Classic tiramisu

Monica's classic tiramisu recipe is full of punch from coffee and brandy, tempered by a wonderfully creamy mascarpone filling. Try this classic Italian dessert for a dinner party or special occasion.

First published in 2016

Dinner parties have the potential to be one of the highest forms of socialising there is, however, they also have the potential to be extremely stressful. What a disappointment it is to slave for hours over a meal only to be so busy in the kitchen that you don’t have time to enjoy the company. A dinner party should be a celebration, not just for the guests but for the host as well. The host, after all, is the great orchestrator of the gathering, the one responsible for bringing everyone together and creating a shared experience. They deserve to have a good time!

It’s taken a bit of practice, but I think I’ve finally got the knack of hosting dinner parties that I can actually enjoy along with the guests. The key is advanced preparation. Choose a menu of dishes that can be made ahead and get as much done as possible a day before the event. Loads of foods are amenable to advance preparation, and many dishes even benefit from having a day or two for the flavours to mingle.

I recently hosted an Italian-themed dinner party for my family, featuring minestrone soup, eggplant parmesan and tiramisu. All of the dishes were made the day before. On the day of the dinner party, all that was left to do was to put together a salad, make some pasta and pour some wine. It was so stress free that I almost felt like a guest at my own party.

Ready made versions of tiramisu, which are fluffy and over-sweet have given this traditional Italian pudding a bad name. The real thing is rich and strongly flavoured with coffee, vanilla and brandy. Tiramisu literally means ‘pick-me-up’ from its energy giving combination of raw egg, coffee and cream. This recipe comes courtesy of Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School.




For the mascarpone mixture

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 80g of vanilla sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 250g of mascarpone
  • 250ml of double cream
  • 3 tbsp of Marsala wine

For the sponge fingers

  • 24 sponge fingers
  • 80g of vanilla sugar
  • 300ml of espresso coffee
  • 2 tbsp of espresso liqueur, or chocolate liqueur
  • 2 tbsp of brandy

For the topping


Whisk the egg yolks, vanilla sugar and vanilla essence together in a bowl, over steaming hot water until pale and doubled in volume. Whisk together the mascarpone, double cream and marsala together until thick. Whisk the two mixtures together
Make up the dip for the sponge fingers. Dissolve the vanilla sugar with the hot espresso then add the coffee liqueur and brandy. Dip the sponge fingers into the coffee mixture, so that they evenly absorb the liquid. You want the sponge fingers to absorb as much liquid as possible without turning soggy
Line the base and sides of a large bread tin with a strip of baking parchment long enough to hang over at the ends. This will enable you to easily lift the Tiramisu out of the tin to serve. Aim to make 3 layers of mascarpone and 3 layers of biscuits with 8 sponge biscuits on each layer
Start with a layer of biscuits, sprinkle over a little dark chocolate and a dusting of cocoa. Spread a layer of the mascarpone mixture all over. Arrange 8 more sponge biscuits on top, more chocolate and cocoa, then another layer of mascarpone and another layer of biscuits, then the last of the chocolate and some more cocoa. Finish with a mascarpone layer and sift on the remaining cocoa powder
Chill and leave to set in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. The Tiramisu improves over time and is very good served the next day
To serve take it out of the tin using the baking parchment tails, serve on an oblong white serving dish cut into thin slices
First published in 2016

Monica Shaw's mission is to enable people to feel awesome, through food, life, work and play.

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