The Best Tiramisù on the Planet (But I’m Not Bragging)

You will never make tiramisù better than mine.  I’m not gloating, just stating a fact.  You may as well make peace with it now.

When my dear friend Letizia asked me to make my famous Limoncello and Berry Tiramisù for her daughter’s birthday party, I was thrilled.  First because Letizia is a wonderful cook, so anytime she asks me to make a food item I get all flustered and honored and start sounding like Sally Field accepting an Oscar.  Second because it gave me an excuse to go off Weight Watcher’s exactly 36 hours after hopping back on the wagon.  Because it was for a child’s birthday party, people.  I mean, who doesn’t cheat on their diet for a child?  Cruella DeVil, for example, was stick thin because she did things like refuse to prepare desserts for children’s birthday parties and attempt to skin puppies for a fur coat.  I am not Cruella de Vil.

The great thing about tiramisù is that it’s so amazingly simple to make (there’s really only one thing you can screw up, which I inevitably screw up every time I make it), even this variation which was suggested to me years ago by another wonderful cook, Judy Witts Francini.  The tricky thing about tiramisù is that success of the end product depends almost exclusively on the quality of the ingredients you use.  Which is why my tiramisù rocks, almost certainly much more than yours will.

I use the classic 1-1-1 proportion–100 g mascarpone-1 egg-1 tablespoon sugar—which I multiply by 5 to fill a nice sized baking dish.  To make the cream, you mix the mascarpone, egg yolks, and sugar (I also add some limoncello here.  An amount somewhere between “half a glass” and “too much to reasonably drink in one sitting”).  Then you fold in the whites which you’ve whipped to hard peaks.  You layer it with Savoiardi cookies (ladyfingers to those sad world citizens who can’t lay their hands on the real deal) and mixed berries (I use two bags of frozen berries, which I thaw and toss with some sugar and blackberry liqueur then let sit for an hour or so), and leave it set in the refrigerator for a few hours to a day.  What could be simpler?

But here’s the trick:  I go to the dairy down the road and get the mascarpone they make fresh every morning.

The fresh mascarpone is so dense, the dairy wraps it in butcher paper

Then I go to the fowl I harbor in my backyard, and grab eggs right from under the hen’s butt.

Why, yes, that is a piece of straw sticking to one of the eggs. I told you they were fresh.

Then I go to the liquor cabinet and get a bottle of homemade Neapolitan limoncello so rich you can slice it with a knife and a bottle of homemade Umbrian blackberry liqueur.

Neapolitan relatives bring us a bottle of their take no prisoners limoncello every Christmas.

Then I whisk it all together.  Which is actually the biggest pain of the whole process.  Fresh dairy mascarpone is about as hard as butter, but you can’t whisk it with an electric mixer because it will break down and get all curdy on you.  So, you hand whisk.  And whisk.  And whisk some more, until your arm starts to ache and just when you are cursing that stronza Letizia who should have just requested that you bring a bag of chips or something because, what, are you, like, Laura Ingalls Wilder now? you look down and–voilà—there is a lovely smooth cream in your bowl.

This is what it looks like before you've cursed Letizia

This is what it looks like after you've cursed Letizia

Then you whip your egg whites with an electic mixer, loving every 21st century automated minute of it, and fold it together.

Better taste the cream, just to be sure. Hmm. Better taste it again.

Once you’ve admired your lovely homogeneous cream you can start layering it with your cookies and berries:  cookies, berries (make sure you use enough juice to moisten the cookies), cream; cookies, berries, cream.

Your first layers: cookies,, cream.

Beginning the second layer with more cookies over the cream...this is about 30 seconds before you realize you've screwed up.

Then you screw up the one thing you can screw up.  You use too much cream in the first layer and don’t have enough to completely cover the top layer.  You probably would have had enough cream had you not been pilfering it out of the bowl since you made it, but you are not Cruella de Vil.  So, you just spread what you have left semi-attractively over the center of the top layer, call it “rustic” and conveniently forget to photograph the final product.

Which, I can assure you, is better than yours will ever be.  But I’m not gloating.


  1. George |

    While this iteration probably isn’t something I would eat (not a fruit eater), it looks and sounds incredibly impressive! I love savaoiardi cookies, but they’re so hard to find here. I call them cloud cookies – so much lighter than lady fingers and sponge!

  2. alessandra |

    Sounds great.

    But it is not Tiramisù.

    Let’s say it is the best tiramisu-ish dessert and I am right there with you fighting over it with a spoon. Like Captain sparrow and Orlando bloom over The squid guy ‘s heart.

    Tiramisù is a decodified recipe original of the Veneto region and comprehends savoiardi, eggs, sugar, coffee, mascarpone and cocoa powder on top.

    I am a culinary purist and a amateur linguist. Each thing has a name and we shouldn’t sc**w it up.

    Oh yes,I ma a gigantic pain in the b**t.


    • rebecca |

      @ Alessandra…oh, this is definitely a bastardization. But a damned delicious one! If you are a purist, I suggest you never google tiramisù variations. It can get disturbing. There is a rootbeer version somewhere in the world.

  3. letizia |

    Indeed myself and the 30 or so participants to yesterday’s party can testify that this is a gorgeous tiramisu. Nobody even noticed the “rustic” looks as they were too busy wolfing it down!

  4. Kaaren |

    Actually, this is Nigella’s recipe which she calls Anglo Italian Trifle. It’s nothing like a Tiramisù but it is deliciious.

    • rebecca |

      I guess great minds think alike, since I don’t know who Nigella is. Or, wait a minute, isn’t she the Martha Stewart of the UK? Anyway, I got the idea of adding limoncello from Judy of Divina Cucina, I got the idea of using fruit from my mother-in-law (who I can guarantee you has no inkling of who Nigella may be, and wouldn’t understand her English even if she did) who used canned pineapple once, but I am not a big fan of canned pineapple so went with mixed berries, and I got the idea of using blackberry liqueur from my own noggin since I make it every autumn when the blackberries come in. I suppose it could be trifly, but trifle isn’t made with mascarpone. It’s definitely closer genetically to tiramisù than trifle. But it rocks, no matter what you call it!

  5. letizia |

    Nigella? Wellllllllll. Where does Rebecca live? In Italy. Since many years. She is even married to an Italian. She speaks fluently Italian. Does she need to read Nigella to learn Italian recipes? No, she can go to her neighbor/friend/colleague and ask.

    Please try to Google “tiramisu ai frutti di bosco”, there are 94600 hits, in Italian. May be Nigella has someone who translates Italian for her.

  6. Barbara |

    Yes, yours will be 10X better than anything I can make here – and this is why when people ask “Do you miss Italy?”, it takes me a minutes to answer because I’m thinking about the food….and when I do tell them “I miss the food”, it becomes a lecture on eating seasonally and using the best and freshest ingredients, and how the simplicity of most Italian recipes is the key to how fabulous they are…….and yes, I AM counting the days until we arrive in Umbria! (23)

    • rebecca |

      Barb, I bet you are pining for the food! Drop me a line when you guys are back in Umbria…it would be great to say hello!


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