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How to Make Tiramisu

If you love a classic tiramisu but have never made it at home, it’s not as hard as you may think! Learn how to make tiramisu and wow your loved ones with this elegant dessert.

Slice of tiramisu on a white plate with coffee and a baking dish in the background

The very first time I had Tiramisu, I was smitten with it. I was in high school and my family had a little birthday celebration for me at Buca di Beppo.

Instead of birthday cake, they served tiramisu in a giant bowl complete with candles. And right then and there, it immediately became one of my very favorite desserts.

I actually love tiramisu so much that I have made a few different tiramisu-inspired desserts before. Tiramisu Brownies, this Tiramisu Martini, and White Chocolate Tiramisu Pudding Cups are all inspired by the flavors of the Italian classic.

But I realized something recently. I have never shared my classic tiramisu recipe here before! 

Obviously I had to fix that immediately.  

Overhead view of assembled tiramisu topped with cocoa powder and chocolate curls

WHAT IS TIRAMISU?

Have you ever eaten tiramisu? I love it, but also know a number of people who have heard of it but have never tried it themselves.

Tiramisu is a layered, coffee-flavored Italian dessert. The layers consist of ladyfingers soaked in coffee and sometimes alcohol, mascarpone cream, and whipped cream. To finish, it is dusted with cocoa powder.

The finished dessert is served cold, which makes it the perfect dessert to make ahead (more on that later). 

If you love coffee-flavored desserts, you’ll love this recipe. 

Tiramisu ingredients on a marble countertop

TIRAMISU INGREDIENTS

A traditional tiramisu recipe is typically made using:

  • Egg yolks
  • Sugar
  • Whole milk
  • Heavy cream
  • Vanilla
  • Mascarpone cheese
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol 
  • Ladyfingers 
Egg yolks and sugar in a saucepan on a marble counter

Mascarpone cheese is a soft Italian cheese that resembles cream cheese. It is lightly tangy, easy to spread, and can even be used in recipes like mascarpone cheesecake and mascarpone pancakes.

You can even learn how to make mascarpone at home, but I usually just buy mine at the store. 

Ladyfingers are sometimes called “finger biscuits” or “sponge fingers” and are a sweet, dry sponge cookie shaped like a finger. 

Simple egg custard in a saucepan on a wooden trivet

Most of the ladyfinger cookies you can find in grocery stores are dry, crunchy, and similar to biscotti. The ones I see most often and typically buy are the Alessi brand

You will occasionally find soft, spongey, cake-like ladyfingers, though. While my tiramisu recipe was developed to use the dry, crunchy ladyfingers, I include notes on how to adapt the recipe if you happen to have the cakey ones instead. 

As for alcohol, I prefer to use Kahlua or dark rum in my tiramisu, with Kahlua being my favorite. Other recipes call for marsala wine or madeira or even Irish cream or brandy. 

Spatula folding together mascarpone cream in a metal bowl

DO I HAVE TO USE ALCOHOL IN THE RECIPE?

Not into alcohol? That’s fine! You could totally leave the alcohol out of your tiramisu.

If you omit the alcohol you might need a bit more coffee for dipping the ladyfingers, but you won’t need to make any other changes to the recipe.

Coffee-soaked ladyfingers in a white baking dish next to a dish of coffee

HOW TO MAKE TIRAMISU AT HOME

I know tiramisu looks super fancy, and it really is an elegant dessert! But just like making homemade truffles, when you break down the steps, I promise it’s totally doable. 

To make tiramisu:

  1. Make a simple custard with egg yolks, sugar, and milk. 
  2. Beat together the chilled custard with room temperature mascarpone cheese.
  3. Whip heavy cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form.
  4. Combine strong coffee with your alcohol of choice and dip each ladyfinger into this mixture.
  5. Assemble the tiramisu by making a layer of dipped ladyfingers, a layer of mascarpone cream, a layer of whipped cream, and repeat. 
  6. Dust the top with cocoa powder before chilling for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Mascarpone cream being spread on top of soaked ladyfingers in a white baking dish

The hardest part of making this recipe is making the custard for the mascarpone cream. I make mine in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking the egg yolks, sugar, and milk constantly until the mixture boils.

Boil the custard for 1 minute, then immediately remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly before chilling it in the fridge.

Cocoa powder being dusted on top of tiramisu

You’ll feel like you did something wrong because the mixture will appear slightly curdled. I promise – it’ll come together and everything will smooth out when you beat in the mascarpone. 

Since the ladyfingers soften quite a bit after they’ve been dipped in the coffee mixture, I recommend dipping each one just before you place it into the dish. 

I like to finish mine off by topping it with some chocolate curls

Cut tiramisu in a white baking dish

MAKING TIRAMISU AHEAD OF TIME

Since this recipe needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, it is a great make-ahead dessert. I actually think it tastes better when it chills overnight!

Assemble the dessert the night before and dust with some extra cocoa powder or top it with chocolate shavings or chocolate curls just before serving to freshen it up a bit. 

I can promise, once you know how to make tiramisu at home, you’ll get a real kick out of making this elegant dessert and impressing the heck out of your friends and family! 

Cut slice of tiramisu on a white plate
Cut slice of tiramisu on a white plate

Tiramisu

Yield: 8 servings
Active Time: 30 minutes
Chilling Time: 7 hours
Total Time: 7 hours 30 minutes

If you love a classic tiramisu but have never made it at home, it’s not as hard as you may think! Learn how to make tiramisu and wow your loved ones with this elegant dessert.

Ingredients

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 16 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • ¾ cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature
  • 2 ½ tablespoons Kahlua
  • 1 (7-ounce) package ladyfingers (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Chocolate curls, optional

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Mixture will appear slightly curdled - this is totally okay. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. Once the egg yolk mixture has chilled, prepare the whipped cream. 
  3. In a medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  4. Whisk or beat together the chilled egg yolk mixture with the mascarpone until smooth. Set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine coffee and Kahlua. Roll each ladyfinger in the coffee mixture once or twice. Take care not to oversaturate the ladyfingers.
  6. Arrange half of soaked ladyfingers in the bottom of a 7x11 inch dish. Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers and lightly dust with cocoa. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight.

Notes

This recipe uses the dry, crunchy type of ladyfingers, similar to biscotti, because they are readily available in most grocery stores. I typically find them near the Italian section.

If using soft, cakey ladyfingers, you’ll need 2 (3-ounce) packages. Reduce the amount of coffee to ¼ cup and the Kahlua to 2 tablespoons. Brush the ladyfingers with the coffee mixture as opposed to soaking them.

I personally much prefer this recipe with Kahlua, but you could also use dark rum.

Slightly adapted from Allrecipes.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 8
Amount Per Serving Calories 576Total Fat 48gSaturated Fat 28gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 296mgSodium 326mgCarbohydrates 27gFiber 0gSugar 25gProtein 10g

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