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How to Make Tiramisu


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Notes: This tiramisu recipe calls for soft lady fingers (versus hard), which are often found in the bakery sections of grocery stores. Some grocery stores stock them in the freezer, so be sure to ask someone if you can’t find them. Typically, packages contain 12 whole lady fingers split in half, so 24 total halves. You need three of these packages for this recipe.

Also, if you want to be really picky about ingredients, here are two more suggestions: superfine sugar and imported Italian mascarpone (which is typically sold in small tubs—you will need two of these tubs, which will leave you with some leftover). Don’t worry, however, if you can’t find or don’t feel like seeking out these ingredients. 

Finally, instead of purchasing a jar of instant espresso that might sit around for an entire year after opening, just go to your favorite coffee shop and order and a few shots of espresso or a cup of strong coffee. You need about 2/3 cups liquid total. Obviously, if you have an espresso machine, brew a few shots and add enough hot water to bring the total volume to 2/3 cup.


1 3/4 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups sugar (superfine is ideal)
3 packages soft lady fingers, see notes above
1 1/4 cups mascarpone
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 to 4 teaspoons brandy or rum
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, see notes above
2/3 cup hot water

A bar of chocolate (semi-sweet or your favorite bar of dark chocolate) for shaving/garnishing


  1. With a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat cream until stiff. Transfer to a small bowl and stick in the fridge. Wipe mixing bowl and beaters clean with a paper towel or dish towel. (No need to fully wash.)
  2. In the same bowl, beat egg yolks until thick, about 2 minutes on medium-high to high speed. Add sugar and beat until thick and pale, another 2 minutes at the same speed.
  3. Fill a wide-mouthed pot with water about half or two-thirds full. Bring to a boil. Set mixing bowl filled with egg yolk-sugar mixture over top. Reduce heat to medium-high or medium or so that the water is just gently simmering (or less than simmering) below the bottom of the bowl. Stir the egg yolk-sugar mixture with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon for five minutes. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Prepare brandy-espresso brushing mixture: If you are using instant espresso, stir the 2/3 cup boiling (or hot) water into the espresso powder. Stir in brandy or rum to taste. (Note: If serving to children, 2 teaspoons is recommended; if not, add booze to taste.) If using hot coffee or espresso, brew enough to yield 2/3 cup. Stir in alcohol to taste.
  5. Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish (glass, Pyrex or ceramic (versus metal) is ideal) with one layer of lady finger halves, cut side facing up. Brush each with the espresso-alcohol mixture. Be generous with the saturation.
  6. Using a whisk or spatula, stir the mascarpone and vanilla into the slightly cooled egg yolk-sugar mixture. Try to whisk out any lumps, but don’t worry if a few remain. Fold in whipped cream until blended.
  7. Pour half of the cream mixture over the first layer of lady fingers. Even cream out with a spatula (an offset spatula is ideal for this). Top with another layer of lady fingers. (You will likely have a few lady fingers leftover.) Brush each with the espresso-alcohol mixture again being generous with the saturation. Top with the remaining cream, spreading it out to form an even layer.
  8. Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate over the top of the entire dish. Cover dish with plastic wrap and chill in fridge for at least 4 hours before serving. Can be prepared 2 to 3 days in advance. If necessary, shave more chocolate over top before serving.
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian, American