Big Flavors, Small Price – Tiramisu


Genius: very clever or original.

Tiramisu is a genius Italic dessert. I challenge you to find a person, literally one, who doesn’t like it, or anyone who didn’t have a food-gasm the first time they tried a well-done Tiramisu made with the freshest Mascarpone. The word derives from Treviso, they way they say ‘lift me up’. From the same city in the Veneto you can find its base: egg-yolk whipped with sugar until it becomes a foam (‘sbatudin’, whisked up.) From there, each family would add… whatever they had, family recipes of infinite variety: coffee, ricotta, cream, butter, white wine, etc. At a certain point in a town nearby they began adding butter and coco and pouring the mix over cookies, a dessert to be eaten with a spoon (preceding 1800.) From there, replacing the butter with Mascarpone was merely a… happy ending away, as the legend goes: the Madame of a local brothel thought up the dish as a natural Viagra to clients going home after playing hide the sausage with one of her girls. To ‘lift up’ their Willys for too patient, expectant wives.

It’s terribly italic, both the story of its origins and the dish: Simple, anyone can make it, cheap, relies on whatever good ingredients are at hand, deeply satisfying, aesthetically pleasing in its imprecision, result oriented. Definitely not French, no presumption or complication here, and good heavens no Germanic fanatic attachment to procedure. Just get it on and do it well. Once you start making it… you won’t stop, if you’re someone who likes to cook.


Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian


  • 1 fresh, good egg
  • 2 egg yolks of the same high quality
  • 1/2 cup sugar to taste (100 grams or so, though I use a bit less)
  • Unsweetened coco powder (quality, though)
  • Vanilla extract  optional
  • 400-450 grams Mascarpone cheese
  • A large pot of very strong, good espresso – no sugar added
  • Good Rum(optional. Works fine with whatever tips your hat: Marsala, Whiskey, Limoncello, etc.)
  • 1-2 packages Lady Fingers (or better, Savoiardi Cookies. Or sponge, try whatever…Truth: I’ve yet to make Savoiardi though I should and will, at some point.)
  • Lemon zest  optional
  • 1 cup Cream optional


  • It’s an assembling job, and you can vary it however you want: more cheese, less coffee, less egg yolk, more chocolate, a different liquor or cookie, etc. 
  • Separate the eggs. In one mixing bowl whip the egg white with a pinch of salt, in another whip the yolks with half the sugar, until forming a foam, adding a little at a time.
  • In a large bowl work the cheese with the rest of the sugar until smooth, and finally in a different bowl beat the heavy cream – if you’re using it – and a dash or two of vanilla (the cream and vanilla are optional.
  • If the Mascarpone is fresh, I prefer and make it without. In that case, simply add the Mascarpone a big plop at a time to the yolk-sugar and mix well.)
  • Incorporate the cream into cheese by folding in with bottom-up movements, using a spatula, then the yolks then the whites. 
  • Mix the strong unsweetened espresso with a bit of good Rum (optional again, and if the coffee is good, like Illy, make sure it’s good stuff. I like a teaspoon of Marsala for the added contrast to the sweetness and fat,) and place the mixed liquid in a bowl.
  • Soak the ladyfinger cookies well either directly or by brushing the fluid generously over top in or with the coffee and liquor, then place on the bottom of a deep pan
  • Now spread a layer of the cheese mix, then another layer of soaked cookies, etc.
  • On the final layer of Mascarpone generously sprinkle a layer of unsweetened chocolate, and refrigerate well before serving
  •  It’ll reach its peak the following day, if the Tiramisu makes it through the night.
  •  If this will be the first time you make it… trust me, it likely won’t. You’ll open the fridge again at 11 or so if it’s a weekday, jut a tiny piece. Well, we can take off a little more, straighten out the slice. Well, what the heck, might as well finish the first column, leave one for tomorrow.. and so on, fork after fork, particularly i you balanced the coffee-liquor contrast. 
  • Ah, if you don’t use the whipped cream but only the eggs, it will look a bit more yellow than it appears in the picture. Serve with a Moscato. 
Keyword tiramisu

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