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Easy Traditional Tiramisu

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Do you Tiramisu? I have always been intimidated by this lovely layered, traditional Italian dessert; so today, I’m going to show you how very easy it is to make a Traditional Tiramisu! With a not-to-sweet, creamy mascarpone custard, light vanilla whipped cream, layered between rum and espresso soaked ladyfingers. Bellissimo!

If you are looking for an elegant, make ahead, simple dessert recipe; Traditional Tiramisu is the one!

If you also love make ahead desserts like I do, try this Best Key Lime Pie, Old Fashioned Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Dirt Cake or even Overnight French Toast.

Traditional Tiramisu Recipe

Top shot of a slice of Italian Tiramisu a layered custard dessert with ladyfingers, custard and whipped cream, topped with cocoa powder, chocolate curls and a drizzles of chocolate sauce. with a small cup of espresso along with it. Recipe via @thefreshcooky

Recently while at a Favorite Things Party (<— check it out!), my friend, Natalie brought this amazing traditional tiramisu!

I love receiving recipes from friends, how about you? Her recipe was AMAZING and I love that she made her own tweaks, like I tend to do which I will note below in the step-by-step.

Post update: I just learned that this recipe was actually discovered first by Natalie’s teenage son, who wanted to make an Italian dinner for Natalie on Mother’s day by himself! Bravo Bendor!!

Top shot of a slice of Italian Tiramisu a layered custard dessert with ladyfingers, custard and whipped cream, topped with cocoa powder, chocolate curls and a drizzles of chocolate sauce. with a small cup of espresso along with it. Recipe via @thefreshcooky

FOUR SIMPLE STEPS TO HOMEMADE TRADITIONAL TIRAMISU

  1. Make custard, cool and whisk in mascarpone cheese…Mascarpone Custard, DONE!
  2. Whip whipping cream, so easy!
  3. Drizzle coffee and rum mixture over ladyfingers…voilà
  4. Layer and refrigerate until ready to serve! Ahhh, dreamy!
Pan of layered tiramisu with section pulled out. Delicious layers of ladyfingers soaked in espresso and rum between custard and whipped cream layers, dusted with cocoa powder. Recipe via @thefreshcooky

How do you make Traditional Italian Tiramisu?

INGREDIENTS

  • Egg yolks (scramble up the whites for a dog, or make an egg white omelet, then you’ll feel better about eating this dessert! HA)
  • Granulated sugar, I use all natural cane sugar, which is unrefined, you may substitute refined white sugar
  • Whole milk 
  • Heavy cream (no substitutions here, the real, full fat kind)
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Mascarpone cheese (typically found in the deli section, near the fresh mozzarella, parmesan, you’ll need two tubs)
  • Strong brewed coffee, room temp
  • Rum, light or dark (or see notes below for other alcohol options or to omit entirely)
  • Ladyfingers 
  • Optional chocolate drizzle and chocolate curls

Start by gathering your ingredients; look at these lovely, simple ingredients. 

Ingredients for traditional tiramisu , from left to right. Rum, Ladyfingers, milk, vanilla, sugar, egg yolks, heavy whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, espresso and cocoa powder. Recipe on thefreshcooky.com

Best way to separate egg yolks from whites?

  1. Personally, I use the shell to shell method, where you crack the egg, open it and slip the yolk from shell to shell allowing the whites to drip into a bowl beneath. 
  2. I’ve also used the hand method; crack an egg and pour entire egg into your hand, slowly opening your fingers just enough to allow the whites to slip through, then sliding the yolk into a clean bowl.

    If both those methods scare you or gross you out (I get it) then you can always buy one of these handy dandy yolk separators
4 images of process shots for making custard for Traditional Tiramisu. Egg yolks and sugar. Whisking the egg yolks and sugar until creamy in a pot, 3rd pouring in milk and whisking until thickened in the 4th picture. Traditional Tiramisu via thefreshcooky.com
  • Place egg yolks in a medium saucepan, whisking sugar until well blended. If using all natural cane sugar, whisk a little longer than normal to incorporate the coarser crystals of all natural cane sugar.
  • Whisk in milk and stirring constantly, cook over medium heat, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Boil gently for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 1 hour or more if needed. 
  • Once custard is cool, in a separate large batter bowl, beat heavy cream and vanilla until stiff peaks form, refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Psst, I love that Natalie increased the whipping cream to the full pint, afterall, what do you do with the leftovers? 
  • Whisk the softened mascarpone into the yolk mixture, whisking until smooth, set aside.
  • If your Tiramisu cream is runny, read to the end of the post for reasons and fixes. 
process shots for tiramisu, left to right. Vanilla being poured into mixing bowl with red hand mixer and whipping cream in bowl. Whisk adding mascarpone cheese into egg custard. Small measuring cup, pouring rum into another measuring cup with ladyfingers in pan in background. Final picture is rum/espresso mixture being poured over ladyfingers

How to Assemble

The original recipe calls for a 7×11 dish, which is fine, but Natalie’s notes and I completely agree are to put it in a deep 8×8 or 9×9 pan, makes it more compact, with thicker tiramisu cream layers between. Choose your preference. 

  1. In a 1 cup measuring cup, mix the coffee and rum (see notes below to make without rum), Natalie doubled from the original recipe, I concur!
  2. Layer ladyfingers evenly on the bottom of your chosen dish.
  3. Drizzle 1/2 of the coffee – rum mixture over the top, they do not need to be completely soaked, but should be evenly drizzled, I ended up adding a couple additional tablespoons of coffee to the lady fingers.
  4. Swirl your plate around so that the ladyfingers soak up the liquid. 

WHAT ARE LADYFINGERS?

“Ladyfingers (sometimes known by their Italian name savoiardi,sponge fingers in British English, or as Boudoir in French) are low density, dry, egg-based, sweet sponge biscuits roughly shaped like a large finger. Plain ladyfingers are commonly given to infants, being soft enough for teething mouths, but easy to grasp and firm enough not to fall apart. Source

4 different images of the stages of making tiramisu. spreading cream on ladyfingers, spreading whipped cream on top, layering espresso and rum soaked ladyfingers, placing final custard and whipped cream on top. | Traditional Tiramisu thefreshcooky.com
  1. Layer half the mascarpone custard on top of the lady fingers, smoothing out. I even gave the dish a little gentle “smack” on the counter to get the custard to settle between the lady fingers. 
  2. Spread half of the vanilla whipped cream on top of the mascarpone custard, smooth out evenly. I like using an offset spatula for things like this, makes the smoothing go a lot quicker. 
  3. In a separate dish or shallow bowl, lay out ladyfingers and pour reserved coffee-rum liquid over the tops, until evenly drizzled. 
  1. Carefully place ladyfingers on top of whipped cream-custard layer, they should not be too soggy, but a couple of mind did get soaked and it didn’t seem to impact the texture or taste of the tiramisu dessert.
  2. Repeat layering with custard and whipped cream, cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours
  3. Before serving, give the top a good dusting with unsweetened cocoa powder.

The easiest way to get this dessert plated pretty is by using a mini spatula, I have three and I use them for everything from brownies, to cornbread, to serving up other no-bake recipes like my Dirt Cake.

If desired, drizzle a little chocolate sauce and/or chocolate curls to dress it up even more!

Top shot of a slice of Italian Tiramisu a layered custard dessert with ladyfingers, custard and whipped cream, topped with cocoa powder, chocolate curls and a drizzles of chocolate sauce. with a small cup of espresso along with it. Recipe via @thefreshcooky

Frequently Asked Questions

Can traditional tiramisu be made the day ahead?

Yes! Tiramisu can be made the day before, in fact, I dare say it’s better!

I have made it both ways, the day of…and the day before serving, just make sure you have plenty of chill time built in.

Why is my tiramisu cream runny?

There could be a few reasons why it’s runny, here are the most common:
1. Using a low or non-fat mascarpone can cause it to be runny, there is more water in low – non-fat versions. Go for the full fat version. Read more about that here
2. Overbeating the mascarpone, it can cause curdling and separation of the cheese curds and water, simply whisk until smooth and creamy.
3. Not cooking your custard long enough, it should be thick and pudding like when you take it off the stovetop. 
4. Mixing the mascarpone into the egg custard mixture before the mixture is completely cooled.

How do I fix runny tiramisu cream?

1. Right off the bat, if you notice runniness or separation, pour off the runny portion. 
2. The easiest way however; is to refrigerate mascarpone custard for a couple of hours, it will set up. 
3. If you’ve already assembled your tiramisu and it’s pretty runny, allowing it to sit in the fridge will firm it up. The moisture will be absorbed by the ladyfingers and all should be good! 

Bottom line? These are delicious, simple, quality ingredients, runny or not, it should taste amazing!

Can you make traditional Italian tiramisu without alcohol?

Absolutely! Simply increase your coffee or add water to the coffee to equal the liquid portions out.

SUBSTITUTIONS & OTHER QUESTIONS

  1. What other alcohol works with tiramisu? Try a nice Marsala or Madeira wine, a Tawny Port, amaretto or coffee liquor like Kahlua are also acceptable choices. Other sweet liquors like Irish cream, orange or chocolate liquor will blend well with tiramisu coffee and cocoa flavors. Change it up! Make it Yours!
  2. Individual Tiramisu desserts. You may have to get creative about cutting your ladyfingers, but simply choose your dishes or cups and layer away!
  3. Can I substitute cream cheese for mascarpone? Not easily, but it can be done. “Mascarpone is a cream cheese with a high fat content and a slightly sweet taste. It is difficult to find a substitute and regular cream cheese has a lower fat content and a more acidic flavour.

    However you could try beating together 225g (8 ounces) full fat cream cheese with 60ml (4 tablespoons/1/4 cup) double or whipping cream and 30g (1 ounce/2 tablespoons) softened unsalted butter until just blended. This will give the equivalent of around 300g (10 ounces/1 1/4 cups) mascarpone.” Source
  4. I can’t find ladyfingers, now what? Instead of the Italian Savoyardi (ladyfingers/sponge fingers) a vanilla or plain sponge cake would be the best choice.
    Slice the cake into “finger sized” portions and bake fingers in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, until dry and crisp or leave it on a wire rack to dry out for a day or two so that when it is dipped into the coffee mixture it absorbs liquid without breaking up too much.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, it’s one of my most popular recipes on the blog and if you are into creamy, delicious, decadent desserts, this won’t disappoint! Looks fancy, but it’s really not!

ITALIAN RECIPES TO COMPLIMENT:

Here are some menu suggestions from an Italian to you! Mangia!

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A plate with a slice of Italian layered Tiramisu with a shot of Espresso in the background

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Yield: 9-16 slices

Easy Traditional Tiramisu

Easy Traditional Tiramisu

Traditional Tiramisu is an Italian dessert recipe with layers of mascarpone custard, whipped cream, layered between rum and espresso soaked ladyfingers.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Inactive Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Place egg yolks into a medium saucepan, whisking sugar until well blended. If using all natural cane sugar, whisk a little longer than normal to incorporate the coarser crystals of all natural cane sugar. Whisk in milk and stirring constantly, cook over medium heat, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Boil gently for 1 minute, then remove from heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, custard should be thick and coat the back of a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 1 hour or more if needed. 
  2. Once custard is cooled, in a separate large batter bowl, beat heavy cream and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form, refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Whisk the mascarpone into the yolk/custard mixture, whisking just until smooth, set aside. If your Tiramisu cream is runny, read to the end of the post for reasons and fixes. 

Assembling Tiramisu

  1. In a 1 cup measuring cup, mix coffee and rum (see notes to make without rum). Layer the ladyfingers evenly on the bottom of 9x9 dish or 7x11. Drizzle 1/2 of the coffee - rum mixture over the top, they do not need to be completely soaked, but should be evenly drizzled, if needed add a few additional tablespoons coffee. Swirl your dish around so that the ladyfingers soak up the liquid. 
  2. Layer half the mascarpone custard on top of the lady fingers, smoothing out. I even gave the dish a little gentle "smack" on the counter to get the custard to settle between the lady fingers. Spread half of the whipped cream on top of the mascarpone custard, smooth out evenly. I like using an offset spatula for this.
  3. In a separate dish or shallow bowl, lay out ladyfingers and pour reserved coffee-rum liquid over the tops, until evenly drizzled. Carefully place ladyfingers on top of whipped cream-custard layer, they should not be too soggy, but a couple of mind did get soaked and it didn't seem to impact the texture or taste of the tiramisu dessert. Repeat layering with custard and whipped cream, cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours
  4. Before serving, give the top a good dusting with unsweetened cocoa powder. The easiest way to get this dessert plated pretty is by using a mini spatula, I have three and I use them for everything from brownies, to cornbread, to serving up other no-bake recipes like my Dirt Cake

Notes

Can Tiramisu Be Made the Day Before? YES!

Why is My Tiramisu Cream Runny and What Can I do About It?

  1. Using a low or non-fat mascarpone can cause it to be runny, there is more water in low and non-fat versions. Go for it with full fat version. Plus I am of the persuasion that non-fat dairy items cause us to be fat...read more about that here
  2. If you beat the mascarpone too much, it can cause curdling and separation of the cheese curds and water. 
  3. Not cooking your custard long enough, it should be thick and pudding like when you take it off the stovetop. 
  4. Mixing the mascarpone into the egg custard mixture before the mixture is completely cooled.

What can I do about it if my tiramisu cream is runny?

  1. Right off the bat, if you notice runniness or separation, pour off the runny portion. 
  2. The easiest way however; is to refrigerate your mascarpone custard for a couple of hours, it will set up. 
  3. If you've already assembled your tiramisu and it's pretty runny, allowing it to sit in the fridge will firm it up. The moisture will be absorbed by the ladyfingers and all should be good! 
  4. Bottom line? These are delicious, simple, quality ingredients, runny or not, it should taste amazing!

Can you make Tiramisu without alcohol?

Absolutely! Simply increase your coffee or add water or even orange juice to the coffee to equal the liquid portions out.

SUBSTITUTIONS AND OTHER QUESTIONS

  1. What other alcohol works with tiramisu? Try a nice Marsala or Madeira wine, a Tawny Port, but amaretto or coffee liquor are also acceptable choices to add. Other sweet liquors like Irish cream, orange or chocolate liquor will blend well with tiramisu's coffee and cocoa flavors. Change it up!
  2. Individual Tiramisu desserts. You may have to get creative about cutting your ladyfingers, but simply choose your dishes or cups and layer away!
  3. Can I substitute cream cheese for mascarpone? Not easily, but it can be done. "Mascarpone is a cream cheese with a high fat content and a slightly sweet taste. It is difficult to find a substitute and regular cream cheese has a lower fat content and a more acidic flavour. However you could try beating together 225g (8 ounces) full fat cream cheese with 60ml (4 tablespoons/1/4 cup) double or whipping cream and 30g (1 ounce/2 tablespoons) softened unsalted butter until just blended. This will give the equivalent of around 300g (10 ounces/1 1/4 cups) mascarpone." Source
  4. I can't find ladyfingers, now what? Instead of the Italian Savoyardi (ladyfingers/sponge fingers) a vanilla or plain sponge cake would be the best choice. Slice the cake into "finger sized" portions and bake fingers in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, until dry and crisp or leave it on a wire rack to dry out for a day or two so that when it is dipped into the coffee mixture it absorbs liquid without breaking up too much.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 272Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 178mgSodium: 97mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 0gSugar: 11gProtein: 7g

The nutritional information is estimated and may not be entirely accurate, at times it pulls information for suggestions and options which may increase calories, etc.

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Michelle

Friday 2nd of April 2021

This was absolutely delicious! It wasn't as difficult to make as I thought it would be. And I'm with you on the full fat dairy!

Kathleen

Saturday 3rd of April 2021

Thank you Michelle, so glad to hear that you loved it!!

Teresa

Wednesday 19th of August 2020

Is there a suggested substitute for the lady fingers? I cannot find them anywhere

Kathleen

Wednesday 19th of August 2020

Hi Teresa, yes, I put some suggestions in the recipe if you cannot find ladyfingers, here you go! Instead of the Italian Savoyardi (ladyfingers/sponge fingers) a vanilla or plain sponge cake would be the best choice. Slice the cake into “finger sized” portions and leave it on a wire rack to dry out for a day or two so that when it is dipped into the coffee mixture it absorbs liquid without breaking up too much. Or dry in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes until dry and crisp. Hope it goes well, let me know! Kathleen

Rachael | Milk Glass Home

Tuesday 11th of August 2020

I LOVE tiramisu! It's one of my all-time favorite desserts and this one looks heavenly. Definitely need to make it sometime!

Kathleen

Monday 17th of August 2020

Hi Rachel, I sure hope you do and love it, it's an amazing recipe, simple ingredients, incredible taste and it looks much fancier than it really is! Let me know if you do! Happy baking, Kathleen

Monica

Sunday 19th of April 2020

I usually make this fabulous dessert for Christmas however, my husband requested I make it for his birthday. My custard does come out a little runny but I fold in the whipped cream to the custard/mascarpone mixture and refrigerate for the 4hrs-6hrs and it sets pretty good. I also used coffee tequila in lieu of rum. Ummmmm.

jenni

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

Cannot wait to make this! How far in advance can it be made and kept in the fridge? Thanks!

Kelly

Saturday 11th of April 2020

It tastes really, Kathleen. I tried it without mascarpone cheese but I made the cheese from cream cheese and lemon juice, and it turned out pretty well. My mom decided to let me make it in Easter, so I try to make the cheese from heavy cream and lemon juice (a little bit of cream cheese) instead of whole cream cheese and lemon juice. I believe it will be great, because your recipe is amazing. Thank you very much! Wish you have a great Easter!

Kathleen

Sunday 12th of April 2020

Thank you Kelly, love your alterations!!! Let me know how it turns out! Happy Easter!

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