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Italian Tiramisu

Italian Tiramisu is a much loved dessert and it’s very easy to make at home with delicious restaurant results.

My recipe for this Italian dessert has the usual layers coffee coffee-dipped savoiardi but the filling has no raw egg. Instead, I show you how to make zabaglione for the creamy filling.

Square slice of Italian tiramisu on white plate.

What is an authentic Italian Tiramisu recipe?

A Tiramisu recipe did not appear in cookbooks until the 1960’s. Its exact origins are not known and there is some dispute about this. The original recipe only contained savoiardi, egg yolks, sugar, coffee, mascarpone cheese, unsweetened cocoa powder and sometimes liquor. Notice that there is neither whipped egg white nor cream included in the original recipe.

There are many different versions of what is considered an authentic Italian tiramisu recipe and many cooks saying they make the recipe the traditional way. Whereas some Italian recipes don’t vary much at all like fagottini or tonnarelli pasta.

Why you’ll love this recipe

Have you avoided making classic Italian tiramisu because it contains raw eggs? Then this is the recipe for you. This version cooks egg yolks, sugar and Marsala gently over a bain marie (pot of simmering water). This cooked egg yolk mixture is mixed with mascarpone and cream to make a tasty filling.

I won’t lie to you – there are a few steps to this dessert and making the zabaglione can be tricky but when you taste the results you won’t be sorry.

The bonus is that this recipe actually has another recipe within it. This cooked egg yolk mixture is really just another Italian dessert, Zabaglione. Zabaglione can be served with sweet cookies like my sponge fingers or fresh fruit such as strawberries.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredients

The ingredients for my Italian Tiramisu don’t differ so much to the original. All you will need is-

  • Strong coffee – If you have a coffee machine or moka pot use it to make very strong coffee. If not, instant powdered coffee can be used to make very strong coffee.
  • Sugar – I like to use superfine white sugar because it dissolves very easily.
  • Egg yolks – Be sure to use very fresh eggs. You may be able to purchase pasteurized eggs at your supermarket which eliminates the risk of foodborne illness. Any leftover egg whites to make my delicious egg white frittata.
  • Mascarpone – This is an Italian cream cheese that is spreadable, creamy and silky. It’s available at most supermarkets.
  • Heavy whipping cream – Use cream that has around 36% milk fat for best results. See notes in the recipe card below to make stabilized whipped cream if you prefer Italian Tiramisu to be firm.
  • Savoiardi – These Italian sponge finger cookies should be crispy and light. You can also use extra savoiardi make my Zuppa Inglese.
  • Marsala – Marsala is a fortified Sicilian wine that can be sweet or dry, Use the sweet variety for Italian tiramisu. Alternatively try vin santo or sweet sherry
  • Dark rum – I like to add dark rum to the coffee dip however it can be left out if you prefer. You can substitute brandy, amaretto or frangelico.

Variation

You can use the leftover egg whites instead of cream for the Mascarpone Filling which will create a light rather than rich dessert. This is how:-

  1. Substitute 4 egg whites and a pinch of salt for the cream.
  2. Whisk egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form.
  3. Mix mascarpone with cooled zabaglione.
  4. Fold egg whites gently into mascarpone mixture so as not to deflate the egg whites.
  5. Use as per the recipe.

Remember that then this Italian tiramisu will contain raw egg. If you can, purchase pasteurized eggs to be absolutely safe.

Instructions

Preparation of zabaglione.

How to make zabaglione.

  1. Put the egg yolks in a glass/ heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler
  2. Whisk lightly until combined. Then whisk in the sugar and Marsala.
  3. Place the bowl or top of double boiler over barely simmering water. The bottom of the bowl mustn’t touch the water.Whisk continuously until the mixtures thickens and becomes pale and creamy.
  4. Once the zabaglione is ready, cool it down quickly so that it doesn’t keep cooking. I do this by have a bowl ready with a small amount of ice and water. Suspend the hot bowl in the ice water and stir with the whisk until the zabaglione has cooled to room temperature.

Hint: The zabaglione will take approximately 8-10 minutes if the water is simmering underneath the bowl or in the double boiler. Whisk all the time. This isn’t the time to answer phone calls. Take care not to make scrambled Marsala eggs. If necessary, take the bowl off the heat every so often if you think it’s getting too hot.

How to make Coffee dip

First make the make the coffee dip by dissolving sugar in hot coffee. Then add Marsala. Then set aside to cool.

How to assemble the Italian Tiramisu

Four steps procees of how to assemble this recipe.
  1. Whip the cream until firm peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone and cooled zabaglione.
  2. Briefly dip half of the savoiardi in the coffee one at a time and place them in one layer in a 8 x 8 inch x 2 inch (20 x 20cm x 5cm)  pan. Be careful not to let the savoiardi soak because they will fall apart.
  3. Spread half of the mascarpone filling over the first layer of savoiardi.
  4. Repeat dipping and layering with the remaining savoiardi and mascarpone filling.

Sieve unsweetened cocoa powder over the Italian tiramisu. Then refrigerate for 6 hours or better still overnight for the flavours to combine and the filling to set.

Hint: You may need more or less savoiardi depending if your pan is larger/smaller or a different shape.

Tips for success

Cocoa topped, creamy dessert in square glass pan viewed from the side.

Coffee is an important part of Italian Tiramisu. If you have a coffee machine or moka pot you can brew your own however instant espresso powder can be substituted. Just use two teaspoons in 1 ½  cups of hot water to make the required amount of strong coffee.

Also be sure to use crunchy savoiardi for this recipe. If you have trouble finding them you can make your own using my recipe for sponge fingers. Use gluten free savoiardi (lady fingers) for a gluten free dessert that everyone can enjoy!

FAQ

What does tiramisu mean?

Literally the word “tiramisu” mean “pick me up”.

How can this be made alcohol free?

Leave the rum out of the coffee dip and substitute 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract for the Marsala. Because there is less liquid, it will cook more quickly so watch it carefully. You could make up the rest of the liquid with grape juice but I’ve never personally tried that.

Can this recipe be made in advance?

Actually this recipe is BEST made in advance. Allowing Italian tiramisu to set overnight ensures the flavours mellow and develop. In fact it can be made and stored in the refrigerator for two days prior to serving. Leftovers should be eaten within 5-7 days but can also be frozen – check out my tips below.

Can you freeze tiramisu?

Yes, this traditional Italian tiramisu recipe freezes perfectly! Cover the top with non stick paper then double-wrap well with plastic wrap. Tiramisu can be frozen for 3 months.  Defrost in the refrigerator.
Actually, on hot days Italian tiramisu is delicious eaten as a frozen dessert!

Can I make this egg free?

Yes, use this recipe for egg free Mascarpone cream instead of the mascarpone filling in this recipe. Alternatively make my egg free Tiramisu Cups.

What to do with leftover egg whites.

This recipe only uses egg yolks so you will be left with 4 egg whites. Did you know that egg white freeze very well? Buy small disposable containers to freeze egg white. Or freeze in clip seal bags. Be sure to mark how many egg whites in each container.

I collect egg whites in the freezer for use in recipes that require whites only such as this my classic Pavlova recipe, Lemon Macarons, my Italian Meringue Buttercream or for something savory try Egg White Frittata.

Cross section of creamy dessert topped with cocoa powder of lifted from serving dish.

This Italian Tiramisu is a recipe I have been making for many years and is much loved by my family. I think you will love it as much as we do.

More Italian desserts

Nutella Panna Cotta
Italian Chocolate Pudding
Strawberry Crostata
Cannoli Cake
Italian Peach Cookies
Italian Affogato from It’s Not Complicated

Made this recipe?
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square slice of tiramisu on white plate

Italian Tiramisu Recipe

Italian Tiramisu is a much loved dessert. But do you know how to make tiramisu at home? Follow my recipe for delicious restaurant results. This classic Italian dessert layers coffee dipped savoiardi (also known as Lady Fingers) and a wonderful mascarpone filling with no raw egg!
5 from 44 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
cooling zabaglione: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings:12 servings
Author: Marcellina

Equipment

  • 1 square pan or glass serving dish (8 x 8 inch x 2 inch or 20 x 20cm x 5cm)
  • 1 double boiler see Note 1 below

Ingredients

Coffee Dip

  • 1 ¼ cups strong coffee 300 mls (more if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

Zabaglione and Mascarpone Cream

  • 4 egg yolks at room temperature
  • ½ cup white sugar 100 grams
  • ½ cup sweet marsala wine 120 mls
  • 2 cups mascarpone cheese 450 grams or 1lb
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream 240 mls (containing at least 36% fat) (for stabilized whipped cream see Note 2 below)

For Assembly

  • 24 savoiardi cookies approximately 8oz/250 grams or enough for two layers in the pan
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Instructions

To prepare the coffee dip

  • In a shallow dish pour coffee. Add sugar and rum. Stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Make the zabaglione

  • Put the egg yolks and sugar in a glass/ heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler. Whisk lightly until combined. Whisk in the sweet marsala wine.
  • Place the bowl or top of double boiler over barely simmering water. The bottom of the bowl mustn’t touch the water.
  • Whisk continuously until the mixtures thickens and becomes pale and creamy. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Be careful not to make scrambled sweet marsala wine eggs. If necessary , take the bowl off the heat every so often if you think it’s getting too hot.
  • Once the zabaglione is ready, cool it down quickly so that it doesn’t keep cooking. I do this by have a bowl ready with a small amount of ice and water. Suspend the hot bowl in the ice water and stir with the whisk until the zabaglione has cooled to room temperature. Set aside.

To make the mascarpone filling

  • Pour the heavy cream into a medium bowl and whisk either by hand or with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. You want more than soft peaks but not stiff peaks.
  • Use a spoon to stir in the mascarpone cheese. I usually do this directly in the container it comes in. The purpose of this is to loosen the mascarpone cheese enough so that it blends easily with the whipped cream. Don’t over beat because the mascarpone cheese can split.
  • Gently but thoroughly fold the cooled zabaglione and loosened mascarpone cheese into the whipped cream. The filling is now ready.

To assembly Italian Tiramisu

  • Briefly dip half of the savoardi in the coffee one at a time and place them in one layer in a 8 x 8 inch x 2 inch (20 x 20cm x 5cm) pan. Be careful not to let the savoiardi soak too much because they will fall apart.
  • This should make one complete layer. If not add more.
  • Spread half of the mascarpone filling over the first layer of savoiardi.
  • Repeat the dipping of savoiardi in the coffee adding another layer. You may not need all of the coffee dip depending on how much the savioardi soaked it up.
  • Spread the remaining mascarpone filling over the second savoiardi layer.
  • Sift cocoa powder over the tiramisu.
  • Refrigerate for 6 hours or better still overnight for the flavours of this Italian Tiramisu to combine and the filling to set.

Notes

Note 1: Instead of a double boiler you can DIY. Use medium saucepan and a large glass/ heatproof bowl that fits snuggly over the saucepan so that it can trap in the steam. There needs to be at least 4 inches (10cm) of space between the bace of both the saucepan and the bowl. The bottom of the bowl should never touch the simmering water in the saucepan.
Note 2: If you prefer a more firm filling, stabilize the whipped cream with powdered gelatine. To do this, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of powdered gelatine over 4 teaspoons of cold water in a microwave proof bowl. Let it sit for 3 or 4 minutes. Then microwave for a few seconds until the gelatine is fully dissolved. Set it aside to cool slightly. Add to the cream at the soft peaks stage on low speed then increase speed and beat until firm peaks form.
Tips for Success
This Italian Tiramisu is best made the day before but can be made even 2 days before. It will  keep for at least 5 days in the refrigerator.
Italian Tiramisu can be frozen for 3 months. Place a layer of non stick paper over the top then wrap well in plastic wrap. Defrost in the refrigerator. On hot days tiramisu is delicious eaten as a frozen dessert.
Method using egg white instead of cream for the Mascarpone Filling
Substitute 4 egg whites and a pinch of salt for the cream.
Mix mascarpone with zabaglione.
Whisk egg white and salt until soft peaks.
Fold egg whites gently into mascarpone mixture so as not to deflate the egg whites.
Use as per the recipe
Alcohol Free Italian Tiramisu
Leave the rum out of the coffee dip and substitute 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract for the sweet marsala wine. Because there is less liquid, it will cook more quickly so watch it carefully. You could make up the rest of the liquid with grape juice but I’ve never personally tried that.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 399kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 171mg | Sodium: 60mg | Potassium: 70mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1054IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 87mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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38 Comments

  1. Hello! I have been trying to make tiramisu lately, and I’ve used two different recipes that didn’t work out well. I think your recipe looks better than the other ones, but before I try again…Do you think you could answer a question for me? The mascarpone: is it supposed to be room temperature? When I try to fold it, it’s so lumpy and then I overbeat it, which you say is bad to do (no one else told me this, unfortunately). Also, should I leave the eggs room temperature before I make the zabaglione? When I make the heavy cream, should I use gelatin to stabilize the cream at all? I wonder if that would make the layers really piled high? That’s what I am aiming for with this. The last recipe I used didn’t even say to use “sweet marsala”…..:( so I used the one for cooking on accident!!! LOL. Please help if you wish, thank you.

    1. Hi Nina! Tiramisu is wonderful and easy once you get the basics right. I personally don’t have the mascarpone at room temperature. However I have found that there are differences between brands – some are very thick and some are very thin. If the mascarpone is very thick, I will stir it gently to loosen it a little before folding into the zabaglione. Yes, don’t overbeat the mascarpone – it can curdle quite easy (again I’ve found that varies between brands – some curdle very easily, some take a bit of beating). Yes, I would have the eggs at room temperature before making the zabaglione. I usually don’t stabilize the cream but I have in the past. To do that, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of powdered gelatine over 4 teaspoons of cold water in a microwave proof bowl. Let it sit for 3 or 4 minutes. Then microwave for a few seconds until the gelatine is fully dissolved. Set it aside to cool slightly. Add to the cream at the soft peaks stage on low speed then increase speed and beat until firm peaks form. To have higher layers, you could also use a small pan to make the tiramisu in but in saying that, I like the ratio of filling to coffee soaked savoiardi that this recipe creates. Make it the way it is first and then you can play with ratios and pan sizes. You could also increase the recipe by one half and make another layer of savoiardi and filling. In this case you’d definitely need to stabize the cream if you want to make clean cuts and that the dessert doesn’t collapse. Hope that helps! PS. I have updated the recipe with these tips.

      1. 5 stars
        Thank you for responding! I am not very good at this dessert it seems :). Oh well…. I will try again one of these days. We don’t have any Italian bakeries or markets around here unfortunately, so who knows where I can find good mascarpone. I will definitely try your recipe though, as the two others I’ve tried were all over the place unfortunately, and they recommended stirring the zabaglione in with the mascarpone while still hot, or using raw eggs which I don’t have an issue with personally, but I don’t want to feed that to my family.

        1. Let me know how you go, Tina. Yes, that does sound strange to stir mascarpone into hot zabaglione. Every recipe is different but this one works for me and everyone I’ve shared it with so I’m sure you’ll have success too. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to email me directly. You’ll find my email on the “Contact Me” page – the link is at the bottom of the website.

  2. 5 stars
    Your search for a tiramisu recipe ends here. This is simple and is utterly delicious. Thanks so much for sharing this treasured recipe, Marcellina! I’ve been spending hours on your website since we arrived from our holidays in Italy.

  3. 5 stars
    I made this this morning but made 12 individual servings. I can’t eat Tiramisu because of the coffee but I did taste the custard mixture. It was delicious. However I gave a full serve to my Italian husband and he loved it. He actually came looking for more and licked the bowl clean! The only thing i did differently was that I didn’t realise I’d need 2 tubs of marscarpone and had only bought one. So I used a tub of cream cheese.
    I make desserts for the local Pizza shop and Tiramisu was requested. I think he’ll be happy.

  4. I have trawled the internet to find a metric based recipe for Tiramisu that I can make gluten-free for my gluten intolerant husband, that made the both of us go: “Ahh yes, that is how I remember it from Italy.” I followed the recipe almost exactly as you detailed it, with the exception that I had to double the dipping liquid (the gf lady fingers were incredibly dry and immediately sucked the liquid up the second they hit the bowl, even a quick second touch and remove did not alleviate this problem). This tiramisu is amazing. it was the first thing I tasted going into the new year, and if this is a sign, 2023 will be a great one for us! Thank you for this recipe!

    1. Christianne, I so happy to hear that you were able to create a gluten free tiramisu for your husband that you all love! This is our family fav too! Happy New Year!

      1. Hi. I don’t have any hesitation in eating raw egg yolks so could I skip the step with the double boiler and just whisk yolks with sugar until creamy?
        Thanks Dee

        1. Hi Dee, yes you can do that but reduce the marsala to at least 1/4 cup (maybe even less) otherwise it will be too runny. Add the marsala slowly after you’ve beaten the egg yolks and sugar. Use the egg whites instead of heavy cream as written in the notes at the bottom of the recipe. I am very heavy handed with the dip. You may not like the savoiardi as soaked as I do. In that case you may have some dip leftover.

  5. 5 stars
    This recipe is very similar to one I was given back in the 80s when it was almost impossible to get mascarpone in the UK. Totally delicious and I love the fact the eggs are cooked.

    1. Isn’t is amazing how far we’ve come. Today ingredients that were once considered only local, are available in almost every corner of the world! Yes, cooking the eggs is a bonus in this recipe!

    1. Dawn, if you wish to make an alcohol free tiramisu – leave the rum out of the coffee dip and substitute 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract for the Marsala. Because there is less liquid, it will cook more quickly so be attentive to that. You could make up the rest of the liquid with grape juice but I’ve never tried that. If you want to swap out alcohol for another, try brandy instead of rum and vin santo or sweet sherry instead of Marsala. Hope that helps.

  6. Tiramisù is one of those classic dishes you can enjoy again and again, but never tire of! And clearly you’re an expert. Mine never turns out so neat and pretty as yours… My complements to the cook. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Frank! For this photo I chilled the tiramisu in the freezer so I could get a neat slice. Actually because we live in the tropics, I love to eat frozen tiramisu – it’s like gelato!

  7. 5 stars
    My goodness, this is the best looking tiramisu I have ever seen! I love tiramisu and I’m afraid to say I have actually never made one… I have no excuses now!

      1. 5 stars
        This is the definitive Tiramisu recipe. Brilliant recipe and you can be assured of a brilliant result like all of Marcellina’s recipes.

      1. gave this recipe a go but didn’t work out too well for me. took about 20 mins to whisk the zabaglione to a thick consistency. Not sure if I didn’t have the water hot enough. and the cream probably could have been whisked to firmer peaks. the mixture was not firm enough to spread on. should still taste good though fingers crossed.

        1. Hi Vanessa, it sounds as though you know what went wrong. Yes, the zabaglione needs “barely simmering water” as stated in the recipe, in the pot underneath. However erring on the side of cooler is better than making scrambled marsala eggs. I think, though, that your mascarpone may have been on the softer side which some brands are. Soft peaks is plenty firm enough for whipped cream but if the mascarpone is not firm, then the mixture may be soft but still shouldn’t have been runny. This is a recipe that I’ve made numerous times (too many to count) with different brands of cream and mascarpone and the cream is always spreadable. I’m sure it still tasted delicious! Thank you for taking the time to comment.