(Or how to become very popular at a party.)


This post is dedicated to my friend R2.

One of our friends had a small party last Friday night to celebrate the culmination of years of hard work: her PhD defense. I missed the defense as I had to be at work but I heard from others that she did fabulous, so congratulations Lynn!

If you know anything about the world of academia, you know that this is no small feat. So of course, she had to celebrate in style. She’d rented a lovely room in downtown Baltimore and gathered her family and close friends for an evening of good food and celebration. And what’s a party without dessert?

I had been thinking for a few days about what to make for the party. It had to be easy and quick since I was going to have to prepare it the night before, a week night. It had to keep well and sill taste good the next day. It had to be large enough to accommodate a good number of people (well that part didn’t work out so well). And obviously it had to be fit for the occasion.

After browsing the web and searching some food blogs, I made my decision. Tiramisu it would be! Tiramisu always seemed like a well-received dessert and it was easy enough to serve to a large crowd. I had stumbled upon this blog post that praised Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe, and you already know I love Cook’s Illustrated. I was sold.

People loved the tiramisu. Wait, let me write that one more time. People LOVED the tiramisu. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so much praise from any other dishes that I’ve made in my life. As soon as we cut the first slice, a line of people formed by the table waiting with their plates, as word had passed around that there was homemade tiramisu.

I quickly became known as The Girl Who Made The Tiramisu (despite all my attempts to restore the truth that I didn’t make the tiramisu but rather my husband and I made it together). One lady came up to me at the end of the night and said “this was the best tiramisu I’ve ever eaten in my life, and I really like food so that’s saying a lot”. But my favorite compliment came from the sisters whose father works as a chef in an Italian restaurant: “We like your tiramisu better than our dad’s.”

Clearly, I should make tiramisu for every party I attend.

From Cook’s Illustrated, Nov 2007

Let me say first and foremost that I take no credit for this tiramisu. It is wonderful, yes, and it is entirely thanks to CI. And yes, my husband and I made it (in fact I think he did most of the work while I was telling him what to do).

This recipe is very easy to follow. As tiramisu does not require baking, it takes only about 30-40 min to make (and we were slow) but it does need to rest in the fridge for a few hours at least, or overnight. See Yvonne’s corner for thoughts, tips, tricks.

Serves 12-20ish people (yes you can cut slices that small if you really need to).

  • 2 1/2 cups strong black coffee, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 4 to 9 tbsp dark rum, kahlua, or other similar liquor (depending on taste)
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (cold)
  • 14 ounces ladyfingers (42 to 60, depending on size)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder , preferably Dutch-processed
  • 1/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, grated (optional)
  • Large baking dish, approximately 9”X13”

Stir the coffee with the espresso powder and half of your liquor in a bowl/container large enough to accommodate the length of your lady fingers. Reserve.

Whisk egg yolks until just combined. Add sugar and salt until pale yellow. If using a stand mixer, beat on medium-high for about 1.5 to 2 minutes. Add the rest of the liquor and beat again until just combined (20-30 seconds in th stand mixer). Add mascarpone cheese and beat until no lumps remain (on medium for about 45 seconds). Transfer to a large bowl and set aside (this bowl will need to have enough remaining room to incorporate the whipped cream).

Beat cream until frothy (if using stand mixer just use the same bowl, no rinsing needed), and then increase the speed until your cream form stiff peaks (about 1.5 minutes). Using a rubber spatula, fold one third of your whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Then gently fold the rest of the cream until no white streaks remain. Set aside.

Now place your baking dish next to your ladyfingers and coffee mixture. Working very fast, drop each ladyfinger horizontally into the coffee mixture, then roll the ladyfinger onto the other side so that both sides soak in some coffee. Ideally this step should take no more than 2-3 seconds and the ladyfinger is only lightly soaked in coffee (the middle should not be wet). Place the soaked ladyfinger on the bottom of the baking dish. Repeat this step until you get one single layer at the bottom of your baking dish (break and trim the ladyfingers as needed).

Scoop half of the mascarpone/cream mixture onto the ladyfingers. Form a smooth layer, working with your spatula to reach the sides and corners of the baking dish. Place 2 tbsp of cocoa in a fine mesh strainer and dust the layer of mascarpone so that it is entirely covered in cocoa.

Repeat dipping the ladyfingers, spreading the mascarpone and dusting the cocoa to make a second layer. Clean the edges of the baking dish. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours. When ready to serve, sprinkle with the grated chocolate if using.

Yvonne’s Corner

  • Tiramisu doesn’t have very many ingredients so get the best mascarpone possible. I got the only Italian imported mascarpone I could find at Whole Foods. I also got a tub of the Whole Foods brand for the sake of comparison and had Dave do a blind tasting. Needless to say the difference was more than noticeable. The Italian mascarpone was fluffy and creamy while the Whole Foods one was very dense and had a gummy taste.
  • I also got two different kinds of ladyfingers, only because they only had one box left at Whole Foods. I went to my local supermarket and bought the only ladyfingers they had, the Goya brand (yes the hispanic foods brand, in the international food section). The two types of ladyfingers did taste different (the WF ladyfingers were less sweet, had crunch but also melted in your mouth while the Goya ones were just very crunchy) but I didn’t find that the brand made a huge difference in taste once they were soaked in coffee and eaten with the mascarpone mixture. I also ended up using less ladyfingers than called for in the recipe so don’t worry if that happens to you.
  • If you don’t like alcohol, you can forego it. I actually do not have any rum nor kahlua at home (nor amaretto, nor marsala that some other recipes call for) but what I did have was amarula, a South African liquor that tastes very similar to Bailey’s (it’s delicious). It worked just fine (maybe that‘s what garnered the tiramisu so much praise in fact, who knows).
  • If you have a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated Online, it’s helpful to watch the video of the recipe first.

6 thoughts on “Tiramisu

  1. The tiramisu was absolutely delicious. I had the biggest piece. Thanks Yvonne and of course Dave for the homemade tiramisu. Dave, Jenni still remembers your promise to make her tiramisu the next time she comes to visit.

  2. Pingback: Tuesdays With Dorie: Hungarian Shortbread with Marula Jelly | Petit Plat

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