Tiramisu Ingredients, Recipe & History


Fancy a pick me up? Then join us in making the famous and much-loved Italian dessert of the same name – Tiramisu.

We have all been in lock-down too long now, many of us are bored, slightly twitchy and could do with a little something to give us a bit of strength and good feeling.  Many of us have turned to the kitchen now that we have time on our hands, as something to do, exploring a new skill, or simply just trying to add variety.  Let’s get together and spoil ourselves with the creamiest dessert with a little bit of a caffeine boost, and if you fancy a little boozy kick too.

Tiramisu ingredients

What’s in a name?

Tiramisu is a modern recipe and the name younger still, first mentioned in 1981.  It seems the name is colloquial and literally came from how it made people feel.  In Italian it literally means pick me up – tira (pick or pull) mi (me) su (up).  Think of granny giving you something tasty and saying now this will pick your spirits up.  So, the name comes from its energetic properties, or perhaps it refers as some believe to its aphrodisiac properties!

There are many legends surrounding most Italian favourites, the oldest for Tiramisu is that it was invented in Tuscany for the Medici family in the 1700s; yet no reference to the recipe for a dessert of this type was written before the 1970s.  Besides, it would be an expensive dessert for a mostly peasant population who could scarcely afford to waste eggs.  


This luscious dessert was invented in Treviso, a city and province north of Venice.  The man commonly accredited with Tiramisu is pastry chef Roberto “Loly” Linguanotto, who had recently returned from working in Germany.  He created a dessert reminiscent of the fancy Hapsburg-style spoon desserts, which is similar to English Custard.  Linguanotto said his recipe was inspired by ‘sbatudin’, a mixture of egg yolk beaten with sugar commonly used by peasant families as a “tonic” for children and the aged, he simply added mascarpone to the mix.  

If you ask anyone to name an Italian dessert, they would surely shout Tiramisu.  It captured the stomachs and imagination of Italians, so much so several regions in Italy claim to have invented it and today it is famous the world over.

Tiramisu Ingredients, Recipe & History 1

Recreating it at home

The ingredients for the original recipe are mascarpone, eggs, sugar, savoiardi biscuits (ladyfingers), coffee and cocoa powder.  There are many variants of the tiramisu recipe; but as always, we are giving you the authentic recipe made in Italian homes. We know it may be hard to find some of the ingredients and not everyone eats raw eggs so we will give you alternatives.  Forget about your diet for this one, you can make lower fat versions but honestly the fat content in the mascarpone cheese is what gives that lovely creamy taste and so using a lower fat substitute will not achieve the same pick-me-up.  

Tiramisu Traditional Recipe

Prep Time: 30 Min

Resting Time: 2-3 hrs in the fridge

Serves: 8

Tiramisu Ingredients

300 g Savoiardi biscuits / ladyfingers (you can also use a firm sponge cake)

500 g mascarpone cheese 

4 medium eggs 

100 g sugar

300 g coffee (espresso)

unsweetened cocoa powder


You will need a large baking pan/pie dish around 30 x 19 cm and an electric whisk (not a stick blender) or a hand whisk and very strong arms. 

  1. First of all, make the coffee. Remember this is the kick and so you should use espresso or as strong as you can make it, add a little sugar and set aside and let it cool.  Separate egg yolks from the white and put aside.  There should be no trace of yolk in the whites (otherwise they will not whip up nice and firm)
  2. Take a bowl and whip the egg whites until stiff: They should look like little mountain peaks, if you turn the bowl upside down the eggs should stay firm as when you are making meringue. When ready, set aside.
  3. Now for the egg yolks.  In another bowl add the sugar to the egg yolks whisking all the time for about 3 to 5 mins.  The mixture will fluff up and become pale and smooth.
  4. When the mixture is ready, add the mascarpone cheese and whisk until the colour is uniform.
  5. Gently fold the fluffy egg whites into the mixture with regular movements from bottom to top.  The aim is to capture air in the cream, if you stir too quickly and too hard the mixture will lose its light fluffy consistency. Mix slowly until it’s smooth and creamy.
  6. Now dip the ladyfingers into the coffee. You can use trifle sponge or any absorbent biscuits.  IMPORTANT the ladyfingers need to soak up the coffee but should not be soggy, this will make your Tiramisu watery. 
  7. Take your pan and spread a thin layer of cream and then cover with your coffee infused ladyfingers.   Spread the mascarpone cream on top of the Savoiardi, then another layer of cream and biscuits, like a two-layer lasagne.
  8. Finally sprinkle with cocoa powder.   Place in the refrigerator before for 2-3 hours minimum before serving (even better if you let it rest overnight).  Be patient!  It takes time for all of those flavours to seep together – much like making a Trifle.

Tiramisu Ingredients, Recipe & History 2

How to Replace Mascarpone Cheese for Tiramisu

Mascarpone is a delicate, slightly sweet cream cheese from the North of Italy.  If you cannot find it you can substitute with cream cheese, fresh ricotta cheese, or heavy cream like double cream with 2 tbs of sugar.

Egg free alternative

Not everybody likes or can eat eggs, but you can still have tiramisu!  In place of the eggs use 200 ml of double cream with 2tbsp of sugar added.  Whip the cream until stiff and add to the mascarpone a little at a time. 

Extra Boozy kick

Many Italian regions make Tiramisu with a liqueur, you can use the traditional addition of Marsala wine, any dessert wine or sherry.  There are two ways to add the liqueur.  You can either add it directly to the coffee or whip it into the mascarpone cheese cream.  I have always preferred the boozy version and assumed that was why it was called a pick me up because of the coffee and booze kick!

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