Best Authentic Italian Tiramisu – easy recipe from an Italian mamma
Travel to Italy from your kitchen with this traditional recipe for one of the most loved Italian desserts.
Learn how to prepare, style and shoot a beautiful Tiramisu cake
Authentic Tiramisu is one of those quintessentially Italian things.
The creaminess of mascarpone cheese with the intense coffee aroma makes for a delicious dessert.
The best part?? Unlike traditional baking, Tiramisu is easy to make and it’s got plenty of room for experimenting.
And it’s very forgiving with mistakes so it’s beginner friendly.
Get transported to Italy and have breakfast on Lake Como today.
And don’t forget to photograph your creation!
Keep reading for my photography and styling tips.
1. Where does this authentic Tiramisu recipe come from?
2. What ingredients are used in traditional Tiramisu?
3. Top tips for the best authentic Tiramisu
4. Best flavour combinations for Tiramisu
5. Authentic Italian Tiramisu recipe
6. Tiramisu food photography like a pro?
7. Food styling tips for Tiramisu
8. Where to eat authentic Tiramisu in Rome and London?
Where does this authentic Tiramisu recipe come from?
I’ve been making Tiramisu pretty much my whole life and I learned how to make it from my mum.
In my family, we use the word Tiramisu as a generic name to describe a dessert that’s made in layers.
Layers of creamy, fruity, rich, flavourful deliciousness.
Whether it’s traditional coffee, pistachio, strawberry or lemon-flavoured, the great thing about tiramisu’ is that once you have the general gist of the recipe, you can let your creativity go wild with flavour combos.
I’ve been making Tiramisu this way all around the world and my friends have always loved it.
Sometimes I think they invite me to visit them just so they can eat it!
It always turns into a communal bonding activity when everyone contributes to the assembly line.
And we always make extra for breakfast. We all know it tastes even better the day after.
And if you’re fast enough, you can even photograph it before it disappears from under your nose!
What ingredients are used in the traditional Tiramisu?
Surprisingly, to make this tasty Italian Tiramisu cake you only need 6 ingredients:
Eggs, coffee, mascarpone cheese, Savoiardi, sugar, dark cocoa powder.
If you want, some kind of booze is always a nice addition and can spice up the flavour to make it really unique!
Let me introduce you to the traditional ingredients first, and then I’ll share tips on other fantastic flavour combinations that you can try!
I promise you won’t regret putting some effort into finding the right ingredients.
Savoiardi (ladyfingers) are the traditional Tiramisu cookies
Traditionally, Tiramisu’ is prepared with Savoiardi, dry spongy biscuits that soak up all the delicious flavour of the coffee.
Try to find a good quality Italian brand if you want the right texture in your tiramisu.
The lower-quality ladyfingers tend to get mushy and soggy while the better ones stay spongy and fluffy and really add a layer of lightness to the dessert.
How can I substitute ladyfingers in Tiramisu?
You need a sponge-like biscuit that is able to absorb liquid fairly fast but that doesn’t break apart when soaked. Nothing like a digestive or a shortbread as they’re too heavy.
What kind of coffee is right for Tiramisu?
Arguably one of the most important ingredients since coffee is what gives Tiramisu its rich, distinct flavour.
If the coffee is watery and weak, you’ll get a wet, tasteless tiramisu.
The key thing to remember when brewing coffee for tiramisu’ is that stronger is better.
Filter coffee or French press coffee won’t cut it, unfortunately.
you need good quality espresso either from an espresso machine or from an Italian moka stove pot.
Fresh, organic eggs are fundamental in Tiramisu
The eggs in Tiramisu’ are raw so it’s fundamental that you buy the best quality eggs you can find.
It’s important that eggs are super fresh, pasteurized and large.
Go for organic and free-range eggs. This gives you the best taste and richness.
You’re going to have to separate the yolks from the white so keep this in mind when you break them!
What is Mascarpone cheese for Tiramisu
Mascarpone cheese is what gives tiramisu’ its rich, creamy, velvety texture.
I recommend going for a brand that is not too cheesy and very neutral in flavour as you want the other ingredients to stand out.
What liquor to use for Tiramisu
Adding some booze to your Tiramisu is going to give it a unique flavour.
So unless you’re serving it to the AA or to children, I highly recommend you add some.
In Italy, the most commonly used liquor is Marsala, a sweet dessert wine.
Personally, I like to experiment with different liquors like Portuguese Port, Cointreau, Baileys, and Grand Marnier.
Recently I made Tiramisu in Estonia and I used Vana Tallinn, the local digestive liquor which is now my absolute favourite.
In Mexico, I tried making it with smoky Mezcal and it was also fantastic!!
Top tips to make authentic Tiramisu like an Italian
Here are my top tips for a creamy, velvety, rich Tiramisu.
- Beat the eggs and the mascarpone well together: it is the secret to the creaminess and silky texture of the cake.
- Soak the ladyfingers very briefly: when you dip the ladyfingers in the coffee do so very quickly. 1 second per side is my sweet spot.
- Use rich espresso coffee: If your coffee is watery (like filter coffee) your tiramisu’ is going to taste bland and soggy. Use espresso only!
- Be generous with the cream: In my recipe, there’s going to be some mascarpone/egg cream left over. Thank me later, after eating it with a spoon directly from the bowl.
The best Tiramisu flavours and combinations
Apart from the classic, there are many fantastic flavour combinations for Tiramisu.
In my family, we use the word Tiramisu to mean “any dessert that can be made by a layer of cookies, a layer of fluffy cream, and some bits of texture”
So once you have this concept in mind, why not experiment?
Here are some winning Tiramisu flavour combinations to get you started.
This version is so refreshing in the summer!
Dip the ladyfingers in milk and limoncello liquor. Add lemon zest and some more limoncello to the mascarpone and yolk cream. Garnish with lemon zest and mint.
Very cute looking pink Tiramisu!
Here, you can use strawberry milk or a mix of milk and limoncello to dip the ladyfingers.
Add lemon zest and strawberry jam to the mascarpone and yolk cream. I would also add a layer of freshly chopped strawberries for some texture.
Garnish with fresh strawberries and mint.
Probably my favourite flavour combo, I like to use almond milk to dip the ladyfingers.
Sometimes I’d add a splash to pistachio cream liquor if I feel fancy but you can easily omit it.
Add lemon zest and pistachio cream to the mascarpone and yolk. I would also add a layer of finely chopped pistachios for some crunch.
Garnish with roughly chopped pistachios.
Now that we have all the ingredients, all the knowledge, and all the insider tips, let’s make it!
Find my Tiramisu food photography and styling tips after the recipe 🙂
Best Authentic Italian Tiramisu
8 portions – 12×18 inches tray (30x20cm)
30 mins + 4h cooling (better if overnight)
- 750g (26oz) Mascarpone cheese
- 300g (10oz) Savoiardi biscuits (ladyfingers)
- 300ml (1+1/2 cup) coffee, room temperature
- 120g (4 oz) caster sugar
- 6 large super fresh eggs
- 50ml (4 Tbsp) Marsala, Baileys, Grand Marnier, Cointreau (optional but highly recommended)
- 2 Tbsp Dark cocoa powder
- OPTIONAL 50g (3 Tbsp) dark chocolate (you can also use chopped hazelnuts or almonds for some crunch)
- Make your coffee, preferably with an Italian moka or espresso machine.
Avoid watery coffee like filter coffee and go for something rich and strong like espresso.
- Pour the coffee into a shallow plate, add a couple of tsp of sugar, stir well and let cool to room temperature. Once cool add half the liquor, if using. Set aside.
- In two large bowls, carefully separate the yolks from the egg whites. The whites can’t have any traces of the yolk or they won’t whip properly. Put the whites in the fridge while you work with the yolks.
- Beat the egg yolks with half the sugar with an electric beater until they become light and fluffy.
- Slowly add the mascarpone to the yolk and sugar mixture with the whisk still on.
Add the remaining liquor if you wish.
Keep beating together until well combined, smooth and compact. Set aside.
- Clean the whisk very well and start beating the whites with a pinch of salt.
Once you get soft peaks, start incorporating the remaining half of the sugar. Keep whipping until you get stiff peaks (Turn the bowl upside down, if they don’t move they’re ready!)
- Take a spoonful of the egg whites and add to the yolk and mascarpone mixture. Mix energetically together.
- Add the remaining egg whites a little at a time and fold in gently with a spatula, incorporating air as you mix.
ASSEMBLE THE TIRAMISU
- Put a couple of generous spoonfuls of the mascarpone and egg cream on the bottom of the tray and spread it evenly.
- Quickly dip both sides of the ladyfingers in the coffee plate, like 1 second per side. Don’t leave them for too long or they’ll absorb too much coffee and become soggy.
- Dip the cookies one at a time and arrange them one next to the other over the mascarpone to create a layer.
- Cover the ladyfinger layer with abundant mascarpone cream, and spread evenly.
- (optional) You can now grate the dark chocolate or sprinkle the nuts on the mascarpone cream.
- Create another layer with the remaining ladyfingers dipped in coffee.
- Add the remaining mascarpone cream and level it well.
- Cover with foil and place in the fridge for at least 4h so all the flavours can “marry” together. We all know it tastes even better the day after so, if possible, leave overnight.
- Dust the top layer with the dark cocoa powder just before serving.
- Buon appetito!
Tiramisu food photography pro tips
Luckily, Tiramisu is an easy food to photograph. If you’re planning to shoot it, it’s especially important to prepare it ahead and leave it in the fridge overnight so the consistency can harden.
This will make sure you can cut a neat portion and it won’t lose its shape.
So, before you bring it out of the fridge, grab your camera and get a quick set-up ready:
- Find the best spot for light. If you’re in your home, you should be familiar with where that is.
If not, don’t worry! I wrote tips on how to improvise a food shoot wherever you are.
- Choose the background and props you’re going to use for your Tiramisu beforehand.
I recommend a small, flat, dessert plate or saucer.
Grab any additional props you want to use in your image like cutlery, napkins etc.
For this setup, I used a teaspoon and a coffee mug.
- Place all the elements on your background and create a composition.
You can already prepare stuff like coffee, a bowl of cocoa powder, a little icing sugar duster etc.
- Check your camera settings – set your aperture first. If you’re shooting without a tripod, set your shutter speed at the right speed to avoid camera shake, then set your ISO accordingly to achieve the exposure you want.
- Time to cut a slice of tiramisu, plate it and style it – read my food styling tips below!
- As soon as you’re happy with your subject, place it onto your set-up and start shooting away!
Frame the image as you envisioned, but also move around with your camera, see how your subject reacts to light and let your creativity free!
- If you want to go for the cocoa dusting shot, you need to adjust your camera settings as follows:
Set your camera on a tripod, increase your ISO and make your shutter speed faster.
Food styling tips for Tiramisu food photography
Let’s be honest, Tiramisu cake looks lovely regardless of how you plate it.
However, here are some top tips you can follow to make your Tiramisu look its best!
- Always take the tiramisu out of the fridge just before shooting.
- Dust the top with cocoa powder at the very last second or it will get wet and dark when you want it to look light and fluffy. You can even dust it after cutting it. This will give it a realistic sprinkle on the table and add a layer of interest.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the tiramisu. It’s very soft and easy to cut but because of this, it can get mushy and shapeless if you don’t use a sharp tool.
- Lift the slice nicely with a strong spatula and slide it carefully onto the plate.
- Sprinkle some more cocoa on top or around the plate to add texture and interest to the image.
- You can garnish with chunky bits of cocoa, coffee beans, and chopped nuts.
Prop styling and composition tips for Tiramisu
Use props in your tiramisu food photography to convey a complex story and add a narrative to your shot.
Here are some of the stories you can tell with your composition based on the elements and props you use.
- Plating story: Include the tray from which the slice was taken in the composition, alongside the plate with the slice. You can also include a dirty cake spatula in a corner to add more elements to the story.
- Dusting story: Apart from the action shot of the powder falling, you can also include the duster in a corner as well as a bowl of the cocoa powder you used.
PRO TIP: Leave some cocoa powder in the duster and let it spill out on the background for extra deliciousness.
- Eating story: Plate a slice nicely on a dessert plate, sprinkle it, and place a dessert fork or spoon on the plate next to the slice, on the backdrop, or on a napkin. Angle it on a diagonal.
Take a forkful of cake and then either hold the fork in the air or lay it on the plate.
This makes the shot interesting and interactive! The viewer can imagine themselves taking that spoonful and they will drool!
Where to eat the best authentic Tiramisu in Rome?
Well, my house, obviously.
You’re always welcome for some Tiramisu at Jules’!
If you’re willing to travel (and I recommend you do), then come to Rome for the best Tiramisu spots.
Pompi has been a Tiramisu institution in Rome for many years.
Apart from the classic coffee tiramisu, they’re famous for their quirky flavours like strawberry, pistacchio, banana/chocolate etc.
They have many stores around the city so you’re never too far from a slice of deliciousness!
Where to eat the best authentic Tiramisu in London?
Having lived in London for many years, I had to find some delicious tiramisu on this side of the Channel.
It’s a matter of survival, you see.
My favouritestest place for Italian food in London is La Mia Mamma
They “import” real mums from Italy and the atmosphere there is so magical that it feels like you’re in a proper Italian trattoria.
They have killer pasta too!
Actually, order everything – in the name of experimentation.
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