Tiramisu [terror-me-sue]

My failed attempts at tiramisu are beginning to compete with the number of “Fast and Furious” movies—both edging closer to infinity without the makings of one successful attempt. Please make it stop! However, recipe blunders (i.e. my tiramisu attempts = fail) are the very reason why food blogs exist because they include what’s not necessarily explained in a recipe, such as possible mishaps as told from personal experiences. I can reveal to you my screw-ups, so that you don’t have to go through the same trials and tribulations that I did. I think this is the same mentality behind our parents’ wholehearted effort to dissuade us from the frivolous, counterproductive activities of our youth in the hopes that we will one day become fine, upstanding citizens. Sadly and more often than not, most of us don’t listen and are forced to learn the hard way. So, if you are one of those hardheaded individuals, then skip this section and go straight to the recipe. I should warn you: they don’t call it Terror-Me-Sue for nothing [insert evil laughter].

Here’s the dealio—Tiramisu is a delicious Italian dessert concoction that coincidentally means “carry me up” or “to heaven.” And that it does when made properly. It reigns as one of my top three favorite desserts of all time. I can’t recall the other two at the moment. Considered a dessert mélange (a.k.a. mixture), tiramisu is composed of sponge cake or ladyfingers that have been dipped in a coffee-Marsala (a fortified wine similar to Sherry or Port) mixture, layered with mascarpone (a buttery-rich, milky-white cheese that I like to think of as cream cheese’s richer, smarter, and overall more attractive cousin) and grated chocolate. My mouth is watering as I type. One moment…

Okay, I’m back. I had to get a snack.

Once upon a time, oh about 5 years ago, I decided to try my hand at this delicious, coffee-infused dessert. Naturally, I consulted the recipe works of Italian celebrity chef persona, Giada De Laurentiis, because she seemed as trustworthy as any on Food Network at the time. Her recipe appeared to be straightforward, and I actually watched the episode when she prepared it. Thus, I thought I would have it in the bag or, at the very least, somewhere close, perhaps dangling out of the bag with a little spilling onto the countertop. As to whether or not this first attempt was moderately successful, I really cannot say. It took me so long to make the darn thing that I may or may not have drunk too much wine in the process. I should add that I do not recommend or condone such behavior. My motto is everything in moderation from shoes to booze, excluding my surplus collection of tiny figurines.

This is a French press. Isn't she pretty?!

Now for my second attempt—well, it was a complete and utter disaster. While “moist” is a word that most people hate to hear, in terms of cakes and other pastries, the word is indicative of utter superiority. As for tiramisu, this is not so much the case. I followed Giada’s instructions, every smiley-faced dotted “i” to a “T”—dunking those spongy ladyfingers into a mixture of cooled espresso (or my rendition of it using freshly ground espresso beans brewed in a French press) and dark rum (or Amaretto, an almond-flavored liqueur and the only liquor we had, which was located/hidden on the top of the cabinets). Apparently, those ladyfingers were thirsty because in no time all the liquid was absorbed. In the delicate and profound words of Lisa Rinna, they were “dripping!” I also sort of ran out of liquid before running out of the fingers, so I improvised a bit, which wasn’t pretty.

Anyways, after refrigerating for the appropriate amount of time 2 to 8 hours which fell in the middle of watching “Stop-Loss,” an MTV movie I do not recommend, I took the plunge with my spoon and discovered a slimy, moist consistency of coffee-flavored goo. Alas, I was unable to identify it as anything remotely reminiscent of tiramisu. It was a sad, sad day indeed. I was left heartbroken by my second failed attempt at my beloved tiramisu. I also had to settle for a spoonful of instant vanilla pudding with mini chocolate chips for dessert and, not to mention, endure the lack of continuity throughout the movie “Stop-Loss.”

Joseph-Gordan Levitt is in Stop-Loss (not recommended), and he's also in this movie (recommended).

Today is a new day, and I’ve garnered up enough courage to try one last time—same recipe and same strive for victory. However, I have come away from these fruitless endeavors with a newfound insight. Mainly, I’ve come to the conclusion that one needs to make sure that their coffee/espresso is completely cool before dunking those delicate lady fingers, or else they will turn to mush. And mush = :(.  So, this time I’m going to brew the coffee, and then allow it to completely cool in the fridge. Also, I may spring for something else besides Amaretto, like maybe Marsala or dark rum as suggested in the recipe. For my last failed attempt, I purchased a certain brand of ladyfingers that seem to be made of fluff and angel dust. In other words, I’m pretty sure if I’d left the bag open, they would just float away like balloons. So, I’m in pursuit of something with a little more sustenance. Cross your fingers, and here’s to hoping that third time’s a charm.

To be continued…

SIDENOTE: Tiramisu can be a rather expensive dessert to make. Between the Marsala, mascarpone, store-bought ladyfingers and bittersweet chocolate, you are throwing down some serious bucks just to watch it turn into nothing short of a die-sert catastrophe—hence, my immense frustration at these failed attempts as well as my reason for letting you in on possible mishaps. In conclusion, when made properly, it will undoubtedly “carry you up to heaven.”

This blog is brought to you by—LEGOs, Marisa’s chocolate chunk cupcakes with peanut butter icing, and moving.


6 egg yolks

3 tablespoons sugar

1 pound mascarpone cheese

1 ½ cups strong espresso, cooled*

2 teaspoons dark rum

24 packaged ladyfingers

½ cup bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish

  1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of espresso and mix until thoroughly combined.
  2. In a small shallow dish, add remaining espresso and rum. Dip each ladyfinger into espresso for only 5 seconds. Letting the ladyfingers soak too long will cause them to fall apart. Place the soaked ladyfingers on the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish, breaking them in half if necessary in order to fit the bottom.
  3. Spread evenly ½ of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Arrange another layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with remaining mascarpone mixture.
  4. Cover tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours.
  5. Before serving, sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Yield: 6-8 servings

*Not just cooled but COLD!



  1. Heather said

    There are many brands of lady fingers, but the ones you need are any that say “Savoiardi”…..don’t use the ones in the produce aisle….those are yummy for making a charlotte, but not tiramisu.

    And P.S. Marie I bought mascarpone today 🙂


    • Excellent! I knew I could count on your ladyfinger expertise 🙂

  2. Megan said

    how did this one turn out? I’m a little confused on why she didn’t have any heavy cream or whipping the egg whites to add some volume? I’m going to make you mine and give you my recipe.

    • I have yet to try it for the third time, but I’ll let you know how it turns out. I would gladly accept your bomb.com recipe and/or sampling.

  3. Scott said

    Mine always tastes delicious, but it comes out very liquidy on the bottom. I dunk the ladyfingers, but for some reason I end up with a mooshy (albeit delicious) bottom (no jokes, please). I liken it to the bottom of Lake Hartwell.

    Why come??

    • Yeah, I think it’s the brand/type of ladyfinger, but this is all a part of my investigation. I will return shortly with, perhaps, some answers. Stay tuned…

  4. elizabeth said

    i haven’t actually tried this or anything, but i have a recipe from cooks illustrated that swears that the key to non-soggy fingers is to roll them in a shallow dish of the coffee mixture instead of submerging them. i tried to invent a strawberry version of tiramisu with strawberry juice and brandy instead of coffee and marsala – kind of a glorified strawberry short cake. it’s a work in progress.

  5. KIRA said

    gonna try this soon hope it turns out all right, but must i use the rum? is there not a non alcoholic substitute for this

  6. kate said

    I use a different recipe that calls for carefully spooning the liquid mixture on top of the positioned ladyfingers for each layer. That works out like a charm, yielding a delicious dessert that satisfies. Have you considered modifying in such a way?!

    • It is about time I attempt tiramisu once again, and I shall use your recommendation with fingers crossed 🙂

  7. Sarah said

    made tiramisu today. Haven’t cut into it yet, but store did not have lady fingers so used stella dora mergerhita(pretty sure that’s misspelled). Used recipe from Johnny Garlics. Very easy, but think I should have put some of the coffee/amaretto mixture into mascapone. Just saw how old your posts are doubt you really care

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