A fun new way to enjoy a classic Italian dessert!
I first tasted tiramisu while at cooking school in Italy decades ago, and I instantly understood why its name translates to ‘pick me up’ – it just tastes so good and the flavours are pronounced but harmonious. This recipe offers a simplified version of the classic Italian recipe which typically instructs to prepare a zabaione or sabayon (essentially a cooked custard of egg yolks and sugar) and which uses beaten egg whites instead of whipping cream to add fluffy volume to the creamy mascarpone cheese. I also opted to make miniature sponge cakes and felt they made an excellent substitute for the traditional purchased ladyfingers (the Italian ones are called savoiardi). I love assembling desserts like this ahead of time in canning jars; just pop the lids on and tuck them in the fridge and they’re ready to enjoy later. We like our tiramisu chilled but you can also freeze the parfaits and enjoy them as a semi-frozen dessert by letting them thaw for 20 – 30 minutes before serving.
For the sponge cupcakes:
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (67 g) granulated sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (68 g) all-purpose flour (regular or gluten-free)
For the filling:
- 1 cup (250 mL) heavy (35%) cream
- 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup (150 g) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature (or cream cheese)
- 1 cup (250 mL) strong espresso or brewed coffee
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) Kahlua, brandy, rum or marsala wine (optional)
- Cocoa powder, for dusting
- Preheat oven to 340F.
- Make the sponge cakes by placing the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla in a mixing bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one). Beat on medium speed for about 8 – 10 minutes, until the mixture has turned pale yellow and is thickened.
- Using a small strainer, sift the flour over top of the beaten eggs then gently fold it in with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.
- Transfer the batter to 6 muffin compartments lined with paper or silicone liners (a large ice cream scoop is great for this job).
- Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 18 – 20 minutes (no peeking till the 18 minute mark), or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack then put in an airtight container and refrigerate for 2 – 72 hours.
- When ready to assemble the parfaits (at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours before serving), prepare the filling. Whip the cream until thickened, then add sugar and vanilla and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Gently whisk in the room temperature mascarpone. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a broad tip (or a zippered food bag with a corner snipped off).
- Slice cupcakes in half horizontally and air dry in the oven for 10 minutes at 200F.
- Line up four one cup (250 mL) canning jars, wine glasses or small serving bowls.
- Place the espresso and Kahlua (if using) in a bowl and dip the bottom section of each cupcake quickly in the liquid. Place the bottom of each cupcake in the bottom of each serving dish. Pipe just enough of the cream mixture to cover the cupcake, then dust with cocoa powder. Repeat the dipping process with the remaining cupcake halves (3 per serving), placing them in the jars then covering with another piped layer of cream filling followed by a dusting of cocoa powder.
- Refrigerate for 2 – 24 hours before serving.
Makes 4; recipe can be halved or multiplied.