Giovanna’s Family Secret Tiramisu Recipe

Tiramisu is possibly the best food in the world. Sweet, cold, creamy, with the bite of coffee and liquor. But I rarely have it, and almost never make it. I’ve found that restaurants in the U.S. get something wrong (not sure what it is—too bready? flavor’s off?) and while actually making tiramisu isn’t difficult, finding the right ingredients IS.

Giovanna's family tiramisu recipe, learned it from my host mom when studying abroad

My host mom from when I studied abroad, Giovanna, was the best cook, and gave me her family’s recipes for her pasta con pesto and tiramisu. And all of the sudden last Saturday night, I got it in my head that I HAD to make it for dinner the next evening. However, none of the stores had lady fingers (I called around), so I made my own. See separate post, the recipe I used is here. It was surprisingly easy. Or you could substitute madeleines or pound cake or angel food cake (the first would be better than the other two).

tiramisu finished

tiramisu finished2

I even made myself my own little personal-size serving in a cute little ramekin that I could eat that night! 

tiramisu eggs separated

Separate the egg yolks and whites VERY carefully. If you get any yolk in the egg whites, they won’t set up when beaten.

tiramisu eggs sugar

Place the 5 egg yolks in a food processor with 5 large spoonfuls of sugar.

tiramisu mascarpone

Add the mascarpone and a little lemon juice.

tiramisu mascarpone creamy mixture

Blend until smooth and creamy.

tiramisu egg white whipped

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a tiny bit of salt with a hand mixer until stiff and glossy, like you would for a meringue or souffle.

tiramisu egg whites & mascarpone combined

In another bowl, GENTLY fold together the creamy mixture with the whipped egg whites until combined. I use a rubber spatula and just slowly scoop down under the mixture, then fold back over it.

tiramisu ladyfingers coffee pan

In a small bowl or flat dish, pour hot, strong coffee (or espresso) and some liquor, preferably flavored. I use kahlua most often, but you could use whatever you want (Grand Marnier, amaretto, etc.). Add a tiny bit more sugar as well. Get your ladyfingers ready. Ladyfingers are the hardest part of this recipe to locate, so if you can’t (and you can’t find a good substitute like madeleines), you can quite easily make your own—I did. Recipe here.

Take the ladyfingers and briefly dip them in the coffee mixture, then lay them down in the dish you’re using for the tiramisu. Set down a layer of soaked ladyfingers to begin with.

tiramisu first layer complete

Next, scoop a layer of the creamy mixture all over the ladyfingers and smooth it out.

tiramisu second layer ladyfingers

Now another layer of ladyfingers.

tiramisu second layer complete

And another layer of cream. See how easy this is???

tiramisu finished3

If you’re serving right away, sprinkle some cocoa powder on top (I sprinkle it through a sieve to get that nice even spread). If you’re not serving right away (which I recommend), put in the fridge for however long you need, a couple hours are best. Don’t sprinkle the cocoa until you’re ready to serve (it gets really dark and soaked in otherwise).

tiramisu finished4

tiramisu finished closeup2

The next part’s the easiest—DEVOUR. I love this stuff so much, might be my favorite food ever.

Giovanna’s Tiramisu

  • 500 grams of mascarpone (two of the small containers)
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 5 big spoonfuls (like serving spoon, not teaspoon) of sugar
  • Strong coffee or espresso
  • A little dessert wine or liqueur (like a shot’s worth; I used kahlua)
  • 1 or 2 packages of ladyfingers (or biscotti in a pinch, but it’s much harder); recipe here if you need it
  • A tiny bit of lemon juice
  • A tiny bit more sugar

Separate the egg yolks and whites. Put the 5 yolks and the 5 big spoonfuls of sugar in a mixer (or food processor) and blend. Add the mascarpone and a tiny bit of lemon juice, and blend well. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a little salt with a hand mixer until stiff (like you would for a meringue or souffle). Gently and slowly fold the egg whites into the cream mixture with a rubber spatula (do it gently so you don’t deflate the egg whites).

In a flat bowl, mix the espresso/coffee, liqueur/dessert wine, and a little sugar.  Dip the ladyfingers into this mixture and layer in a pan (this makes the equivalent of an 8×8 pan. Spread some cream mixture on top. Layer more soaked ladyfingers on top, more cream, etc. Top layer should be cream, and you can sprinkle/sift some cocoa on top. If necessary, refrigerate overnight (in this case I wouldn’t put the cocoa on until you’re ready to serve. Serve cold.

Easy, authentic tiramisu...not as hard as you think, & feels so fancy



  1. Chowder then dessert! YUM Thanks


  2. Reblogged this on Living and Lovin.


  3. Tiramisu is one of my favourites, unfortunately nobody else in the family is that keen on it, so I usually only have it if I go out for something to eat.


  4. Looks perfect! Thanks for the recipe! I make a shortcut version but I am sure this is better!


  5. Mmm, my favorite! I’m definitely going to try this version!


  6. petit4chocolatier says:

    One of my favorites and this looks scrumptious!!


  7. Now, that’ looks like the tiramisu I like – no wonder it never tastes right ‘out’ – they always drown it in chocolate!


  8. Do you soak the second layer of ladyfingers as well?



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