Jul 20, 2009


After making mistakes in my last two cakes, I decided to change my attitude from a teeth-clenched "must be more careful" to a blithe zen-ness: "If you try to aim for it, you are turning away from it."
So I read the directions twice, assembled the ingredients, and tried not to aim for perfection. The result? A perfect tiramisu.

I made a delicious tiramisu once before, many years ago, but I lost the recipe and have never found one that sounded as good as the lost one--until I read the recipe in Heavenly Cakes. Its flavors are pure and uncomplicated, and each bite is a marvel.
You start by making a batter with egg yolks, sugar, and sweet marsala.

You whisk this mixture over simmering water, whisking away for five or ten minutes. The old obsessive Marie would have fretted about scrambling the eggs. The new carefree Marie just stayed in the moment and enjoyed the whisking.

Into the custard go two cups of mascarpone and a cup of whipped cream.

I got the mascarpone at Broder's Cucina Italiana. Two cups cost about $20, so it's not a purchase you'd want to make every day, or every week, but I've tasted the mascarpone you can buy at a supermarket, and if you're making tiramisu, the quality of which largely rests on the creaminess and subtle sweetness of the mascarpone, it's worth the extravagance. (Well, that's how I justified it anyway).
Meanwhile, Jim was making two cups of espresso. I could have used instant espresso powder, but I was glad when he volunteered to make real espresso for me. I could also have gone to the local coffee shop and ordered a whole bunch of espresso, but that would probably have cost more than the mascarpone.

Rose has a recipe for ladyfingers in this cookbook, and I suppose I'll make them eventually, but for this recipe, since they were going to be soaked in espresso syrup, I bought them. "Soaked" isn't really the right word--they have to pick up the espresso flavor but keep their shape. No more than one second per side!

You can see that the first one was soaked a little too long and started to disintegrate, but the second one is just right.

After the first layer of espresso-imbued ladyfingers, half the custard mixture goes on top; then another row of ladyfingers and the rest of the custard. The custard is a little runny, but it firms up nicely overnight. In fact, you can make this recipe up to three days ahead, so it's a perfect idea for entertaining. All it takes is a sprinkle of cocoa when you're ready to serve it.

I brought this fabulous dessert to a July 4 cookout potluck. The other desserts were more midwestern in nature--to be precise, they were "bars," the quintessential prairie end-of-the-meal. We had Almond Joy bars (chocolate and coconut) and key lime bars. They were both good, but very sweet. The tiramisu was not sweet, but very rich. Two women asked me for the recipe. I hesitated, trying to think if I could remember the specifics, and then one of them asked me if it was hard. "I only do easy," she said. "No, not really. First you beat eight egg yolks over a pan of simmering water...." "You mean, like a double boiler?" she asked. "Pretty much," I said. "Oh, no, I said I do easy. That means I don't do double boilers." Please don't let a fear of double boilers keep you away from this recipe. It's every bit as good--probably better--than the tiramisu of yore that I could never re-create. In fact, if someone from Venice person dropped by, I wouldn't hesitate to make this tiramisu for them. They'd probably say, "I wish I could get this at home."


evil cake lady said...

Oh I can't wait for this one!

YAY for a perfect cake, Marie! How appropriate your perfect cake was for Independence Day, too. Woo-hoo!

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

i love the new marie but then i loved the old one too! no one writes like you and soon many will say no one bakes like you. you're right--when making dough it seems to know when you're afraid of it and takes you for a sticky ride. probably true of cakes and everything else come to think of it.

i live for the next posting!

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

jim--your photos are so great and instructive. now people will know what the difference is between over-soaked lady fingers and perfectly soaked!

doughadear said...

I love love love tiramisu. The very first time I had it in Italy in 1972 I think my tastebuds exploded with delight. My aunt had made it for me and I remember telling her that if I could get mascarpone in Canada I would make it every week. At that time you could only get mascarpone when the deli got a shipment from Italy and
that wasn't very often back then. The lady fingers used were called Pavasini which you can get here but today I use that exact same lady fingers you used in this recipe.
That original recipe did not beat the egg over simmering water! Nobody I know of got sick from the raw eggs, however, today I use the simmering water method to be safe.
What a great treat for your July 4 celebration.

Melinda said...

Dear new Zen Marie, What a wonderful Tiramisu recipe. It sounds divine... most fitting for the Heavenly Cake book.
My goodness, the mascarpone was expensive! I don't think it is that much here, which is really saying something!
But I am sure it was the secret ingredient that elevated to the sublime.

Marie said...

I'll have to back off a little and say, well, it wasn't really a cake, exactly, and I didn't make the ladyfingers, but still, it was awfully good. I can't wait until the book comes out either--mine is already losing a few pages and getting coffee stains.

Yes, how can dough feel fear through your fingertips? It's very odd, but I swear it's true. I've already baked the next cake (no glitches on that one either), and will post it later this week. Jim thanks you--he is very pleased, but modest, when he gets compliments on his photos.

What a great story--my grandmothers were both German and they made more solid things than tiramisu, which they would not have approved of, but I wish I'd had lessons in how to make noodles and shoo-fly pie from them. I love the way recipes stay the same over decades in other countries, whereas here, we always want to improve. "Lite" tiramisu is not an improvement!

Marie said...

Well, you're closer to Italy than I am, and maybe you get a special EU price for mascarpone. Some recipes for tiramisu call for cream cheese, which is fine in its place, but its place isn't in tiramisu.
I hope you're feeling better!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Mascarpone is one of my favorite cheeses, and this dessert is the best way to enjoy it! So glad this one turned out perfectly for you!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for this new book, everything you've made so far looks so good and Jim's pictures really do make the instructions come to life. As Melinda says , the Mascarpone over here is not so expensive but I don't know whether it would be as good quality as yours. I think this will be a recipe to impress guests and handed out in small portions!

Marie said...

I usually eat it in something or flavored with something savory, as a dip, but when I tasted it, I realized it's quite good on its own.

Anon. (Jeannette?),
Yes, it makes a lot of servings--although some people had seconds.

Bunny said...

I've never made it, but i would love too! I like it that you can make this days ahead! Fantastic!

Marie said...

Oh, do try it. I'm sure you'll like it. You might even make the homemade ladyfingers!

Goody said...

That is so, so, so incredibly fantastic. I love coming over here to see what you've baked. I love the bread blog too, of course.

I had to laugh at the "bars." I've only just been introduced to them as a regional phenomenon, and I'm completely smitten. I made a frightening oatmeal/butterscotch/brownie thing for the 4th, and I'm afraid it is going to be in regular dessert rotation at our house. I thought having a tag for "Bars" would be kind of boring, so I gave it, "You'd Eat it in Minnesota." That way I'm covered if I do lutefisk ;)


Marie said...

I've had a version of the oatmeal-butterscotch-brownie thing, and it's actually pretty good. I hope, for your own sake, that you don't get smitten with lutefisk.

alex said...


It does look wonderful. And I love Tiramisu.

When you added the mascarpone and cream into the custard, was the custard warm or cold?


Marie said...

Good question. The custard has to be completely cooled before you add the mascarpone and cream, so it needs to be refrigerated a minimum of half an hour.

bice2007 said...

I love Rose's Recipes,
I have all books.
I'm Italian, every Italian family has its own recipe for tiramisu.
Everyone uses raw eggs,except the pastry. Used Cookies are savoiardi or pavesini,the pastry using sponge cake. The taste changes very much for the used biscuits and for the thickness of the layers. I prefer the pavesini.
I prefer recipes that allow to have a particularly airy cream.
I have already booked to buy the book.
By Bice

Marie said...

I'm glad to have a reader who has a family recipe for tiramisu. No one in my family ever heard of tiramisu when I was a child. When we were in Italy, we walked by a restaurant which was supposed to have some of the best tiramisu in Italy. We decided we'd go back later and try it. But when we returned it was closed. Moral of the story: Never say no to tiramisu!
I hope you like this version.

BICE said...

I Mary,
I try it.
when the book arrived to me.

hector said...

marie, i've reviewed a similar espresso maker that the one you have used for this cake, and it isn't quite right! i don't see how could the amount of coffee on your portafilter could produce that much volume of espresso.

the law says: 7 grams of ground coffee for 30 ml of espresso (or 1.5 tb of coffee for 1 oz of espresso). also a 15 to 20 second extraction time or maximum 25 seconds.

any more or less amount of ground coffee, volume of espresso, or time, will give you bitterness, wateriness, and overproduction of caffeine. a longer extraction time produces more caffeine as it is the characteristic of drip machines.

in any case, just been vocal and animated to this passion.


marie said...

I think he made two separate pots of espresso to get the full two cups. The machine makes two coffee cups of espresso, maybe 3/4 cup each, but, you're right, it doesn't make 16 ounces.

Katya said...

Just made two and a half times the tiramisu recipe for a birthday party. My first batch of ladyfingers were perfect, my second less so. Blame my oven and my my piping equipment, neither are up to the bakery's standard.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I just got this book for Christmas and want to make the Tiramisu...but am a little confused. The recipe calls for a 9"x13" pan, but to lay out 18 ladyfingers in a 3x6 pattern....if the ladyfingers are 3"x1.5", that only makes a 9"x9" grid.

So should I be using a 9"x9" pan instead? Or am I missing something here?

Please let me know! Thanks so much -- I am so excited to make this. I've never been let down by any of Rose's cakes from The Cake Bible. :D


Marie said...

You can see that I used an oval pan, and I don't think that the ladyfingers completely filled the pan, but they don't have to be perfectly laid out (they will expand some anyway).