tiramisu recipe! Try these fun ways to switch up the flavor:

  • Alcohol: Add light or dark rum, sweet Marsala wine, or coffee liquor. Try Irish cream for a St. Patrick’s Day treat.
  • Green Tea: Use matcha green tea instead of coffee for dipping. Sprinkle matcha powder on top.
  • Spices: Add pumpkin spice to the cocoa powder or cheese filling.
  • Citrus: Make a simple syrup with lemon or orange juice and zest. Add limoncello or Grand Marnier to the syrup. Soak the ladyfingers in the syrup instead of the coffee mixture.

How to Make Tiramisu

Double boiler set up using mixing bowl with eggs, sugar, and vanilla.

Step 1: Cook the Egg Mixture

Set a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. A few tablespoons of coffee liquor, sugar, and vanilla are mixed in to disperse the egg proteins.

Brown liquid mixture bubbling in a metal mixing bowl.

Continuously whisk the mixture. The steam gently heats the bowl and gradually thickens the eggs while whisking.

Cooking thermometer checking the temperature of the cream mixture.

Cook the egg yolk mixture until it reaches 140ºF (60ºC) to kill harmful bacteria and prevent it from curdling. After about 5 minutes, you’ll notice that the mixture becomes an opaque yellow foam that triples in volume.

Expert Tip: This setup, called a bain-marie, is used to make things like hollandaise sauce.

Mascarpone chesse added to a bowl with egg mixture.

Step 2: Add Mascarpone

With the whisked egg mixture off the stove, add mascarpone cheese to the bowl. The consistency will be thick, but it will help cool down the mixture.

Blue spatula mixing a bowl of heavy cream and sugar.

Step 3: Add Freshly Whipped Cream

Like making homemade whipped cream, whisk heavy whipping cream with sugar until medium peaks form. The trapped air should allow the consistency to hold its shape but not be too airy.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the egg and cheese mixture in two additions to preserve as much air as possible. This version is much safer to eat and makes the mascarpone mixture smooth.

Ladyfinger being dipped into a bowl of coffee liqueur.

Step 4: Assemble the Layers

Add 3 tablespoons of Kahlua to 1 ¼ cup of cold coffee in a bowl. Ladyfingers are very porous, so only soak them for two seconds per side. Any longer, and it will turn to mush. 

A layer of soaked ladyfingers lined up in a baking dish.

Dip just enough pieces to create the first layer on the bottom of a square 8 by 8-inch baking dish. Line them up tightly together.

Spatula spreading mascarpone cream over soaked ladyfingers.

Spread half of the mascarpone cheese mixture evenly over the soaked ladyfingers. Then, repeat the dipping process and spread the remaining mascarpone on top.

Experimentation Encouraged: To make tiramisu more interesting in flavor, you add alcohol. I opt for coffee liquor as it has rum already mixed in, and it elevates the coffee flavor.

Sprinkling cocoa powder over a tiramisu using a metal sieve.
A finished tiramisu that's ready to be chilled in the refrigerator.

Step 5: Add Cocoa, Then Refrigerate

Finish the homemade tiramisu with a sprinkling of cocoa powder on top. Then, cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, allowing the coffee to distribute and hydrate the cookies. The texture starts to turn spongy and cake-like as it absorbs the liquid.

Pro Tip: You can make it in the morning for dessert later that night or serve it within five days for the best taste. It will taste too mushy any longer, and the layers will start to press together for a more dense texture.

Tiramisu in a white baking dish with a sliced removed as to see the layers.

Step 6: Garnish and Serve

Let the baking dish sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving to allow the mascarpone cream layers to soften slightly. If desired, top with a dusting of more cocoa powder right before serving. This dish pairs well with fresh fruit, chocolate shavings, dessert wines, and espresso.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is tiramisu?

Tiramisu is a no-bake Italian dessert consisting of coffee-soaked sponge cake, creamy mascarpone cheese filling, and cocoa powder. The yolk is combined with cheese and sugar, while the whites are whipped and folded in. A traditional tiramisu recipe uses raw eggs. However, this method can pose a food safety issue if not pasteurized or stored correctly.

Is tiramisu safe to eat?

When working with raw eggs, make sure only to use eggs that have been pasteurized to ensure that any harmful bacteria have been eliminated. In my recipe, I also cook the egg yolk to around 140ºF (60ºC), egg pasteurization temperature to destroy bacteria. I replaced the egg white with whipped cream to make it safer to eat.

What are ladyfinger cookies?

Ladyfingers get their name from their long and slender shape. They are also delicate, crisp in texture, and light in weight. The moisture has been dried to yield a biscuit-type cookie, making it a perfect sponge for soaking up liquid. After several hours, the cookies magically transform into a soft cake.

Does tiramisu have alcohol?

Yes, it may contain rum, marsala wine, or coffee liquor. A small amount is used for flavor. It shouldn’t taste so strong that it overpowers the coffee taste and sweetened cheese filling.

Do you have to use alcohol?

No, you can skip the alcohol in the recipe. If the tiramisu is being made for a family gathering with kids or for personal reasons, omit the alcohol.

Can kids eat tiramisu?

If adding alcohol, do not serve it to children as it’s not cooked out of the dessert, although it can be omitted from the recipe. You can also use decaffeinated coffee if you are concerned about caffeine levels.

Serve This With

If you tried this Tiramisu Recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!

Tiramisu

I love making tiramisu for a decadent and irresistible dessert. The way the flavors meld together always impresses my guests and brings smiles to their faces.
5 from 11 votes
Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Servings 9 servings
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients 
 

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 5 tablespoons coffee liqueur, divided
  • ½ cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 ¼ cups coffee, room temperature
  • 24 ladyfinger cookies, 7-ounce package
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Instructions 

  • Cook the Egg Mixture – In a medium heatproof bowl, add egg yolks, 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur, ¼ cup of sugar, and vanilla. Set the bowl on top of a saucepan filled with about 1-inch water. The bowl should not touch the water.
    Bring the water to barely a simmer and vigorously whisk until the mixture is foamy and reaches around 140ºF (60ºC) on a thermometer, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and take the bowl off of the pot.
  • Add the Mascarpone – Add mascarpone cheese to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth.
  • Whip the Heavy Cream – In a separate medium bowl, vigorously whisk the heavy whipping cream and ¼ cup sugar until medium peaks form. Gently fold ⅓ of the whipped cream mixture into the mascarpone mixture. Then add the remaining whipped cream, and fold until just combined.
  • Assemble the Layers – In a large bowl, combine coffee and 3 tablespoons of coffee liqueur. Working one ladyfinger at a time, dip it into the liquid, about 2 seconds per side. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish. Dip just enough for the first layer.
    Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Dip the remaining pieces, and arrange them on top of the cream layer. Then spread the remaining mascarpone evenly on top.
  • Add Cocoa and Chill – Sprinkle some of the cocoa powder evenly over the baking dish. Clean the edges of the dish as needed. Cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 5 days.
  • To Serve – Allow the tiramisu to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with more dry cocoa powder if desired.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Coffee Options: Instead of medium or dark roast brewed coffee, use cooled espresso or cold brew. 
  • Alcohol Type: Instead of coffee liquor like Kalua, use sweet marsala wine or light/dark rum.
  • Omit the Alcohol: Substitute with more coffee or espresso.
  • Making Individual Portions: Make mini tiramisu in ramekins or small cups, about 6 to 8 ounces. Yield will depend on cup size. 
  • Storing: Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 9 servings
Calories 384kcal (19%)Carbohydrates 35g (12%)Protein 6g (12%)Fat 23g (35%)Saturated Fat 13g (65%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 179mg (60%)Sodium 69mg (3%)Potassium 88mg (3%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 15g (17%)Vitamin A 889IU (18%)Vitamin C 1mg (1%)Calcium 72mg (7%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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2 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Ola Ipaye says

    Jessica, that’s another awesome recipe!

    I particularly love the recipe science section. Always learn a lot from them.

    Keep up the good work!!!