Starting in the early-90s, you couldn’t go into an Italian restaurant in the Seattle area without finding “made in-house” tiramisu on the menu. These days, sadly, good restaurant tiramisu is difficult to find. (Mostly what’s offered appears to be mass produced.)

So I decided this past weekend, it would be fun to make a “made from scratch” tiramisu for our JazzVox guests. (I love that expression – made from scratch. I have used a lot of different ingredients in my 50 some years of cooking, but I have never found an ingredient that calls itself “scratch”! Is there something I’m missing here?)

Anyway, I first developed this recipe to serve along with 4 other desserts for Mr. C. and my wedding reception nearly 25 years ago. I searched through many Italian cookbooks at the time, taking a little bit from each recipe until I came up with my own version.

Now the first thing you will notice is that mascarpone is not one of the ingredients in my version. That’s because 25 years ago in Bellevue, to the best of my knowledge, the only shop that sold mascarpone was DeLaurenti’s on Bellevue Way. And at the time, a small container was over the top expensive. However, thankfully, while I was researching Tiramisu, I happened upon a recipe for homemade mascarpone, which of course I used. (I mean, I truly loved each and every one of the 40 some people who attended our wedding. But there is a dollar limit to how much I am willing to spend, even if there is no limit to my love!) So I used the fake replacement version for my wedding dessert, and have been using it ever since.

Grappa brandy is another ingredient which I use that differs from the standard.  Grappa is alcohol which is made by distilling pomace, the leftovers of winemaking. (Think grape seeds, skins, stems, a few leaves, the random bug carcass, etc.) But for whatever reason I started with grappa, and now find absolutely no reason to change to the more traditional coffee liqueur, rum, amaretto, or Marsala.

Grappa has a strong, unsweetened flavor, and I feel it works perfectly to offset all the sugar in this dessert. Oh, I should mention that I do use a bit of coffee liqueur in the whipped cream frosting, which I believe qualifies my tiramisu to remain in the “almost traditional” category, that is, if anyone is tracking that sort of statistic.

In conclusion, if you want to make a dessert that will pamper not only your own taste buds, but those of the others you graciously decide to favor with your culinary expertise, make your own tiramisu. You won’t be sorry, and neither will your family or friends.

  • 12-oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 T. + 3 c. whipping cream, divided
  • ¼ c. sour cream
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. strong espresso, room temperature
  • 2 T. grappa brandy
  • about 50 ladyfingers (Savoiardi)*  
  • 2 T. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. Kahlua (or other coffee flavored liqueur)
  • 4 oz. good semi-sweet chocolate, shaved

Whip together the cream cheese, 6 tablespoons of the whipping cream, and sour cream. Set aside. (This is homemade mascarpone cheese.)

On low speed, mix the sugar and egg yolks together for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and beat on high for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is pale yellow and sheets off the paddle/beaters when lifted. Reduce speed to low and add “mascarpone” 1 large tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. After the last addition, beat for 2 minutes, cover bowl, and refrigerate until thickened, about 60 minutes.

After mixture has thickened, whip 2 cups of the whipping cream to soft peaks and gently fold into the mascarpone cream filling. Return to refrigerator and chill for at least an hour.

In a high-sided dish large enough to hold a third of the ladyfingers in a single layer, spread about a cup of the filling evenly over the bottom. (Remove the dry ladyfingers first.) Mix the room temperature espresso with the grappa brandy in a small shallow bowl. Quickly dip both sides of the ladyfingers you have just removed from the dish in the espresso mixture and place them over the layer of cream filling. Gently pat each ladyfinger to make sure it is well “seated” into the cream mixture. Spoon 1/3rd of the mascarpone cream filling over the lady fingers. Repeat process 2 more times with layers of dipped lady fingers and cream filling. Gently pat all over. When done, lick your fingers before washing them in soap and water. Place dish in the refrigerator while you prepare the topping.

Whip the last cup of whipping cream to stiff peaks. Add the powdered sugar and Kahlua. Remove the dish from the refrigerator and frost with the Kahlua flavored whipped cream. Sprinkle with shaved chocolate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

*I buy Roland (made in Italy) ladyfingers at Cash & Carry. I’ve tried twice making my own ladyfingers. But both times they turned out too soft and spongy. I didn’t use them either time because I knew they would turn to mush in this recipe and my tiramisu would be too watery.


Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks