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Kathryn Occhipinti holding a plate with a slice of Tiramisu and mint garnish

Tiramisu: “Pick-Me-Up!” Dessert Recipe from Italy

Tiramisu: “Pick-me-up!” Dessert Recipe from Italy


Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogTiramisu: “Pick-Me-Up” Dessert Recipe from Italy!

Dessert Recipe from Italy: Make Our Famous Tiramisu

Tiramisu: “Pick-Me-Up” Dessert Recipe from Italy is a partial reprint from a blog originally posted on October 10, 2018, titled: “Dessert Recipe from Italy: Make Our Famous Tiramisù.”

I’ve added a few more tips about how to make the custard filling in this blog.  I’ve also included a sponge cake recipe  just in case Lady Fingers are not available.  (Or,  just in case you just like this layered custard dessert combination with sponge cake!)

– Special thanks to Rudy Litwin of the Italian-American Society of Peoria for the sponge cake recipe.


I’ve since added Instagram to my social media, and have added a video from Instagram to this post so you can see me cooking in real-time!  I hope you like it!

For more recipes like these, as well as French recipes, follow me on my Instagram posts at Conversationalitalian.french.



And now… the original story!

This famous Italian layered dessert, which literally means “Pick-me-up!” (Tiramisù!)was said to have originated when Italian ladies wanted a snack to get them through a long night of entertaining. Try our version, and we think you will agree that a piece of this Tiramisu dessert will add sparkle to any get-together or special celebration, whether for lunch, dinner, or the wee hours of the evening… Just follow our step-by-step instructions on how to make each component of the dessert, and assemble it all into the delicious layers that will form a kind of cake when refrigerated overnight.
—Kathryn Occhipinti

Tiramisu Recipe

Make the zabaglione* custard:
*Italian custard made with Marsala wine
6 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup Marsala wine

Double boiler assembly with egg and Marsala wine being whisked above the water pot
Double boiler assembly with zabaglione custard thickening off heat

Off heat, beat the egg yolks and sugar on the top pot of a double boiler with a whisk gently
until combined and the yolks become pale yellow.   Do not beat too hard and do not form foam when doing this.

(Tip: When you think the sugar has been well mixed into the egg yolks, test the consistency by lifting your whisk up with a bit of the mixture on it.  The egg/sugar mixture should fall off the whisk slowly. This is called “forming the ribbon.”  When this happens, the eggs and sugar have been mixed well enough.)

Fill the bottom pot 1/2 of the way up with water and heat to a simmer on the stove. (Small bubbles form around the edges of the water when it is at a simmer.)

Place the pot with the egg yolk mixture over the pot with the simmering water.

Stir the beaten egg yolks constantly with a whisk while slowly pouring in the Marsala wine.

Continue to stir for about 5 to 6 minutes.  At the same time, check the bottom pot of water for how how rapidly the water is boiling and control the heat to keep the water boiling at a simmer for this amount of time. Then, raise heat if necessary to thicken the custard as in tip below.

(Tip:  The custard needs to heat up slowly, or you will end up with scrambled eggs.  But, if you need to, increase the heat until the water is brought to a full boil.  Put the pot down for a few seconds until the custard starts to thicken. At this point, small balls of custard will start to form.  Immediately take off heat and keep beating as the custard thickens.  Lower heat back to simmer and continue to beat until smooth.) 

When the mixture has thickened, transfer to a bowl and chill for 30 minutes.

 Make the cream filling:
1 cup whipping cream (cold)
4 Tbsp sugar
2 (8 oz.) containers of  Mascarpone cheese, softened room temperature
(can substitute American cream cheese)
chilled zabaglione custard made as above

 Bowl with whipped cream forming peaks with the whisk lifted up
Whipped cream forming peaks when the whisk is lifted

Beat the whipping cream and sugar together in a large bowl with a standing mixer and a whipping attachment or an electric mixer until firm peaks form.  Start off beating slowly, then gradually increase speed of mixer to high. At the end, beat more slowly so you can watch carefully to get the desired consistency.  (Too much beating and you may make butter!)

(Tip: When peaks start to form, you will see ridges in the whipped cream.  To check the consistency, take up a bit of the whipped cream on the beater and hold up.  You will see peaks standing up in the whipped cream in the bowl and also on the beaters.)

Lighten up the mascarpone cheese by beating with a mixer if desired.

Add half of the mascarpone cheese into the whipped cream in teaspoon amounts.  Fold the mascarpone cheese into the whipped cream until well blended. Add the rest of the mascarpone cheese in teaspoon amounts and blend in.

Then fold in the chilled zabaglione custard into the whipped cream/Mascarpone cheese mixture until well blended.

Make the coffee syrup mixture:
2 cups espresso coffee (cooled)
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1 tsp vanilla

Combine the espresso coffee, Marsala wine, and vanilla in a measuring cup.
Refrigerate until cool.


 Assemble the tiramisu (have the following ready):

  1. Custard filling
  2. Coffee syrup
  3.  Savoiardi lady finger cookies, 2 (7.05 oz.) packages
  4. Cocoa powder for dusting

Note: Two packages of lady fingers are used in this recipe to make two layers in a rectangular pan approximately 9″ X 13.” Custard is enough to cover the 2 layers of ladyfingers. If you like a thicker custard layer, use a smaller pan and less ladyfinger cookies! 

Butter the bottom of the pan you will use.

Arrange a single layer of lady finger cookies in your pan, with the sugar-coated side facing up.

Lady finders lined up in a large rectangular pan
First layer of ladyfinger cookies lined up in the pan

Using a tablespoon, sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of coffee syrup on each cookie. Use up about one cup of the coffee syrup in total on the first layer of cookies.

First layer of ladyfingers with coffee sprinkled on
Sprinkling coffee over ladyfinger cookies for Tiramisu

Spread 1/2 of the custard filling mixture over the cookies.

Custard is spread over ladyfingers
Spreading custard over ladyfinger cookies for Tiramisu

Dust with the cocoa powder until top of custard is well covered. (Tip: Use a strainer, tapping the side to make a smooth layer of cocoa. The strainer will also remove lumps of cocoa powder.)

Tiramisu dusted with cocoa powerder
Tiramisu dusted with cocoa powder

Repeat cookie layer, 1 cup of coffee syrup, custard filling, and cocoa powder.

Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight to allow the cookies to absorb the coffee syrup and become moist.

Cut into squares to serve. Enjoy with a cup of espresso coffee!


Optional: Sponge cake for Tiramisu :
6 large eggs separated, yolks and whites reserved room temp.
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup cake flower

Preheat oven to 375° and coat a 13″ X 9″ pan with oil.  Sprinkle with flour and shake off excess.

Beat egg yolks with a whisk until foamy and set aside.

Use a large bowl and a standing mixer or an electric mixer to whip the egg whites and powdered sugar until still peaks form.

Gradually  fold in egg yolks.

Fold in cake flour until blended.

Pour batter into the pan.

Bake 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (An oven that heats evenly is essential, or the center of your cake may form a peak as it heats unevenly.)

Cool 5 minutes and then loosen cake and invert on a rack to cool.

To assemble the tiramisu, cut the cake in half into two equal pieces.  One will fit as the bottom piece on an 8″ or 9″ baking dish (ungreased).

Spoon over espresso coffee syrup as given above with the addition of 2 tsp of sugar, then custard mixture, then cocoa.

Add next layer of cake and repeat.

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight to allow the cake to absorb the coffee syrup and become moist.

Cut into squares to serve.  Enjoy with a cup of espresso coffee!

—Adapted from the cooking classes given by the Italian-American Society of Peoria. Thanks to Rudy Litwin, IAS President in 2012, for contributing the sponge cake to this recipe! 


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Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
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“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

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Tiramisù Pick-Me-Up: Dessert Recipe from Italy