Not-Too-Boozy Tiramisu

Tiramisu is the sort of dessert I love, but yet rarely order. It’s so often disappointing in restaurants – this statement makes me sound like I’m at an Italian restaurant a few nights a week – but isn’t it? And I’m pretty sure the bad ones have just as many calories. Tiramisu is also the sort of thing I never think of making. There don’t seem to be many occasions that scream for tiramisu.

And yet, it’s so tasty when done well, and you get that bonus coffee hit at the end of the meal, too. And so when Sue’s sister Holly, whom I’ve known since Junior High and now that I think about it was responsible for introducing me to Mike, called out for help via Facebook, I was happy to take on the tiramisu challenge. She’s planning to make tiramisu for Christmas dinner dessert, but all recipes seemed too complicated, too raw-eggy or too boozy. Good news! You can totally ditch the booze if you like. Or at least replace it with coffee or Kahlua – or Bailey’s! Something you have on hand.. I never have Marsala in the house anyway.

You’ll need a package of these. And some mascarpone – a rich, creamy Italian cream cheese – although depending on who’s eating it, you could get away with plain old cream cheese. Call it cheesecake tiramisu and they’ll let you off the hook for its inauthenticity.

Tonight we’re having an evening of Christmas caroling with drinks and dessert at my mom’s – as good an excuse as any to take tiramisu for a spin, don’t you think? As I made it I realized what a great idea it is for Christmas dinner dessert – kinda special, unusual, great for a crowd, and since it has to be chilled for at least 6 hours, perfect to make ahead, or take with you if you’re tasked with providing dessert elsewhere. You don’t need to even worry about whipping the cream for the top of your pie or whatever you’ve made in advance – it’s all just done. Brilliant!

It’s not too tough to make, either. You start with some egg yolks, and in this version beat them with sugar and Marsala or coffee in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. It’ll start out looking like this:

And five minutes later, look like this. Then you beat in the mascarpone, and fold it into your whipped cream. Voilà! You can do it. Try not to eat it all straight from the bowl.

Then make some coffee – instant is fine – and stir in some Kahlua or Tia Maria or rum or something. Find a dish that will fit 12 ladyfingers in the bottom. (A package has 24, and you’ll need two layers.)

Dip the ladyfingers into the coffee – quickly, don’t let them soak or they’ll start to fall apart – and then lay them into the bottom of the dish. Top with half your cream mixture, then another layer of dipped ladyfingers, and the rest of the cream. That’s it.

Smooth the top, and sprinkle with cocoa powder. I like to use a tea spoon (like a tea ball – the kind you fill with loose tea and set in your mug of boiling water) – spoon out some cocoa and shake it overtop. Works like a charm.

Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours, or up to a day. Then all you need to do is uncover and eat.

Merry Christmas Holly! Thanks for the Mike.

Tiramisu 1
Tiramisu 1


Recipe link


December 22, 2011

adapted from Gourmet, January 2009

  • Makes: Serves 8-10.


1 Tbsp. instant espresso

1/2 cup sugar, divided

2 Tbsp. Kahlua or Tia Maria

3 large egg yolks

1/3 cup dry Marsala or cooled coffee

1 1/2-2 cups mascarpone (or soft cream cheese)

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

24 savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers - one package)

cocoa, for dusting


1Stir the espresso powder and about 1 Tbsp. of the sugar into 1 cup of boiling (or at least very hot) water. Stir in the Kahlua and pour into a shallow bowl-one you can dip the ladyfingers in.

2In a glass or stainless steel bowl set over a pot of simmering water, beat the egg yolks, remaining sugar and coffee or Marsala on high speed for 5-8 minutes, until the mixture pales and triples in volume. Remove from heat and beat in the mascarpone or cream cheese. It will deflate the egg yolk mixture somewhat - don't worry - just get the lumps of cheese out.

3In another bowl, beat the cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the mascarpone mixture.

4Get out a dish that will accommodate 12 ladyfingers in the bottom, and then dip each ladyfinger into the coffee mixture, then lay it in the bottom of the dish. Lay 12 in the bottom, then top with half the mascarpone mixture. Add another layer of dipped ladyfingers, then the rest of the mascarpone mixture, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with cocoa, cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to a day.

5Let the tiramisu stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving it (the flavour is better if it's not so cold), and if you need to, dust again with cocoa.

Makes: Serves 8-10.

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16 comments on “Not-Too-Boozy Tiramisu

  1. Jen
    December 22, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    The Italian Center in Edmonton makes a pretty amazing (and beautiful) Tiramisu.

    • JulieVR
      December 23, 2011 at 12:12 am

      Oooh.. will have to give that a try!

  2. Avery
    December 22, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    It sounds like I’ve had as many bad tiramisus as you have, but when it’s done well it’s SO good! My favourite was a not-so-traditional one they used to make at 4th St. Rose (remember that?); served in a thin almond cookie cone. Num.

  3. Trinh
    December 22, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Im actually making this tomorrow! Made my own mascarpone from heavy cream, heated over a double boiler with lemon juice, and then strain with a sieve layered with many layers of damp cheese cloth. Took about 24 hr to firm in the fridge, but it’s a good way to use up heavy cream that was a couple of days from its best before.

    • JulieVR
      December 23, 2011 at 12:07 am

      What a brilliant idea! Must give that a try sometime!

  4. Heather
    December 22, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    I had a really good vanilla tiramisu in Victoria once. It was amazing.

  5. KathyG
    December 23, 2011 at 3:40 am

    OK, I’ll show my lack of sophistication: I don’t think I’ve _ever_ eaten a tiramisu that disappointed me. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.

  6. RLW
    December 23, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I used to make one with Sambuca and raspberries back in the day. Maybe it’s time to trot it out again.

  7. Angie
    December 24, 2011 at 12:25 am

    Amaretto liquer makes an amazing tiramisu

  8. Erica B.
    December 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Mmmm tiramisu – ok this is going on my (longer by the day)must make list. Merry Christmas!

  9. Rebecca
    December 26, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Made this for dessert at last night’s Xmas dinner and it was YUMMY! Thanks for the recipe and the inspiration for trying a new dessert.

  10. holly
    December 27, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    This was a hit for Christmas – my guests couldn’t believe I’d never made it before. I think Ali’s new stovetop espresso maker helped, because the espresso was DYNAMITE. But we did have a funny ‘incident’ while making the custard. It seemed to be taking a while, so Ali turned up speed on the mixer. The next part happened in slowmo: The bowl began to spin in the water and the mixture started creeping up the sides of the bowl, until a goodly portion of it spun right out of onto the stovetop, the floor, us…. It was a lesson well-learned! And the tiramisu was a hit anyway.

  11. LindaC
    December 28, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    You have just given me the gift of validation! I made a raspberry tiramisu last year for Christmas dinner (essentially the same as your recipe, but I threw some raspberries on top of the mascarpone mixture, and used brandy instead of marsala, then decorated it with shaved chocolate and more raspberries. It was a hit, so I made it again this year – a great make-ahead, and totally decadent. It may be a new Christmas tradition for our family.

  12. sippitysup
    December 31, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Of course you could just go ahead and make it “too boozy”. After all it is New Years. Hope it’s happy. GREG

  13. Ashley
    January 2, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    What an excellent use of a tea spoon!! I’m going to have to try that.

  14. olga lopez
    January 3, 2012 at 6:25 am

    wow what a yummy recipe.

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