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in the kitchen with: kristina’s tiramisu

by Kristina Gill

I was shopping for interesting-looking food the other day and came across a package of cookies. They looked like ladyfingers, or savoiardi in Italian, but were a bit harder. It reminded me that I haven’t made a tiramisù in a million years, and surprisingly, we have never featured one on this column. I thought I’d fill both voids this week with the recipe I use to make Tiramisù. I’ve had all different types of tiramisù across the Italian peninsula, starting first in Emilia Romagna, where it seems to be most prevalent. I’ve had versions made with hard cookies, with thin cake (sponge) layers, as free-standing mousse-y architectural slices, served gooey in a cup or just plain runny and as simple parfaits with dry cookies and little effort. The recipe I use is one that I found in a Slow Food cookbook, based on a recipe from near Parma. I’ve altered it over time based on feedback from Italian family, friends and colleagues, and my own personal tastes. I prefer a moussier texture and a cookie that’s not too soggy but not crunchy either. After tasting the tiramisù I made for this week’s column with these new semi-ladyfingers, my husband (who was only allotted one-third of the large pan) proclaimed that he was willing to risk his own death in order to finish both pans by himself. I take that as a thumbs up! — Kristina


*Note:  Some readers have expressed concern about eating raw eggs.  In Rao’s Cookbook (Random House 1998), their recipe whisks eggs and sugar together in a heat-proof bowl over a simmering pan of water, then uses a handheld electric mixer to beat for approximately 7 minutes until the mixture has tripled in volume and a candy thermometer inserted in the mixture reads 160F.  You may try something similar, or use whipped cream with gelatin, or try a custard type filling, if you prefer not to use raw eggs.

About Kristina: Kristina is editor of the Design*Sponge columns In the Kitchen With and Behind the Bar (while its regular editors are on hiatus). She also reviews cookbooks at MattBites.com. There’s almost no time of the day when she isn’t working with food. You can see her food photography portfolio here and read her latest cookbook reviews here.

See Kristina’s recipe after the jump . . .

Kristina’s Tiramisù


  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (use more or less depending on your preference)
  • 4 T rum (or other liquor, like Vecchia Romagna, Cognac, whatevs)
  • 1 lb. + 2 oz. mascarpone
  • 2 cups of coffee (you can use the instant kind)
  • a lot of lady fingers or similar substantial cookie — have at least two packages on hand
  • one large relatively shallow dish plus another smaller one


A tip before starting: Don’t get your ladyfingers too soggy when dipping them in the coffee. As they sit overnight, the liquid will go to the bottom of your pan and make it watery. If the ladyfinger dents or falls apart after you dip it, it’s too soggy. You should just eat it immediately and move to the next one.


1. Make the coffee and set aside.

2. Mix the egg yolks with sugar, then add mascarpone and rum. Taste to make sure the flavors are as you’d like — add more sugar if you’d like it sweeter, or add more rum if you’d like the taste stronger.

3. In a separate bowl, mount the whites to firm peaks. Fold them into the yolks/mascarpone mixture until combined without streaks.

4. Spread a light layer of the mascarpone mixture in the bottom of the pan. Dip a lady finger in the pot of coffee then place in the bottom of the pan. Continue doing this one by one until you’ve covered the bottom of the pan. Spread a thick layer of mascarpone cream on top and repeat with the lady fingers. Cover the lady fingers with another layer of the mascarpone and set aside. If you have any ingredients left over after finishing the first pan, make another pan until you use everything up.

5. Cover your pan(s) with plastic film and place them in the refrigerator overnight or for at least eight hours. This gives the mascarpone mixture a chance to set up and become more like a mousse than a gooey cream. If you’d prefer a gooey tiramisù, you can serve this one immediately after making it.

6. Dust with cocoa only immediately before serving, to avoid the cocoa being absorbed by the cream mixture.

Why I Love This Recipe

What’s not to love? Cookies, cream, coffee, cocoa, rum. I was intimidated at first by the thought that I’d have to fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture, as generally I’m not too great at that with cakes, but once this came out of the refrigerator, I realized how easy it is to make it work here. I love any dessert that doesn’t dirty too many dishes or have too many steps. This one is simple and cleans up in the blink of an eye. In summer, I fold strawberries into the mascarpone, soak the ladyfingers in a strawberry syrup-type mixture and leave out the rum.

Suggested For You


  • Hi Amy– I’m sure you can find them somewhere in Nashville. I can’t think of a close American substitute though… Maybe another reader can help? You could try using thin cake layers, about 1/2 inch thick, and maybe brushing them with coffee so they don’t get too soggy? Or I can find you a recipe to make the lady fingers!!!

  • Thanks for the recipe. Will try it this weekend. Sounds yummy and I love Tiramisu. Also like the sound of the summer version. Will need to tag it for next strawberry season.
    Have you ever tried to make your own ladyfingers? Do you have a good recipe for that?

  • I love Tiramisu but, oddly, am not a huge coffee fan. I’ve tried a version made with stout in a restaurant and it was fantastic. I think I’ll give it a try with this recipe…any excuse to have cake AND beer! Thanks Kristina!

  • Favorite dessert in then world if I made this which I hope to do, I will eat it all! Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait for the deliciousness!

  • @Therese: I tried once to make ladyfingers and it was a fiasco. I will find a recipe from a trusted source for you and Amy.

    @Stacey: me either. I only drink coffee socially ;-) But I don’t find it so overwhelming in this dessert. I’m probably focused on the mascarpone… You know my philosophy is always to take a recipe and make it work for your palate, so whatever you think you’d like is what you should do!

  • Homemade Lady fingers in a heartbeat!
    2 tablespoons butter
    3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted flour
    4 egg yolks
    1/2 cup sugar
    4 egg whites, beaten until stiff
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    powdered sugar for dusting

    How to:
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 baking sheets with 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons of flour. Mark parallel lines in the flour across the width of the tray about 4 inches apart. Put the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and with an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale yellow, thick, and has tripled in volume, about 8 minutes, using the mixer. Add the egg whites, remaining 3/4 cup flour, salt and vanilla, fold to mix thoroughly so the mixture is smooth. Fill a large pastry bag with a 3/4-inch plain tube with the mixture. Pipe fingers about 4 1/2-inches in length on to the baking sheet, using the lines as a guide. Dust the ladyfingers with powdered sugar. Bake until for 15 to 18 minutes, or until just firm on the outside and soft in the center.

  • That looks delish!

    And mmm, I don’t know if this offends any food purists but I’ve made tiramisu with Vietnamese coffee (the Cafe du Monde brand, slow dripped through the little metal strainer) and the intense chocolatey flavors worked amazingly with the recipe…

  • this looks amazing! i’ve been trying to find a great tiramisu in restaurants, but there hasn’t been one that topped the one our italian family friend made. i think i might give making one myself a try!
    xo, cheyenne

  • Hi Katie!! there must be a way to fudge it!! You can’t even have like egg beaters or those types of pasteurized products? Here I am not convinced that every recipe uses raw eggs though. If you do come up with a suitable substitute recipe will you let us know?

  • recipe sounds great but I was surprised that the eggs are not cooked (as in custard) – don’t think I’d trust eating raw eggs these days.

  • Hi, how do you read my mind? I was just thinking the same, about how it’s been too long since I had tiramisu! This would be a great excuse to have friends over.

  • Hi Margo, I do earnestly doubt that everyone uses raw eggs in their tiramisu, but your observation and Katies has now prompted me to do a bit of research to find out if there are Italian custard-y recipes out there. I’ve always and only used this recipe with raw eggs. We get them from a trusted source from which we’ve never had any problems. I’m happy to say that everyone who ate the tiramisu in the pictures above is still alive!! ;-)

  • I went through almost every book I have on my shelves that I thought would have a recipe for tiramisu’ in it. All of them but one use raw egg, though one used hot syrup to make meringue with the egg whites. In Jamie Does… he infers that tiramisu’ is a classic Venetian dessert, and that use of egg whites is not traditional. I have a couple of Venetian cookbooks which didn’t include tiramisu’ recipes though…

    At any rate, the ONE recipe I found that doesn’t include raw eggs is from Pordenone in the Friuli region (close enough to Venice) and it uses meringues (pre-made), cream (whipped), yogurt, mascarpone, and gelatin to set it.

    I personally like Margot’s idea of making some sort of custard, or you could even mount whip cream with coffee and use gelatin to set it up to be firm.


  • or just decide that life is too short to live without tiramisu, and that the truly delicious stuff comes with raw eggs.

  • I’m sorry, english is not my mother tongue, so just to make sure, when you write “4 T rum”, do you mean “4 teaspoons” or “4 tablespoons”? This recipe looks delicious!

  • Buono il Tiramisù. Non preoccupatevi troppo per l’uovo crudo, l’importante è lavare e asciugare bene il guscio prima di romperlo.

    In estate faccio il tiramisù con le pesche: frullo una pesca molto matura con lo zucchero e lo aggiungo all’uovo e mascarpone, per bagnare i savoiardi uso un succo di pesca con un poco di Maraschino.

    Si può fare anche con le fragole.