Famous around the world for its delightful coffee flavor and creamy smooth taste, tiramisu is one of Italy’s most well-loved desserts. Most people order it when they go to their favorite Italian restaurant, but this recipe is so easy you can start making it at home. Its name means pick-me-up and indeed, one bite of tiramisu is sure to turn anyone’s day around with a kick of coffee, sugar and creamy mascarpone goodness.
Unlike regular tiramisu, which is usually made in a large flat dish or in individual small bowls, this one is made of cake layers in a round springform cake pan and chilled so that it can be cut into slices and served just like a regular cake.
What kitchen equipment is needed?
These are all the items you’ll need for this easy tiramisu cake that is shaped like a cake and is perfect for birthdays or other special occasions.
20 cm / 8 in spring form cake pan
offset spatula (optional)
several large, medium and small bowls
espresso coffee maker
stand mixer (optional)
Coffee flavored tiramisu with cake layers requires no baking and you will be able to put it together in under 30 minutes. However, the layer cake does need to be chilled in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours, so be sure to make the cake ahead of time, we recommend the day before you want to serve it.
What ingredients are needed for tiramisu cake?
A few delicious ingredients are all you will need to make this easy tiramisu layer cake.
Ladyfingers (250 gr / 0.5 lb) – used for each cake layer, these lightweight, finger-shaped cookies are a fantastic way to create a no-bake tiramisu cake with layers. You can probably find the Savoiardi cookies at an Italian deli or online or use an American brand of ladyfingers if you prefer. Or follow our easy recipe for homemade lady fingers.
Strong coffee (1-2 cups) – you can make your espresso in a Moka coffee machine or with an espresso maker (you will need to make about 6-8 espresso coffees to get one cup of liquid). Then place the coffee in the fridge to cool so it is chilled when you use it to dip the cookies into to create that coffee-flavored goodness tiramisu is known for.
Mascarpone cheese (500 gr / 1.1 lb) – at room temperature. Mascarpone cheese looks a lot like cream cheese, in fact it is a fresh cheese made with cows milk with cream of tartar added so that it thickens into a creamy, smooth cheese. If you are not able to find mascarpone cheese you can substitute with the same amount of cream cheese.
Sweetened heavy whipping cream (150 gr / 0.3 lb) – this recipe calls for sweetened heavy whipping cream but if you just have unsweetened heavy cream you can add 1-2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar when you whip it to make it sweet. If you don’t have powdered sugar or confectioners sugar, you can blend granulated sugar for several minutes until it is fine.
Egg yolks (2) – at room temperature. Because you will not be cooking the eggs, we highly recommend purchasing eggs that have been pasteurized so that you can safely consume them uncooked. Pasteurized eggs clearly state they are pasteurized on the label.
Egg white (1) – use the freshest eggs possible.
White sugar (100 gr / 0.2 lb) – you will need white sugar and if you are sweetening the heavy cream yourself you will also need some powdered sugar or confectioners sugar.
Marsala wine, liqueur or vanilla extract (1 dash) – Italians claim a dash of Marsala or liqueur takes the “eggy” taste out of tiramisu and we agree. Vanilla extract works just as well for this purpose.
Unsweetened cocoa powder (2 tablespoons) – if you don’t like the bitter taste of unsweetened cocoa powder then sweetened cocoa powder is fine too. If you want to mix things up, you could skip the cocoa powder and instead decorate the top with mini chocolate chips.
How to make this recipe step by step
If you follow these step-by-step instructions your tiramisu cake is sure to come out not only delicious but beautiful as well.
Make strong coffee and set aside to cool in the fridge.
Separate the yolks from the egg whites into a small bowl.
With an electric hand mixer with whisk attachment (or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment), whip one egg white with 40 grams of sugar at medium speed until stiff peaks form and set aside photo 1.
In a separate medium bowl, whip the yolks with the rest of the sugar until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is thick and drizzles down slowly from a spoon and set aside photo 2.
In another medium bowl, beat mascarpone with the Marsala until it is creamy and set aside photo 3.
And in a fourth large bowl, whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer until very firm. Fold it gently into the mascarpone photo 4-5.
Now slowly pour the egg yolk mixture into the mascarpone and gently fold it in. The mixture should be stiff, go slowly until it is fully mixed photo 6.
Still folding gently from bottom to top, add the stiff egg white and blend in completely without “deflating” the mixture. The final outcome should be very dense photo 7.
Take out your 20-cm spring form pan. Remove the chilled coffee from the fridge and pour into a bowl for dipping if you haven’t already.
Quickly dip both sides of each ladyfinger into the coffee photo 8 and then arrange all the lady fingers on the bottom of the spring form pan as a cake base. When necessary, you can cut the ladyfingers with a knife so that they are the right length, being sure to not leave any spaces photo 9.
Add a layer of the mascarpone cream mixture to form the cake layers photo 10.
Repeat the process again by adding another cake layer of ladyfingers dipped in espresso and another cake layer of the cream that you spread evenly and then smooth down the top of the cream photo 11. You should have leftover cream that you will need to set aside for decorating the top of the cake the next day (leave it covered in the fridge).
Cover the tiramisu cake with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours or chill overnight photo 12.
Remove the cake from the fridge. With a knife, carefully trace around the cake to loosen it from the edges of the springform pan, then open and remove the top.
With a very wide knife or offset spatula, cut underneath the cake layer to loosen it from the base and then transfer it by sliding it carefully onto a serving plate photo 13. If the cake is too soft to transfer, put it in the freezer for 30 minutes and try again.
Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining mascarpone cream using a pastry bag, adding a layer of round or teardrop looking dollops of cream until you evenly cover the top photo 14.
Finally, decorate the top with a dusting of cocoa powder by putting the powder in a small sieve and gently tapping the side as you move over the cake.
Cut into individual slices and serve immediately. Absolutely delicious!
Expert tips for making tiramisu cake
Fold in from the bottom slowly. The key to making this recipe successfully, and not having a runny cream mixture, is to whip each mixture sufficiently and then to slowly fold the ingredients together from the bottom up. If you are in a rush you will “deflate” the entire cream mixture and end up with a runny mess or have to start over.
Cool the tiramisu cake completely! Be sure to wait for the tiramisu cake to fully chill in the fridge, preferably leaving it overnight for the best outcome.
Do the cream cake layers with a pastry bag. If you want really even layers that look nice aesthetically, you can put the mascarpone frosting into a pastry bag without a tip and squeeze out a uniform layer to cover the ladyfinger cookies. You can leave the remaining filling in the bag to then decorate the top of the cake with the mascarpone frosting the next day after it has chilled.
Try other no-bake recipes:
Variations of tiramisu cake
Substitute Marsala with liqueur or vanilla flavor. You can substitute the Marsala with your favorite type of liqueur, even coffee liqueur if you love the taste and want your tiramisu to be extra coffee-y. Some tiramisu recipes call for dark rum, which can really be delicious. We also love making this tiramisu recipe with vanilla extract if you want to skip the liquor altogether.
Not a coffee lover? You can substitute the coffee with the same amount of barley coffee, which has a slightly nutty taste and is naturally caffeine-free. Or you can substitute with the same amount of any type of milk you like, such as lightly sweetened cows milk, coconut milk, almond milk or chocolate milk. You can add a little sugar, but don’t overdo it because you don’t want your tiramisu cake to turn out overly sweet.
Genoise or sponge cake instead of ladyfingers. Some recipes call for making a genoise or sponge cake to use instead of lady fingers in this layered cake. You can follow a separate recipe to prepare the genoise or sponge cake. You will need to preheat oven, cook until the toothpick inserted comes out clean and then let the cake cool completely at room temp on a wire rack covered with parchment paper.Once the cake is cool, you will need to follow our instructions for creating the layered cake below, with layers of cake and creamy filling. You can consider using coffee syrup instead of regular coffee with the sponge cake and drizzle it on top of each sponge cake layer. Once the cake is on a serving plate, it can be decorated with mascarpone frosting and cocoa powder. Consider adding some whipped cream even and serving at room temperature. Happy baking!
How long will tiramisu cake keep?
Tiramisu should be kept in an airtight container no longer than 1-2 days in the refrigerator because of the raw eggs and also because the cake layers can turn mushy and runny when kept too long.
How should I store tiramisu cake?
You can store tiramisu cake in the refrigerator for 1-2 days in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap, but be sure not to squash the cake layers or the mascarpone frosting. It can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month and then defrosted in the fridge for several hours and served cold with a new dusting of cocoa powder on top of the mascarpone frosting.