Double boil egg yolks: Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a heat–safe bowl. Set over a pan with simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water!) and simmer, whisking constantly, for 5-10 minutes or until slightly thickened and lighter in color, reaching 160°F. Take bowl off the pan and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Combine egg yolks and mascarpone: Once cooled, place in large mixing bowl with mascarpone. Using a whisk (NOT an electric mixer!), whisk until combined and smooth.
Fold in whipped cream (and optionally beaten egg whites): Whip heavy cream to medium peaks (and egg whites to stiff peaks, if using). Carefully fold whipped cream into mascarpone cream. If using pasteurized egg whites, fold in ⅓ of whipped egg whites first to slack down mixture, then very gently fold in remaining ⅔.
Assemble and chill: Combine coffee and Marsala in shallow dish. Quickly dip ladyfingers in coffee mixture (do not soak, only dip; see notes for tips) and evenly arrange one layer of dipped ladyfingers in 9x13 inch pan. Cover with half of the mascarpone cream. Repeat layers, then chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours, better overnight.
Serve: Dust top with cocoa powder right before serving.
Ladyfingers: The ladyfingers you need for Tiramisu are dry, hard biscuits (called Savoiardi in Italian). You should be able to source them in a larger grocery store. If you really desperately want to make Tiramisu and don’t have access to ladyfingers at all, you can try using sponge cake. Cut it into ½ inch thick strips. You can bake them at 350°F for 10 minutes to dry them out a little, but it’s not mandatory. The texture will not be the same as with ladyfingers, but it’s the only substitute I have tried that came close to the original.
Mascarpone: Make sure to drain any lingering liquid from your Mascarpone (it usually collects at the bottom) for best results. If you do not have access to Mascarpone cheese, my sister in law uses cream cheese as a substitute when she’s at her parents who live far from a large grocery store. It’s an acceptable substitute if you’re OK with not making the most authentic-tasting Tiramisu out there. At the very least, nobody has ever complained to her about it 😉
Heavy whipping cream: You must use cream from a carton that says “Heavy Whipping Cream”. If you use anything else, the recipe will not work.
Coffee: You must use very strong coffee for the Tiramisu to have the best taste. Either make a full 2 cups of Espresso, or at the very least make a very strong brew. Otherwise, there will not be enough coffee flavor. The recipe also works when you make a strong coffee with Instant coffee granules.
Alcohol: The classic alcohol in Tiramisu is Marsala. If you don’t have access to Marsala, dark rum is a great substitute. If you want to add a flavour twist, coffee liquor, Grand Marnier or Amaretto are also very delicious. If you avoid alcohol, you can skip it. The Tiramisu will not have its authentic flavor, but it is still very delicious. I do not make my Tiramisu overly boozy as-is, because I want to keep it about the layered flavors and not about getting drunk by eating your dessert. Too much alcohol in Tiramisu can make it taste soapy and unpleasant.
Egg whites: Authentic Tiramisu is made with raw whipped egg whites. I choose to add two whipped egg whites from pasteurized eggs to my Tiramisu because it adds a little extra aeration to the cream and makes the Tiramisu taste lighter and more authentically Italian. I understand not everyone wants to go hunt for pasteurized eggs, so the recipe works perfectly without them. They are just an extra-extra you can add if you’re after perfection.
When double boiling the egg yolks, make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. You only need an inch or so of water in the pan, do not overfill it or your eggs may scramble. Only use a low simmer as well, otherwise your eggs will cook too fast and again, scramble.
Make sure to double boil your egg yolks long enough, 5-10 minutes while continually whisking. According to the USDA, the mixture needs to reach a temperature of 160°F.
Do not use an electric mixer when working with the mascarpone. Only use a whisk, wooden spoon or rubber spatula to handle it. Otherwise, it may become runny and ruin your Tiramisu.
Beat the cream to medium peaks. If you under-beat it, the cream will be too runny. If you over-beat it, you’ll make butter! It should be very thick and fluffy and around double in volume.
If using the pasteurized egg whites, make sure to whip them to stiff peaks. Make sure there is no lingering liquid egg white at the bottom of your bowl, or the cream filling may turn out too runny.
To help evenly fold in the whipped egg whites without knocking out too much air, fold in ⅓ more vigorously at first before gently folding in the rest.
To best dip your ladyfingers in coffee:
use room temperature coffee, not hot coffee!
work with one ladyfinger at a time
hold the ladyfinger around the middle
dip the rounded/sugary side into the coffee mix for 3 zero counts
quickly turn the ladyfinger around and dip the bottom into the coffee mix for 2 zero counts
immediately place the dipped ladyfinger, rounded/sugary side up in the pan
The Tiramisu is best after chilling in the refrigerator for 12 hours, although if you’re in a hurry, you can serve it after 6 hours. It may not yet be slice-able and you may need to spoon it out. If you know you only have a few hours for chilling available, it may be better to assemble individual Tiramisus in small dishes (wine glasses, individual Trifle glasses or just wide drinking glasses all look great).
The Tiramisu needs to be refrigerated at all times, except when you remove it for serving. If you have any leftovers in the pan after serving, immediately refrigerate them again!You can store the Tiramisu in the fridge for up to 3 days. Cover the pan with plastic wrap to keep fridge odors away.