Treat Yourself to Tiramisu
You don’t need to travel to Italy or visit your favorite Italian restaurant for the best tiramisu. Just layer coffee-soaked ladyfingers with a rich and creamy mascarpone cheese filling, chill, and this decadent no-bake dessert is yours.
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The first time I tried tiramisu was in Little Italy in New York City. I took a bite and gasped as I inhaled some of the cocoa powder. If you’ve ever had tiramisu, I’m willing to bet you’ve done this too! Once I got over my novice mistake, I sunk right into the rich, creamy, and intensely flavorful layered dessert.
Tiramisu has been a favorite menu item for me ever since, and now I’m so excited to share just how easy it is for any level of baker to make at home. There’s no worrying about raw eggs, no fancy equipment, and no trips to a specialty grocery store required with my recipe!
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What is tiramisu?
Tiramisu is an Italian no-bake dessert, similar to an icebox cake. To make it you layer ladyfingers dipped in coffee with a rich mascarpone cheese filling flavored with vanilla and rum, and top it with a simple dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder. Once chilled, tiramisu is firm enough to slice like a cake, exposing the delicious and beautiful layers inside.
One of the unique things about this Italian dessert is its list of ingredients. But don’t worry, you should be able to find everything in a well-stocked grocery store.
Ladyfingers are light and crispy cookies shaped like large fingers (hence the name!). Be sure to buy the crunchy style of ladyfingers known as Savoiardi; the sponge cake kind would be too soft here.
Mascarpone cheese is the Italian cousin to American cream cheese. It’s richer and creamier, and necessary for a truly authentic tiramisu. Thankfully, most stores now stock it in the specialty cheese section.
Traditional tiramisu recipes also include alcohol like dark rum, brandy, or sweet marsala wine. Using rum in this recipe adds sweetness, depth of flavor, and the signature slightly “boozy” taste. If you prefer to omit the alcohol, you can add 1 teaspoon rum extract or increase the vanilla extract in the mascarpone filling to 2 teaspoons.
How to make tiramisu
I like to break down this recipe into four practical steps: prepping the coffee-soaked ladyfingers, making the creamy mascarpone filling, putting it all together, and chilling the tiramisu in the fridge.
1. Prep the coffee-soaked ladyfingers
The coffee dipping liquid is simply instant espresso powder combined with hot water and rum. Mix it up first and then let it cool next to the ladyfingers while you make the filling.
2. Make the creamy mascarpone filling
To avoid using raw eggs, the filling is a combination of cooked custard and mascarpone whipped cream. Never made a cooked custard? Stick with me here — it’s easy.
You’re going to heat milk and sugar over the stove and slowly whisk it into large egg yolks. (This is called “tempering”, which is just a fancy term for heating up eggs gradually so they thicken without turning into lumpy scrambled eggs.) Once the custard thickens on the stove, stir in vanilla and rum, and then set it aside to cool.
Use an electric mixer (either a stand mixer or hand mixer) to beat the mascarpone cheese with heavy whipping cream to soft peaks — not stiff peaks. Depending on the brand you use, the mascarpone can be pretty stiff and you may need to scrape down the mixer bowl a few times to help combine it with the heavy cream.
Once the custard has cooled to room temperature, fold in the mascarpone mixture in three additions. A whisk can help remove any larger lumps, but be careful not to over-mix. Any small lumps won’t be noticeable once the tiramisu is chilled.
3. Assemble the tiramisu
Now you’re ready to assemble the tiramisu! Give the ladyfinger cookies a very quick dunk on each side in the coffee mixture — a second is long enough; we don’t want them too soggy. Then place the dipped ladyfingers side by side in a baking dish. You will likely need to trim some ladyfingers with a knife before dunking so they’ll all fit.
Spread half of the mascarpone cream filling over the top, and repeat with another layer of ladyfingers and the rest of the filling.
4. Let the tiramisu rest in the fridge
The final step in making tiramisu is to refrigerate it for at least 8 hours. While it’s chilling, all of the flavors magically meld together, the ladyfingers soften and become cake-like (which is why the dessert is sometimes called tiramisu cake), and the filling firms up for slicing. Though the prep time for this dessert is only 45 minutes, the total time includes the chilling. I promise the wait will be worth it!
Just before serving, add a dusting of cocoa powder. I like to add it just before slicing so it doesn’t get soggy.
How to store tiramisu
I like to prep tiramisu the day before I plan to serve it, but tiramisu lasts in the fridge covered with plastic wrap for about 5 days. It’s a fabulous dessert to make ahead.
Can you freeze tiramisu? Yes! You can freeze it for 1-2 months, though be careful to wrap it well to avoid freezer burn. When you’re ready to serve the tiramisu, let it thaw in the fridge for at least 24 hours, then dust with cocoa powder before slicing.
Get our easy tiramisu recipe
With its luscious mascarpone cheese filling, sweet notes of vanilla and rum, and hint of bitterness from coffee and cocoa, this Italian tiramisu recipe is as good as it gets!
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