Chocolate Tiramisu

Recently, I was both intrigued and inspired by Ivonne’s strawberry tiramisu at Cream Puffs in Venice. And since, I also always bake my own ladyfingers, use homemade whipped cream, and real mascarpone cheese in my desserts (and yes, mascarpone cheese can be homemade from cream cheese and heavy cream, although I often buy it), I agree with her sentiments, regarding the ubiquitous, manufactured versions of this wonderful dessert: it’s enough to make you turn away, disheartened. But who can remain cross with such a delicious dessert as this?

Autumn, my favorite domestic goddess, lives two thousand miles away from me. We are first cousins, but grew up like sisters. Despite the distance, for months, Autumn has wanted me to make tiramisu for The Suburban Apron Company. Motivated by Ivonne’s strawberry tiramisu, and also because Autumn mentioned it again, a few days ago in a telephone conversation, I made her a chocalate tiramisu, recipe courtesy Ghirardelli (her favorite brand of chocolate).

As with many luscious desserts, the history of tiramisu is typically vague, having varied sources of alleged origin. Anna Maria Volpi provides an excellent geneaology of tiramisu on her site, A Passion for Cooking. One primary point of agreement is the literal translation of the name, tiramisu, which is defined as, “pick-me-up,” in Italian. So, here’s a Friday “pick-me-up” for Autumn, and for all of you who have kindly stopped by The Suburban Apron Company.

Ghirardelli Tiramisu
(recipe courtesy


1/2 cup(s) Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa
1/2 teaspoon(s) Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa
1/3 cup(s) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup(s) coffee-flavored liqueur (see personal substitution)
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt (optional)
1 1/2 cup(s) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoon(s) water 2 teaspoon(s) powdered instant espresso coffee
(or use coarsely ground espresso beans and vanilla extract, as I did)
6 ounce(s) ladyfingers, halved (about 2 dozen)
(or double if using unsplit, homemade ladyfingers)
12 ounce(s) mascarpone cheese

In a large mixing bowl, beat the mascarpone, 6 tablespoons of the ground chocolate, 1/4 cup of the confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 cup of the liqueur, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract, and the salt with a wire whisk. Set aside. In a small bowl beat 1 cup of the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. In another small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup liqueur, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, the water, and the espresso powder. Line a 2 1/2-quart glass or crystal bowl with one fourth of the ladyfingers; brush with 2 tablespoons of the espresso mixture. Spoon one third of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Repeat, making 2 more layers of ladyfingers brushed with the espresso mixture and topped with the mascarpone mixture. Top with the remaining ladyfingers, gently pressing them into the cheese mixture. Brush the ladyfingers with the remaining espresso mixture. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ground chocolate over the top. In a small mixing bowl, beat the remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream and the remaining confectioners’ sugar until stiff peaks form. Spoon the whipped cream into a decorating bag with a large star-shaped tip. Pipe large rosettes on top of the dessert. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of ground chocolate on the rosettes. Chill at least 2 hours. Yields 15 servings.

(If you cannot find mascarpone cheese, substitute 16 ounces of softened cream cheese and 3 tablespoons of milk. Beat on medium until smooth and fluffy. Add 6 tablespoons of the ground chocolate, 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, 3 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and omit the salt; set aside. Continue as the recipe directs.)

For the coffee-flavored liqueur, I substituted Chef Markus Farbinger’s Espresso Couleur, (recipe courtesy Baking with Julia):

1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup hot brewed espresso

Place a wide straight-sided heavy sautÃ?© pan (a chicken fyer with high sides would be ideal) over medium heat. When the pan is hot, sprinkle a little sugar into the pan. As soon as some of the sugar melts, sprinkle more sugar over it. (You are going to caramelize the sugar spot by spot.) When half of the sugar has been added, start stirring the sugar with a wooden spoon and adding the remainder of the sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time. Again, you don’t want to add more sugar than the caramel can absorb – you’re still working spot by spot.
Keep cooking the caramel until it’s darker than you ever thought caramel should be. The sugar will smoke – lots; be really, really dark – really; and look foamy. When the sugar bubbles, remove the pan from the heat. Stand away from the pan and add a little of the hot espresso. Keep adding the espresso little by little and stirring it into the sugar. (If the espresso is too cold or you add it too quickly, the sugar will seize and you’ll have lumps, a problem that’s not irreparable – you can melt the lumps – but is avoidable.) When all of the espresso has been incorporated, turn up the heat and bring the mixture back to the boil.

Place a metal spoon in a heatproof canning jar, pour the extract into the jar, allow to cool, then cover. When it cools, its consistency will be syrupy. You can make the couleur up to two months ahead and keep it in a cool place.

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