Does it have cream? How much coffee? What kind of booze? We take the mystery out of the tiramisu

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How to make a proper tiramisu

Photo: Martin Poole

The ultimate tiramisu: we rest our case

It’s estimated that crimes against the tiramisu occur once every five seconds in the UK. Here we present the most heinous offences that shook the kitchen ... as well as how to stop them from happening. 


First Count: for the white stuff

Prick up your ears, everyone. Because there's no cream in a real tiramisu. That's no cream. The white stuff is actually a mix of mascarpone, beaten egg and icing sugar. Mio Dio indeed.  


Second Count: for taking the biscuit

Was that you trying to sneak old McVitie's in there? Honestly. What you really need is Savoiardi biscuits. We know they sound posh but they're easily found in the supermarket – same aisle as Party Rings and Hobnobs you know.  


Third Count: for dishwater coffee

Tiramisu means "pick-me-up" for a reason so don't let us down. There's no need to go all artisan here. But weak, watery coffee is a definite no-no. 


Fourth Count: for being un ubriaco (that's a drunk btw)

Booze. It's easy to believe that less is less and more is more. But unless you want a sodden mess (and trust us, you don't), it's best to go easy. Marsala, Martini Rosso, port or brandy are the order of the day. We did try it with Amaretto which was pretty lovely – don't dob us in though.


Fifth Count: overdoing la dolce vita

Tiramisu is a grown-up pud so restrain yourself with the sugar. Tragedy can also strike right at the last minute with a hapless dusting of cheap drinking chocolate all over your masterpiece. Ma vaaaaaa. It's 70% cocoa solids please (grated over the top) or a demure coating of pure cocoa powder.


A smattering of chocolate-coated coffee beans is also permitted – but only for good behaviour.  

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Raspberries? The world's gone mad


Tiramisu: the real deal recipe

Here's what you've been waiting for – just like mama used to make (if she happens to be Italian of course).


What you need to serve 4:

4 eggs

200g icing sugar

500g mascarpone cheese

30 or so Savoiardi biscuits

Strong cold coffee (with a dash of Marsala or Amaretto if you like things boozy)

Cocoa powder


What to do:

  • Separate the egg yolks and egg whites. Mix the yolks with the icing sugar to make a smooth paste, then add the mascarpone and stir until smooth.
  • Beat the egg whites until stiff (best done with an electric mixer) then fold gently into the egg yolk mixture.
  • Dip the biscuits in the milky Marsala. Don't let them soak up too much liquid – they should still hold their shape.
  • Spread the bottom of a dish with a thin layer of the white mixture, then top with a layer of soaked biscuits. Cover with another layer of the white mixture then sprinkle with cocoa powder. Repeat these layers as required (usually 2 or 3) finishing with a cream layer on the top and a generous coating of cocoa powder (this final cream layer should be the thickest).
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Carry on convention or tradition be damned? Tell us what you think about messing around with classic recipes in the comments box below ...