Tiramisu is a dessert that no one can resist, even the people who don’t necessarily have a sweet tooth. And that’s what makes this recipe perfect; the flavors work heavenly together. The crisp ladyfinger biscuits, bitter coffee, toasted rum, and sweet mascarpone create a beautiful symphony of flavors that I personally can’t get enough of.

What is Tiramisu?

The name itself, tiramisu, translates to “pick me up” in Italian. This refers to the two caffeinated ingredients that are present in the dessert: espresso and cocoa. 

Tiramisu is a coffee flavored Italian dessert. It is made by dipping ladyfingers in coffee and rum, layering a whipped mixture of mascarpone cheese, eggs, and sugar, and topped with a thin layer of cocoa powder.

It’s said that it originated in Veneto, the northeastern region of Italy, in early 1970s at the restaurant Le Beccherie in Treviso.

So, unlike sfogliatelle which were invented in the 17th century or cannoli which were invented somewhere between 827-1091 AD , tiramisu isn’t one most sacred of Italian desserts. It wasn’t introduced into American restaurants until the 1980s.

That being said, it has never gone away. It would be nearly impossible to find an Italian restaurant that doesn’t (rightfully) have tiramisu on the menu for dessert.

Now, although tiramisu is a classic recipe, it doesn’t mean it’s extremely hard to make. Actually, it only takes a couple of ingredients.

Mascarpone, egg yolk, & sugar

The creamy filling that goes in between the layers of soaked ladyfingers is a mixture of mascarpone, egg yolk, and sugar. Just like the ladyfingers or coffee, mascarpone cheese is one of the ingredients you cannot leave out of this recipe. It has a similar texture to cream cheese, sour cream, ricotta, and whipped cream, yet it is so incredible different from them all.

Mascarpone is an Italian soft cheese made from cream. It’s American counterpart is, not surprisingly, cream cheese. But trust and believe that these are very different things. While similar in look and application, American cream cheese is firmer and has a stronger taste than its Italian counterpart. Mascarpone has a looser, velvety texture, and mildly sweet flavor.

In short, mascarpone cheese is way less tangy than the stuff you put on your bagel. If you can’t get your hands on any, try any of the ingredients with similar textures listed above.

The ladyfingers

Ladyfingers are sweet, light, dry, egg-based, sponge biscuits. They are called ladyfingers because they are kinda shaped like fingers and they are notorious for being an essential ingredient in tiramisu. Ladyfingers can be eaten as is, but they really shine in recipes where they are soaked in a syrup or other liquid. So, without a shadow of a doubt, this is the kind of cookie that goes great in tiramisus. Find my full recipe for ladyfingers here.


Since this is a coffee flavored dessert, you want to make sure you are using good quality coffee. I used espresso coffee from an actual espresso machine, but a stove top espresso maker works well too. And if you can’t get your hands on either, just make sure you’re using a good quality coffee brand.


The best rum for tiramisu is dark rum. Light rum has the same sweet but subtle flavor as dark rum. It even has just as much alcohol by volume as dark rum. So, what’s the difference and why should you use dark? Well, dark rum isn’t filtered and bottled right after being distilled. Instead they are aged in charred oak or wooden barrels for a period of time, and this is where they end up developing a darker color and a bolder flavor.

In short, to make the most flavorful tiramisu you’re going to want to use dark rum.

And those are all the ingredients you will need to make a traditional Italian tiramisu. Check out my video recipe below.

Traditional Italian Tiramisu Recipe

Franchesca Livraghi
Tiramisu is a dessert that no one can resist, even the people who don't necessarily have a sweet tooth. And that's what makes this recipe perfect; the flavors work heavenly together. The crisp ladyfinger biscuits, bitter coffee, toasted rum, and sweet mascarpone create a beautiful symphony if flavors that I personally can't get enough of.
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Chill Time 4 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people
Calories 557 kcal


  • Double boiler
  • Baking dish
  • 2 bowls
  • Whisk
  • Hand mixer
  • Spoon
  • Spatula
  • Sifter


  • 12 ladyfingers
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 3 tbsp dark rum
  • 1/2 cup espresso coffee
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder


  • Whisk egg yolks and sugar over double boiler over low heat until thick.
  • Add mascarpone and 1 tbsp dark rum to bowl and whip with hand mixer until thick.
  • Combine whipped mascarpone with egg and sugar mixture. Set aside.
  • Using spoon, mix 2 tbsp dark rum with espresso coffee in a bowl. Set aside.
  • To assemble, dip ladyfingers into coffee and rum mixture and place onto baking dish. Use spatula to spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Repeat for the next layer. Sift cocoa powder over tiramisu.
  • Place tiramisu in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.



  • Make sure your double boiler is over low heat when whisking the eggs and sugar. This will help you avoid scrambling the eggs.
  • Espresso coffee is the best coffee for this dessert recipe, so if you can’t get your hands on an espresso maker try to use high quality coffee.
  • Use dark rum for deeper flavor in your tiramisu.
  • Chill for at least 4 hours for best results. 


Calories: 557kcal
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