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 has layers coffee dipped savoiardi (also known as lady fingers) and a wonderful mascarpone filling with no raw egg!
Table of Contents
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 bottom of the page.
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.
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:-
- Substitute 4 egg whites and a pinch of salt for the cream.
- Whisk egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form.
- Mix mascarpone with cooled zabaglione.
- Fold egg whites gently into mascarpone mixture so as not to deflate the egg whites.
- 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.
How to make zabaglione.
- Put the egg yolks in a glass/ heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler
- Whisk lightly until combined. Then whisk in the sugar and Marsala.
- 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.
- 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
- Whip the cream until firm peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone and cooled zabaglione.
- 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.
- Spread half of the mascarpone filling over the first layer of savoiardi.
- 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 and FAQ's
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!
Literally the word "tiramisu" mean "pick me up".
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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Italian Tiramisu Recipe
- 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
- 1 ½ cups strong coffee 350 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)
- 24 savoiardi cookies approximately 8oz/250 grams or enough for two layers in the pan
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
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 dipping (you may need to make more coffee mixture if you use it all up) and layering with the remaining savoiardi and mascarpone filling.
- 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.
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.
Nutritional Information Per Serving
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.