Tiramisù cake

There are two things that fascinate me: the culinary world and the world of words. Ever since I was a little girl, I loved to play with words and write my own little stories. I didn’t need much to be happy – just a sheet of paper and a pencil was enough. Later I ditched the pencil and picked up an old typewriter that I dragged with me everywhere. I remember always having black smudges from touching the ribbon with my fingers, and dreaming of becoming a journalist. Fast forward a couple of years,  I was at a university studying Italian and planning to be a translator. Funny how life often takes us on journeys we’d never imagine for ourselves. You fall in love, and before you know it, you just landed on another continent, and can forget about Italian, because, well, nobody speaks it here, so you better pick up the language of these people if you want to survive, and do it fast.

I still have a soft spot for Italy and love anything Italian (well, anything but Italian driving style, really 🙂 I adore those small towns with narrow streets, countryside with vineyards ready for harvest, charming cafes at every corner, the wine, pasta, and gelato. I visit whenever I get the chance, and in the meantime, I often try to create  little Italy in my kitchen. The word tiramisù means “pick me up”, and that’s exactly what this popular dessert does for me. The combination of coffee dipped ladyfingers, creamy mascarpone filling, and generous dusting of cocoa is rich and decadent. There are countless variations of tiramisù, each one of them delicious. My version includes two-layer sponge cake, which I feel can stand up to the soak in espresso better than ladyfingers would. The ladyfingers pressed in a ring around the cake play more of a decorative role, and tied up with a ribbon make the cake look very festive.

A great treat for a birthday celebration, family gathering, or anytime you could use a little pick-me-up in your life.

Tiramisu cely

Tiramisù cake

(adapted from Dorrie Greenspan’s Baking: From my home to yours)

Cake layers:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs + 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup cream (or buttermilk)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Butter/flour two 9-inch cake pans, and line them with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Set aside.
  3. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture, mixing just until combined.
  5. Lastly, mix in the cream (the batter will be quite thick). Divide the batter between prepared pans, smooth out the top, and bake for 30 minutes, until the cake springs back to the touch and the toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Invert the cakes onto cooling racks and let cool completely.
Espresso extract:
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons hot water

In a small bowl, mix coffee and water together and set aside.

Espresso syrup:
  • ½ cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoons Kahlúa (coffee liqueur)

In a small saucepan, boil water and sugar together. Turn off; stir in 1 tablespoon Kahlua and 1 tablespoon espresso extract. Set aside.

  • 226 g (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlúa
Stabilized whipped cream:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 4 teaspoons water

+ unsweetened cocoa powder, about 30 ladyfinger cookies, shaved chocolate and chocolate covered coffee beans for decoration

  1. In a bowl, gently mix all the ingredients for the frosting until creamy. Set aside.
  2. Mix 1 teaspoon gelatin with 4 teaspoons water; let stand for 10 minutes, until the gelatin absorbs all the water. Then heat the gelatin mixture over a pot of hot water, until the gelatin dissolves (be careful not to boil it). Let the gelatin syrup cool till lukewarm.
  3. In the meantime, whip the cream with sugar until very soft peaks form. Still mixing, carefully pour in the cooled gelatin syrup, and whip until stiff peaks form.
  4. Gently fold whipped cream into the frosting.
To assemble the cake:
  1. Level the cakes with a cake leveler/serrated knife if needed.
  2. Place one cake on a plate and using a pastry brush, soak it with 1/3 of the espresso syrup. Spread the cake with 1/3 of the mascarpone-cream filling.
  3. Soak the other cake layer with another 1/3 of the espresso syrup, and place it soaked side down on a filling; gently press down. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/3 of  the espresso syrup. Finish frosting the top and the sides of the cake.
  4. Dust the top liberally with cocoa. Press the ladyfingers all around the cake. Decorate with chocolate shavings if desired.
  5. Chill the cake until serving. Can be made the night before, to give the flavors time to meld.

Tiramisu slice

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