Dish of the Week: No Bake Tiramisu

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re sharing a no-bake dessert that’s great all year long: tiramisu.

Meaning “pick me up” or “cheer me up” in Italian, tiramisu is a popular Italian cake that features ingredients that make many people happy: Marsala wine (or other liquor) and espresso. To soak up the booze and coffee, the base of the cake is made with sweet sponge biscuits called ladyfingers. The biscuits then get layered with a custard made of egg and sugar and mixed with whipped mascarpone cheese. A dusting of cocoa powder is the finishing touch. The result is rich, moist dessert that is certainly something to cheer about.

The origins are unclear, but many accounts trace tiramisu back to the 1960s, when a restaurant named “Le Beccherie” in Trevisio, Italy popularized the dish. It is believed to have been derived from another popular Italian dessert, Zuppa Inglese, a pudding-like dish that may have been inspired by the English trifle in the sixteenth century.  

In the original recipe, no liquor was used, but today there are variations that use Marsala wine, rum, Madeira, brandy, port, or even Irish cream.

This recipe, from Food Network Kitchen, is a no-bake version because it uses store-bought ladyfingers as the base. Espresso, along with either brandy or cognac, adds a kick while a finishing touch of shaved dark chocolate provides the perfect bittersweet bite. 


6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
Four 8-ounce containers mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups espresso or strong coffee, at room temperature
1/2 cup brandy or cognac
30 to 32 crisp Italian ladyfingers (savoiardi)
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
Bittersweet chocolate, for shaving

Line an eight-inch square baking dish with plastic wrap, leaving a three-inch overhang on all sides. Fill a large bowl with ice water.

Make the custard: Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) until the sugar dissolves. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the custard is light and foamy, about 10 minutes (a thermometer inserted into the mixture should register 170 degrees F).

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set in the bowl of ice water; whisk until the custard is cool, about 1 minute. Put the mascarpone in a large bowl. Fold the custard into the mascarpone with a rubber spatula until almost combined, then whisk until just smooth (do not overmix or the custard will be grainy).

Combine the espresso and brandy in a shallow bowl. One at a time, dip the ladyfingers in the espresso mixture until soaked but not soggy; arrange two rows of about five biscuits each in the baking dish. Spread one-third of the mascarpone custard over the ladyfingers. Repeat with a second layer of espresso-dipped ladyfingers, arranging them in the opposite direction. Top with another one-third of the custard. Repeat with the remaining ladyfingers, alternating directions. Spread the remaining custard on top and dust with the cocoa powder. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.

Invert a plate on top of the tiramisu, then flip it while holding the plate firmly on top. Remove the baking dish and plastic wrap. Invert a serving plate on top of the tiramisu and flip again so it is cocoa-side up. Remove the remaining plastic wrap. Shave curls of chocolate on top with a vegetable peeler.
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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano