Patience, Time and Tiramisu

Tiramisu translated means to “pick me up”. This rich decadent Italian dessert is a creation of love and passion. When you take a bite of Tiramisu, you almost always have to close your eyes to experience the flavors. Custard, coffee, marsala, chocolate.

This recipe is not for the faint of heart. It’s delicious and well worth the time and effort. But I warn you…roll up your sleeves and be prepared, this decadent Italian dessert is why people fall in love with Italy, coffee and life. The process is so worth the rewards and why not give it a try? Italians love food and linger long into the night eating, drinking wine and ending a beautiful meal with something special. There is always room for dessert. So what’s the rush?

The first time I made Tiramisu, was with traditional lady fingers. It was good. But then, I ran across a recipe with a twist, a chocolate sponge cake.

Step I

Chocolate Sponge Cake

  • Servings: 4-6 when assembled
  • Print

Spongy, chocolatey, airy goodness. The perfect layer for this Tiramisu


  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line baking sheet 15 x 10 with parchment paper. Grease and flour the paper and sides of pan, set pan aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder,1teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer on high speed about 4 minutes or until thick and lemon colored. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture; beat on low speed just until combined.
  5. In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup milk and 2 tablespoons of butter. Heat and stir until butter melts. Add to batter along with 1 teaspoon vanilla, beating until combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake about 15 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen sides of cake from pan and turn cake out onto a clean kitchen towel sprinkled with cocoa powder. Carefully remove paper and discard. Cool sponge cake completely.

This is your layer for the Tiramisu!

Next is the filling!

Have you ever tasted a recipe that stops you in your tracks? This one did. It’s a Chocolate Zabaglione in Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian cookbook. This is where I got my inspiration to make Tiramisu. Once you taste-test this Chocolate Zabaglione you may need to sit down. It’s life changing. Just remember to save some for the actual Tiramisu.

Step II

Chocolate Zabaglione

Typically not chocolate, but this custard is perfect warm or cold


  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup dry Marsala
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt


  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the cream just to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside and keep warm.
  2. Fill a large saucepan with enough water to come 2 inches up the sides of the pan, and bring to a simmer. In a large metal bowl, whisk the sugar, Marsala, egg yolks, and salt to blend. Set the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water (do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water). Whisk the egg mixture constantly until it is thick and creamy and a thermometer inserted into the mixture registers 160 degrees F, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Cover the zabaglione with plastic wrap making sure the wrap lays directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate to cool.

This Zabaglione is made with Marsala wine. Marsala is a fortified wine and is typically used in rich Italian desserts.

Grab a spoon and taste!

The Assembly

Chocolate Tiramisu

Make the day before so the sponge cake will have time to absorb all the flavors


  • 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese soften
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar – divided
  • Chocolate Zabaglione cold
  • 2 cups espresso cold
  • sponge cake cut to fit loaf pan


  1. In a large bowl, stir the mascarpone cheese just until smooth. (do not overmix or mascarpone will become stiff)
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream and 1/3 cup of the sugar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold the sweetened whipped cream into the mascarpone, then fold in the chocolate zabaglione. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. Line a 9×5 inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing plastic to extend over the sides. In another medium bowl, whisk the espresso and remaining 1/3 cup sugar to blend
  4. Place one slice of sponge cake into the bottom of loaf pan. Brush generously with espresso. Spoon one third of the mascarpone mixture over the sponge cake to cover. Repeat layering sponge cake, brush with coffee, top with mascarpone mixture two additional times ending with a sponge cake on top. Brush top with remaining espresso. Cover the tiramisu with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to one day.
  5. Unwrap plastic from the top of the tiramisu. Invert tiramisu onto a platter and remove bottom plastic . Sift lightly with cocoa over the tiramisu and serve.

Time, Patience and Tiramisu.

So much love goes into this dessert. You will be making it for years to come.

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