There are everyday desserts and then there is tiramisu, a family favourite, especially when my mother makes it. Tiramisu, which literally means “pick me up,” was a name chosen to describe the energy the ingredients like espresso, eggs and sugar give off. Although most people might think that this Italian dessert is a traditional, ancient recipe that was passed on from nonna to nipote – or in English, from grandmother to granddaughter – tiramisu only really became popular in the 1980s and its exact origin is still unconfirmed
The desert’s birthplace is commonly attributed to two possible restaurants in Treviso, Italy, though the owner of a small bakery in Baltimore’s Little Italy also claims to be the inventor of this now well-known desert.
With so many possible birthplaces, a few variations of the recipe exist. While some recipes substitute the espresso with coffee, others omit the use of liquor altogether.
Many restaurants will use cream as a cheaper alternative to mascarpone cheese, but this will leave a true tiramisu aficionado with a sour taste. To avoid this unpleasant situation, I offer one simple solution: my mother’s recipe.
– 500g mascarpone, a soft, mild Italian cream cheese. We use Salerno Dairy, but other brands such as Saputo will work
– 1 Â½ cup of espresso or strong coffee (we like to use a hazelnut coffee)
– 4 eggs
– 6 tbsp of sugar
– 2 packages or 800g Savoiardi biscuits, also known as ladyfingers. (The Balocco brand is easy to find)
– 2 tbsp of liquor (optional). You can use Marsala wine, rum, brandy, Tia Maria, Kahlua or Baileys. My mother uses Tia Maria because she prefers milder, sweeter liquors.
– Cocoa powder or grated semi-sweet chocolate (quantity according to taste).
Time to assemble: 30 min.
Time to set: 10-11 hours
1) In a small bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy and firm. Put the bowl aside for later.
2) In a large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Beat until creamy and smooth.
3) Add the mascarpone and liquor and stir until ingredients are well blended.
4) Add the egg whites from step 1 to the mixture of mascarpone, liquor, egg yolks and sugar. Mix everything well.
5) Next, dip the Savoiardi biscuits into espresso or strong coffee. Do this quickly, as they tend to get soggy and fall apart when left in the espresso too long. Set the dipped Savoiardi biscuits in a dish. A deep rectangular shaped dish is easiest to work with.
6) To assemble the cake, you will need to follow a layering process. For the first layer, align the dipped Savoiardi biscuits side by side (normally I do two rows of 11) Follow this process until you have a rectangular or square shape. Remember, you need to keep enough ladyfingers aside to repeat this process two more times.
7) Then, you will move on to the second layer, where you will cover the biscuits with the mascarpone mixture.
8) For the last layer, cover the mascarpone mixture with as much cocoa powder or grated semi-sweet dark chocolate as you desire.
9) Repeat the layering process 3 times. Then, cover the top of your cake with the remaining cocoa powder or semi-sweet grated chocolate. My mother follows this step by adding curled chocolate shavings to decorate the cake.
10) Place the cake into a cake container. If you do not have a cake container, place the tiramisu in a large Tupperware covered by Saran Wrap. This will prevent the tiramisu from absorbing the smells of other goods in both the freezer and fridge.
11) Then, place the covered container into a plastic bag.
12) Once packaged, place the cake into the freezer for 3-4 hours.
13) Remove from the freezer and place into the refrigerator for 7 hours before serving to guests.
It is recommended to prepare the cake a day in advance. Now cut yourself a slice of cake and sip on a nice big glass of milk, or espresso for the extra buzz! Buon appetito!