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Tiramisu (made from scratch)

For February, Daring Bakers' host Deeba of Passionate About Baking & Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen chose Tiramisu as the challenge of the month based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obession.

Et bien sûr, nothing is ever simple with Daring Bakers' (hence the name sake), this time around, we aren't taking the easy road like I did with my first Tiramisu in 2007 where everything was store bought and put together. The challenge is to make our own mascarpone cheese and our sponge fingers/ladyfinger biscuits, pastry cream and zabaglione (a cooked one) and piece it all together to make this pick me up dessert.

So what is this famous Tiramisu? As mentioned in my older post, it means "pick-me-up" (metaphorically, "make me happy") made of mascarpone cheese, sponge fingers or savoiardi & zabaglione.

When I first read what is needed to be done for this challenge, I nearly fainted on the spot. I assure you would too when you read the following list. But fear not, it's not as complicated and difficult as it looks. Once I got started, I got into the swing of things very fast and all jazzed up... all too soon, the fun ended and I felt a bit bereaved that it ended so fast.

Making pastry cream was a breeze since I have made it before for a Blueberry Tart last year. However I was unsure how a zabaglione should look like after it is done so I just relied on my ninja chef instinct.

For this challenge, I have split things into 3 posts for easy reference :

  1. Home-made Mascarpone Cheese (make this 1 day in advance)
  2. Home-made Spong Fingers, also known as Ladyfingers biscuits & savoiardi (can be made on the day itself or a few days in advance)
  3. Assembling Tiramisu (below)

As we are making all of it from scratch, it's easier and less stressful if you make the sponge fingers first and mascarpone cheese, zabaglione & pastry cream another day or vise versa. Then assemble the tiramisu the following day. The mascarpone cheese needs to be refrigerated overnight while the zabaglione & pastry cream need to be refrigerated for at least 4 hours. Are you still with me after reading the long list of things to be done? OK, whenever you are ready, I'm ready. Let's go!

Tiramisu (made from scratch)

(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007)

Serves: 6


For the zabaglione

  • 2 large egg yolks (I used 3 medium egg yolks)
  • 50 g sugar
  • 60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp grated lemon zest (finely)

For the vanilla pastry cream

  • 55 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • ½ grated lemon zest (finely)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk (I used 1 medium egg)
  • 175 ml whole milk (I used partially skim milk)

For the whipped cream

  • 235ml chilled heavy cream (I used UHT 35% crème liquide)
  • 55gms sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu

  • 1 big cup brewed espresso, warmed
  • 1 tsp rum extract or (optional)
  • 110gms sugar (I left it out)
  • 75 g mascarpone cheese
  • 36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione

  1. Heat water in a double boiler or a bain-marie.
  2. In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or the bain-marie. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
  4. Let it cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream

  1. Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  2. Add in the egg yolk and pour in half of the milk slowly while whisking it. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
  4. Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don't worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
  5. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.
Pastry cream

For the whipped cream

  1. Place the bowl (in which cream is to be whipped) and the beaters of the hand held electric mixer in the fridge for about ½ to 1 hour before hand helps to whip up the cream whip very well.
  2. Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl.
  3. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu

  1. Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
  2. Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar (I left out this in mine) in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold.
  4. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined.
  5. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.
  6. Dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy.
  7. Line the ladyfinger on the dish, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered. (I sprinkle cocoa powder on top of every layer of spong fingers)
  8. Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
  9. Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer.
  10. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
  11. To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please on the surface of the tiramisu. Cut into individual portions and serve.
  12. The Tiramisu can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 days. Once assembled, it can be frozen till you need to serve it, in case you are not serving it immediately.
Tiramisu (made from scratch)Tiramisu (made from scratch)
The Verdict

It's great! Very creamy and sinful but surprisingly it didn't taste as sweet as I expected it to be. There's not an incredible difference with the one made with your off-the-shelf ingredients, but this one is a bit more subtle and flavourful.

The next time I make Tiramisu, I wouldn't hesitate to make my own sponge fingers (ladyfingers) and mascarpone at home, but assemble it using the simpler version ie. make it with raw egg yolks and whipped egg whites. However if you or one of your guests is pregnant or has aversion about eating raw eggs, I would recommend making tiramisu using above methods with zabaglione and whipped cream.

Update: We defrozed one of the tiramisu totally the other day and found that it indeed tasted a little bit sweeter than usual. I have also just realized that I added all the mascarpone (180 g) I made in my tiramisu instead of the 75 g as required in the recipe. So if you are making this version, please reduce the quantity of sugar indicated in zabaglione and pastry cream or else your tiramisu will turn out to be very sweet.


Placing the bowl (in which cream is to be whipped) and the beaters of the hand held electric mixer in the fridge for about ½ to 1 hour before hand helps to whip up the cream whip very well.

As there were already sugar in pastry cream and zabaglione, I omitted sugar in the coffee as I didn't want the tiramisu to be too sweet.

You can assemble the tiramisu in wine glass, cups or verrines as you wish. Leave it to creativity and imagination. Obviously a transparent container will show it's layered structure better;-)

Tiramisu (made from scratch)
#1, by dave -nibbleanibble (02/28/2010)

Looks like a lot of work but when you make it yourself, you get a sense of accomplishment. And that itself is worth it.

#2, by Asha@FSK (02/28/2010)

Love the way you have a cup of coffee next to the tiramisu.. an extra dose of caffeine hurts noone;-))

#3, by nina (02/28/2010)

Looks lovely.Truly sinful.

#4, by deba (02/28/2010)

Lovely Pamela, just lovely. I'm glad you got the mascarpone to work. I love the last picture and am ready with my fork. I hope you have some reserved for me (my right eh?)

#5, by Aparna (02/28/2010)

Looks lovely, Pam. Glad you managed to get it done without fainting.:-) Couldn't have that now, eh?
Thanks for baking with us.

#6, by Michelle (02/28/2010)

Ha! I nearly fainted when I saw the recipe(s), too! Beautifully done!

#7, by Lyndsey (02/28/2010)

Your Tiramisu from scratch is beautiful! I appreciate all the work! I am also so impressed by all you daring bakers (I follow several). The only problem is I want to taste all of them!!!

#8, by MaryMoh (02/28/2010)

Wow....making the sponge fingers and tiramisu from scratch! To me, that's a real challenge. Looks very delicious. Well done, Pam!

#9, by tyree white (03/01/2010)

Very well done. tyree white

#10, by meeta (03/01/2010)

i like the look of this - classic is always the best. nice going pam!

looks like you've put a lot of love in this tiramisu... which makes it more special. i love the last picture... it's so decadent! im ready to have a slice

#12, by chef_d (03/01/2010)

Very nicely done, the last photo is so drool-worthy!

#13, by diva (03/01/2010)

making your own mascarpone is brilliant especially because it's so expensive to get it at the shops. Yum Pam! I must come over some time. You just easily whip up such gorgeous dishes every time. x

#14, by Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella (03/01/2010)

You did a great job and I like the individual portion sizing!:-D

#15, by katie (03/01/2010)

I've never been a big fan of Tiramisu but this could change my mind. Maybe I never had a 'good' one. It looks wonderful!

#16, by Alessio (03/01/2010)

Nicely done Pam, like your final picture; it looks like the perfect snack tray or breakfast for that matter;-) I liked too doing mascarpone at home, you can also infuse the cream before curdling it! great no?:-D

#17, by Alessio (03/01/2010)

Houps, forgot one thing :P I think that in Italy with Tiramisu (pick me up) we actually refer to its caloric intake that refills you with energy;-) (when you do not have booze in it that is lol).

#18, by Ching (03/01/2010)

Woman, you are too hardworking! The end result must be satisfying!

#19, by Kitchen Butterfly (03/01/2010)

Lovely.....I can imagine how silky the cream was and ....how bold to take on the task of making every single thing by hand. I would have eaten it all myself....which is why I haven't joined the DBs. I have a green spatula like that....

#20, by Eyes Bigger Than Belly (03/02/2010)

Oh wow!! Your Tiramisu is fantastic - I started to drool a little bit because yours just looks so lucious and creamy.... yum!! The presentation is just lovely as well - I want to eat it now!!:-)

#21, by tigerfish (03/02/2010)

I am amazed everything is made from scratch! Goodness! Just so amazing!

#22, by The Cooking Ninja (03/02/2010)

@dave - nibbleanibble: Thanks for dropping by my blog. Yes it was a lot of work and like you said, the ultra-satisfaction and sense of accomplishment is what spurs us on.:-)

@Asha@fsk: Thanks. LOL! Caffeine overdose. It's sure yummy - sip of coffee, bite of chocolate & tiramisu = heavenly.

@nina: Thanks for dropping by my blog. I love yours too.:-)

@Deeba@Passionate about Baking: Thanks. Yes, I have one reserved for you in my freezer. U better hurry over here before hub ate it all. He refused to let me bring some for his parents. Yes he is very possessive about his desserts. LOL! Poppet is on the same track.

@Aparna: I guess the daunting task of making own mascarpone and 2 custard is kinda overwhelming at first look but if one does it one day at the time, it's pretty easy and relaxing.:-) Thanks to you and Deeba, now I know how to make mascarpone.

@Michelle: Yes, the list looks like forever didn't it. LOL! Yours turned out beautiful too.

@Lyndsey: Thank you. I still have a few ramekins of tiramisu left in the freezer. You are welcome to have it.:-)

#23, by The Cooking Ninja (03/02/2010)

@MaryMoh: Thank you, Mary. You can do it too - it's not difficult at all.:-)

@Tyree White: Thanks Tyree. Nice to see you back on my blog.:-)

@Meeta: Thanks. I'm going to try some new flavour perhaps for my MIL's birthday cake. She wants Tiramisu. LOL!

@Skip to Malou: Thanks for dropping by my blog.:-)

@chef_d: Thank you. I love your presentation too.:-) Didn't we all have fun making this.:-)

@Diva: Come, come...let mama Pam feed you.:-) hehehe You are welcome to my home any time.

@Lorraine@Not Quite Nigella: Thank you. It's the first time I thought of doing it individually. This way, I can at least freeze them.:-)

@Katie: Sorry to hear that you didn't have a good tiramisu experience. Guess I was very lucky as the first tiramisu I had was done by my friend's ex-BF who is a top pastry chef.:-) From there on, I was hooked. Frankly I still prefer the original method of egg yolks and whipped whites.:-)

@Alessio: Al, you are too funny and you are giving me ideas with my next mascarpone. Should I or shouldn't I add flavour to mascarpone.:-p

@Ching@LCOM: Oh yes. It's like making Kueh Pie Ti - end results is so heavenly. But I think making Kueh Pie Ti is a lot more work than this. LOL! I've ever helped my mom to make the cups - standing and churning them out for hours in Singapore heat to fill a few big tins.

@Kitchen Butterfly: The advantage I have is I have a willing taster.;-) If not, I would be giving it all away to my neighbours or my child's school.

@Eyes Bigger Than Belly: Your turned out beautiful for all the drama and heartache it did to you while making this challenge.:-)

@Tigerfish: U want to come over for tea at my house?:-)

#24, by Sarah, Maison Cupcake (03/02/2010)

That looks lovely, I like the shape, yours looks more delicate than mine. My biscuits were a bit over done but yours look perfect.

#25, by Barbara Bakes (03/03/2010)

Your tiramisu looks fabulous! Love the picture with the coffee!

#26, by kathleen (03/03/2010)

Your tiramisu looks beautiful! This was my first Daring Bakers challenge. I thought it was fabulous! Great photo!

#27, by ap269 (03/03/2010)

Looks good. Well done!

#28, by Ju (The Little Teochew) (03/03/2010)

Wow, that looks amazing! So homely and comforting.:-) I am in awe at all the Daring Bakers. Tiramisu from scratch!!! *faints*

#29, by xiaoyen (03/03/2010)

How long would you say it take you to prepare and add the finishing touch to your cake? It seems like ALOT of work! I would make it without the rum so my kids can enjoy it too. They can never eat the cake part whenever we buy one cos of the rum.

#30, by The Cooking Ninja (03/03/2010)

@Sarah, Maison Cupcake: Yours looks fantastic too. Love the colours. I think I'll bake mine a minute more next time.:-)

@Barbara Bakes: Thank you and thanks for dropping by my blog.

@Kathleen: Your first DB challenge looks gorgeous! Yours photos are great too.

@ap269: Thanks you for your compliments.:-)

@Ju (The Little Teochew): Yeah it looks scary at first but once you do it step by step, it's not as scary as it looks.

#31, by The Cooking Ninja (03/03/2010)

@xiaoyen: I would say it takes about 2 days to prepare it and 1 night to chill the tiramisu if you are making this version. However if you are making the simpler version, it only takes like 1/2 hr or less to assemble it. If you make your own mascarpone & sponge fingers, you can make both the same day and then assemble your tiramisu the next morning so that it can be ready as dessert for dinner. But it'll taste better if left overnight as the flavour develops.

#32, by Xiaoyen (03/03/2010)

Thanks for the detail explanation! I'd go for the 2 days preparation route, better to do it slowly for a better end result.

#33, by msmeanie (03/03/2010)

Great job on this challenge! Your tiramisu looks fantastic. I agree -- splitting up the work over several days really helped me too.

#34, by Janice (03/03/2010)

This looks amazing, a lot of work but the results are wonderful. I can't wait to try this over the weekend.

#35, by The Cooking Ninja (03/04/2010)

@xiaoyen: If you are making the above version, please reduce the quantity of sugar indicated above or else your tiramisu will be very sweet. You can also freeze your tiramisu if you aren't eating it for the next few days.

@msmeanie: Thanks:-) Yes splitting it into 2 or 3 days is a lot easier to handle - no stress and no hurry.

@Janice: Thanks:-) If you do try it, reduce the sugar quantity on above recipe.

#36, by Jeanne @ Cooksister! (03/15/2010)

Oh my - I take my hat off to you! I am a really lazy cook and have only ever made it with off-the-shelf ingredients... Yours looks so beautiful - love that coffee mug hiding behind the chocolate too!

#37, by The Cooking Ninja (03/17/2010)

@Jeanne@Cooksister: Thank you. I had to change the chocolate before I could even take this photo and had to take it quick because it started to melt again leaning against the freshly brewed expresso. LOL!

#38, by Ghi (03/28/2010)

How great to encounter your all-from-scratch tiramisu since I am making one from scratch in Shanghai. I agree with all your thoughts about overly sweet recipes. First, my ladyfingers turn out too sweet and 15mins in the oven was kinda long too. The tiramisu was a bit too sweet as well. I will cut the sugar in half next time. I also used the Zipper bag to shape the ladyfinger and now they are in all different shapes. I also made mascarpone out it ultra pasteurized one with 30% fat since it's impossible to get a fresh cream in shanghai. It does tastes much better that the expensive imported from Italy one I bought to compare the taste. Much richer taste.

Good luck for both of us for the next better tiramisu.

#39, by Dress and Dish (06/07/2011)

Looks amazing!