This post is sponsored by Imperial Sugar! I’ve used Imperial Sugar for years and I am thrilled to be partnering with them. Thank you for supporting the partners that keep the bake offs coming!
But within the semi-limited confines of my tiramisu knowledge, my preference is definitely geared towards American-style tiramisu–which is to say: I expect booze. I also prefer a balanced ratio of ladyfingers to cream, well-soaked ladyfingers, and strong notes of coffee and chocolate. I’m happy to say that after making 9 different tiramisu recipes, I am definitely more of a tiramisu person now. Also, I really think it’s a perfect no-bake dessert for summer and should not be reserved for holidays, but I digress. Let’s get to the results!
- 37 total tasters
- All 9 recipes were assembled at least 24 hours before tasting and rested overnight in the fridge
- All tasters ranked each tiramisu on a scale from 0-10 for overall flavor, texture, and as a whole
- All ingredients were measured by weight according to the King Arthur website
- Belgioso mascarpone
- Delallo ladyfingers
- Kroger heavy cream
- Diamond crystal kosher salt
- Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
- Lavazza espresso (made in a Moka pot for all recipes that called for espresso)
- Nescafe classic instant coffee
- Medaglia D’Oro espresso powder
- Barcardi gold rum
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- Nielsen Massey vanilla extract
- Imperial granulated sugar and powdered sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
This bake off definitely needs a strong disclaimer that this was a heavily AMERICANIZED tiramisu bake off. The majority of recipes came from American developers, and the tasters were largely from the U.S. which I think was a big factor in why the two alcohol-free recipes landed at the bottom–American palates are generally used to boozy tiramisu.
I did ask my Italian friend, Simone, to help me taste test and provide commentary in the YouTube video, so you can learn more about which recipes he found the most authentic below .
And one more note: just because a recipe landed at the bottom of our rankings does NOT mean it’s a bad recipe. It just means it wasn’t as popular among my specific group of taste testers–but a bottom-scoring recipe could still be your new favorite recipe! I highly recommend you read through each recipe description to find the one that sounds right for you. And just know that I would make almost all of these recipes again.
Here are the scores:
Factors in the Tiramisu Bake Off
- Coffee/espresso: As someone who doesn’t drink coffee, I used many resources to figure out the proper way to brew coffee/espresso for these recipes. In case this isn’t obvious to you, espresso is just the way the coffee is brewed, not a different bean (as I mistakenly thought). I used about 1.33 instant Nescafe coffee packets dissolved in hot water for recipes calling for “strong brewed coffee” and brewed Lavazza coffee in a moka pot for recipes calling for espresso. A common theme among the tasters was a desire for stronger coffee flavor. Next time, I would try 1.5-2 packets of coffee per cup of water for a stronger coffee. One note: Sally’s recipe called for 5 tablespoons of instant espresso powder dissolved directly into hot water, which she says is stronger than brewed espresso. Honestly, it was easier than brewing and does have a much stronger flavor, so this will probably be my go-to method in the future.
- Homemade vs. storebought ladyfingers: Here is my hot take: homemade ladyfingers are not worth it! At least for the average baker. I think the consistency of storebought ladyfingers hugely outweighs the potential downfalls of a homemade recipe (stiffly whipped egg whites, folding them in properly, evenly piping them, etc.) While some tasters noted that the homemade ladyfingers tasted superior, I do think Bigger Bolder Baking’s recipe unfortunately received lower scores due to my poor ladyfinger-making skills (more below). Homemade sponge cake, on the other hand, (a la Del Posto) could be worth it. I think the flavor is great, and it’s much less hassle to me (aka no piping).
- Alcohol: Traditional tiramisu in Italy also does not contain alcohol! I considered doing an all alcohol-free tiramisu bake off, but ultimately decided to test a mix. Most of the recipes used dark rum, only 2 used the more traditional Marsala wine, 1 used Kahlua and 1 used Grand Marnier. Interestingly, the recipes I found perfectly boozy used 1-3 tablespoons total whereas recipes that used 4-5 tablespoons pushed the edge of being too boozy. Personally, I found the recipes that didn’t use alcohol to be a little bland–in this case, I would probably try to use a stronger coffee flavor if I were to make it again.
- Heavy cream: Traditional Italian tiramisu does not contain cream–the mascarpone “cream” is composed of simply mascarpone, eggs and sugar. However, our selection of mostly Americanized recipe did include 5 recipes that used heavy cream (ranging from 2 tablespoons to 2 cups). Overall, the recipes that included cream felt a little lighter to me and seemed to be more popular. Apparently, heavy cream is sometimes substituted in place of the egg whites to avoid eating raw egg (the egg yolks can be tempered).
- Egg yolks vs. whole eggs vs. no eggs: Of the recipes we tried, 4 used a mascarpone cream with only egg yolks, ~4 used whole eggs and 1 used no eggs. I found the main differences between yolks + whole eggs to be both texture and volume. The recipes with whole eggs always call for whipping the egg whites which obviously adds quite a bit of volume (Sally’s recipe in particular led to a TON of cream) and leads to a lighter cream while the yolk-based creams were richer and denser. The tiramisus with yolk-based creams generally scored higher in this bake off. While there are a lot of confounding variables, I do think this was a significant factor. Though I personally preferred a yolk-based cream flavor-wise, I do think the benefit of a whole egg cream is being able to use fewer eggs for more volume. As for the single recipe that didn’t use egg? I found the cream a little one-dimensional in flavor–it tasted more like straight whipped cream than a rich mascarpone cream.
- Cocoa: Most recipes don’t specify what type of cocoa to use, but I think Dutch-process is the way to go for both aesthetics and a richer taste. Only a couple recipes directed you to sprinkle cocoa powder in between the layers of cream + ladyfingers in ADDITION to on top, but I think this was a great touch for chocolate lovers. I also recommend waiting until right before serving before sprinkling on the final layer of cocoa for the best look (some recipes say to sprinkle it on then rest overnight which results in a muddy-looking top).
YouTube Tasting Video of the Best Tiramisu
I was delighted to bring in back up straight from Italy to give some authority on the most authentic tiramisu recipe of the bunch! My roommate’s boyfriend, Simone (originally from Rome) joined me for this episode where we taste our way through all 9 recipes and Simo tells us his thoughts and which are most authentic to him.
And watch to the end, when he gives us a mini Italian lesson!
Analysis of the Best Tiramisu
Bigger Bolder Baking: an extraordinarily creamy, booze-free, homemade ladyfinger-studded recipe that lacks a bit in flavor
I was immediately intrigued by Gemma’s recipe for numerous reason: it doesn’t use any eggs (just cream, sugar and mascarpone with optional Amaretto or brandy, which I omitted) and she recommends trying her homemade ladyfingers (she has an egg-free option in addition to a regular version!). Her ladyfinger recipe is fairly straightforward–whipped egg whites get folded into the yolks, sugar, etc. and flour is folded in before piping out the ladyfingers.
Unfortunately, my ladyfingers never quite crisped up as firmly as the storebought ladyfingers, and after sitting overnight in an airtight container, they remained rather spongy. Even after being dunked in espresso and assembled in the cream, the ladyfingers remained dry-centered and a little stodgy in texture. I also found the cream a little bland–after tasting this in contrast to the other recipes, I was missing the richness of the egg yolks. I’d definitely add the suggested amaretto or brandy next time for more flavor. Overall, a great choice for those who can’t tolerate egg, but it wasn’t among my favorites.
- It’s more cakey and tastes exactly what I thought a tiramisu would taste like! Sweet, but not too sweet.
- Great flavor, just the right amount of sweetness and the filling is optimally creamy
- I love this but I don’t taste the coffee at all
- Thicker cake is too cakey and dense but I enjoyed the abundance of chocolate! Seemed a little extra special.
- More like a trifle. Ladyfingers ruined this one for me, too bready, no flavor
- Too brittle and too dry. Out of balance and the texture was off.
- Quite sweet, ladyfingers were kind of hard and weirdly spongy, cream was a little bland and a kind of weird texture
Cucina by Elena: a simple, creamy, alcohol-free tiramisu that’s not too sweet and great for cocoa lovers
For years, Elena has been telling me I need to try her tiramisu recipe and I’m thrilled I finally got to try it! Elena’s recipe is considered a fairly traditional Italian recipe–no alcohol and just whipped eggs, sugar, mascarpone and cocoa. (She does make hers with regular coffee to lessen the caffeine for her kids instead of espresso and offers an option to make her recipe with hot chocolate.)
I love that Elena’s recipe calls for dusting cocoa powder both after the first and second layers of ladyfingers + mascarpone. For those who like not-too-sweet desserts, this cream definitely isn’t too sweet (her recipe has a lower ratio of sugar compared to most). Personally, I missed the booze in this one–if I were to make it again, I would add a few tablespoons of rum and probably bump up the sugar slightly. Note: I’d also probably cut the coffee down to 3 cups–Elena calls for 4 cups because it’s better to have more coffee than less, but I never needed more than 2 cups of coffee to dip 24 ladyfingers.
- Very creamy, would like a little more booze flavor
- Really delicious, the flavor wasn’t as sweet and it actually tasted a bit like flan to me
- Very light coffee flavor and slightly mushier texture
- Not flavorful enough. Wanted more coffee and less cake
- It’s not very sweet and a little bland. The texture is…smooth?
- Plain flavor, tasted/felt like regular cake
- The cocoa powder overpowered the dish and made it taste drier as a whole
Kitchen Joy: a coffee-forward tiramisu with minimal cream and chocolate flavor
I chose this recipe for several reasons: it uses Marsala wine (surprisingly few of the recipes I found called for this, which is probably the closest to authentic alcohol–per my Italian friends, sometimes a drop of grappa is used in Italy) and it uses fewer egg whites than yolks. This recipe notes that she finds just yolks and mascarpone too rich and dense while using an equal amount of yolks and whites makes the cream too light, so she uses slightly fewer whites than yolks. This recipe calls for whipped egg whites folded into the yolk + mascarpone mixture.
I was really fascinated by the perfectly neat, distinct layers of this tiramisu. This had one of most prominent flavors of coffee, which I loved. Unfortunately, there was so little cream, I couldn’t really distinguish the texture of the cream compared to other recipes. With the small amount of cream, the texture of this tiramisu was inconsistent, with pockets that were moist and others that were dry. If I made this again, I’d probably use all the egg whites (i.e. 6 yolks, 6 whites) purely for more volume of cream, add a slightly higher quantity of rum or Marsala, and a sprinkling of cocoa in the middle.
- Very strong espresso flavor, so if you like that, this may be the tiramisu for you. I found it a bit much, but the flavor and texture were nice and I think it was well balanced
- A fine contender with soft cake-y texture that does not overpower the cream.
- I would rate this third best (after A Cozy Kitchen and Del Posto). Espresso and cocoa powder shine without overwhelming it. I think most would benefit from a stronger Madeira or rum presence
- Could use more filling and less sponge, perhaps too strong of a coffee flavor
- Very abrupt coffee flavor at the front, cake is a little too soft
- Mush. That’s the word that comes to mind. Coffee notes were lovely but the disintegrating ladyfingers and low cream ratio was a boo for me.
Sally’s Baking Addiction/Maida Heatter: a Grand Marnier and rum-spiked tiramisu with a generous amount of cream
Sally’s recipe is very lightly adapted from Maida Heatter–she uses storebought ladyfingers, one fewer egg to reduce the volume of the mascarpone cream, and slightly more sugar. This recipe was also notable in that Sally recommends that you use instant espresso powder mixed with hot water rather than brewed espresso (she says it’s stronger this way). She also calls for both rum and optional Grand Marnier (I chose to include it, but used half the specified amount).
Overall, this was by far the most labor-intensive of the recipes I tried. It calls for beating together: 1) the rum and mascarpone 2) the egg yolks and sugar over a double boiler 3) the heavy cream and 4) the egg whites. It is a ton of separate beating! Ultimately, you end up with quite a bit of boozy, citrus-spiked cream overlaid over the soft ladyfingers. Though it’s hard to tell from the photo, I can see why Sally tried to reduce the volume of the mascarpone cream because there is a LOT. I’m fairly sure this tiramisu received lower scores due to the unexpected citrus from the Grand Marnier (a jarring flavor compared to the rest). While the cream was delightfully fluffy, I don’t think it was worth the extra effort compared to more streamlined recipes. I also prefer a more even ladyfinger to cream ratio, so this wasn’t my top pick. Next time, I would stick to just rum and omit the Grand Marnier. If you like a high cream to ladyfinger ratio and a pretty boozy tiramisu, give this a try! (Maida also has a recipe for chocolate ladyfingers that I find extremely intriguing.)
- The alcohol flavor is stronger and the sweetness is not as present. I liked that it was ALCOHOL-Y!
- Fluffy and creamy and sweet, basically eating a cloud! Best texture so far, reminiscent of tres leches.
- I don’t usually love alcohol in desserts but this flavor complemented well
- A wee bit of bitterness from a good finish. The sponge or ladyfingers is quite distinguishable, which is nice. Good cocoa powder finish
- Balanced strong flavors and pretty good texture in the ladyfingers.
- Love my alcohol, but another one where the ratio was off (a little too boozy and cocoa is a bit overlooked); the ladyfingers tasted like angel food cake…not sure how I feel
- The Grand Marnier is overwhelming here and the coffee is only making it bitter.
America’s Test Kitchen: a booze-forward, very moist and sweet tiramisu with plenty of cocoa flavor
ATK’s recipe stood out for several factors: the ladyfinger soaking liquid includes instant espresso power and a generous amount of rum in addition to coffee. This was also one of two recipes to use a mixture of yolks + heavy cream (but in a higher ratio of cream to yolks compared to A Cozy Kitchen.) And unlike A Cozy Kitchen, ATK requires you to whip the cream separately, which is slightly more work and I’m not sure if the extra effort really makes a significant textural difference. Like in Elena’s recipe, I liked that this recipe called for sprinkling cocoa between the first and second layers of the ladyfingers.
I really enjoyed the flavor of this one (though it did verge on being too boozy). Texturally, I found it a little soggy though Simone assured me this was actually the correct texture (and the best out of all the tiramisus). I do think any sogginess was probably a product of my technique, not the recipe. Overall, this recipe is quite similar to A Cozy Kitchen but with a stronger coffee/alcohol profile and I would make it again if A Cozy Kitchen wasn’t so easy to make in comparison! (Probably with just a few tablespoons less of rum.)
- Excellent cake texture and cream with a hint of chocolate
- Very moist, a lot of coffee/booze flavor–a bit more bitter and less smooth than [A Cozy Kitchen]
- The liquor overpowered this one and could only taste that and the cream. But so moist!
- Too “creamy” and a rather subdued flavor profile. It does not live up to the English translation (pick me up).
- Less sweet, which I normally like for desserts, but I like sweeter for tiramisu, I guess! More bitter with the coffee.
- Ladyfingers are a little soggy for me, this tastes VERY alcoholic
Giada de Laurentiis: a cream-forward tiramisu with a perfectly subtle but present rum flavor
Giada’s recipe was one of two that calls for a mascarpone cream of just egg yolks, sugar and mascarpone (no cream). She also incorporates 1 tablespoon of espresso in the cream, which I think helps infuse the tiramisu with slightly more coffee flavor. Although this recipe does call for an electric mixer, this was one of the easier recipes since you basically whisk everything together (no whipping of egg whites or cream required). Note: we omitted the chocolate shavings as garnish–I used cocoa instead for consistency with the other tiramisus.
I LOVED this tiramisu! To me, this was the perfect balance of a generous but not overwhelming amount of cream to ladyfingers with just the right tang of rum and a nice hint of coffee. This cream was definitely on the richer side with just yolks and mascarpone (no whites or cream to lighten it), but I liked that it wasn’t overly sweet. It kind of reminded me of a creme patisserie. I would easily make this again!! The only tweak: perhaps I’d add a little instant espresso powder to the brewed espresso (as in the ATK recipe) to help boost the coffee flavor. A close contender for my favorite recipe. NOTE: Her recipe calls for a 9×13, but many commenters said that the quantity was best suited for an 8×8, which is what I used (and it fit perfectly–I think it would look sad in a 9×13).
- This one had the coffee flavor that I’ve been waiting for. It wasn’t overly sweet with cream and the breading was proportional and moist
- COFFEE FORWARD! Good balance of cake and cream and all the coffee flavor punch you could want.
- Creamy and a little dense, more custardy and rich in a good way
- Very soft texture, well-rounded, nicely balanced flavor
- This one was SOAKED. Very booze heavy. On the side of too boozy. Love the intense cocoa on top though! Helps offset the sweetness of the booze
Bravetart: a chocolate-forward tiramisu with a VERY generous ratio of cream
Stella notes her recipe stands out for three reasons: 1) cooking the sugar and eggs over a double boiler helps them gain more volume when whipped, 2) whole eggs help focus the flavor on the mascarpone and 3) the ladyfinger soaking liquid consists of cocoa, espresso, vanilla and two types of liquors for a rich and flavorful mixture. (Note: I used kahlua and Marsala wine as subs for the creme de cacao and Cardamaro.) Her recipe also calls for storebought or homemade ladyfingers (obviously I went for homemade). It’s also worth noting that her recipe uses a LOT of mascarpone–24 oz will add up on the wallet!
While I wanted to love this tiramisu, the predominant flavor was chocolate–which could be in large part due to the alcohol I used. The common thread here is that I really prefer rum in my tiramisu! Besides the very chocolate-forward flavor, there was an overwhelming amount of cream for me. Like Bigger Bolder Baking, I don’t think I made the ladyfingers correctly–they were quite flat and definitely not as crisp/dry as the storebought ladyfingers. I think the ratio of cream to ladyfinger would have been slightly improved with storebought ladyfingers, but I still think this tiramisu was slightly too heavy on the rich cream flavor and chocolate with not enough coffee or alcohol. But others loved it! If you love a creamy, chocolate-y tiramisu, THIS IS THE ONE.
- Best flavor by far! Rich chocolatey syrupy flavor with a taste of espresso. Favorite one!
- Best fluffy texture and rich flavor that’s not too overbearing. Would pay for this
- Sooo rich! I love how custardy it is. Screams decadence!
- Well balanced, individual flavors are bold enough to decipher and enjoy, great mouthfeel and overall very solid
- Sweet, custard forward. I like that but it’s a little too sweet and strong. Texture is nice and smooth.
- Had more of a chocolate flavor than coffee and not enough cake to cream ratio
- Needed more ladyfingers, but the flavor was fantastic.
Del Posto: a sweet, balanced tiramisu with layers of homemade sponge cake for a structured and moist texture
Del Posto was one of the only recipes I found that calls for a homemade sponge cake rather than ladyfingers. (Joanne Chang from Flour Bakery has a similar recipe.) With whipped egg whites, sugar, flour and cornstarch, the sponge recipe was fairly similar to the homemade ladyfingers from Bravetart and Bigger Bolder Baking. The cream was almost identical to A Cozy Kitchen but with slightly less cream and rum.
I ended up using nearly double the amount of espresso called for in order to soak the sponge in the same manner as the YouTube video. Interestingly, I still found the sponge cake a little dry and on the tougher side compared to some of the thoroughly soaked ladyfingers. It’s possible that I got some drier bites because most others seemed to like the moisture level. This also made for a slightly squatter tiramisu than others. If I made this again, I would 1.5 or 2x the amount of cream for my ideal proportions of cream to cake and bump up the alcohol slightly. If you want to try a completely homemade tiramisu (i.e. no storebought ladyfingers), this would be my top recommendation!
- Fave! I like coffee-forward flavor that is smooth but not bitter. Texture was a great balance of fluffy cream and dense, moist ladyfingers. Far and away my favorite one.
- Tastes like the tiramisu of my childhood–a balance of soaked and but not soggy. Coffee forward with a little booze. Love this one!
- So fluffy and delicious – thick and buttery and sweet. Less coffee flavor which I like in this case and full cake pieces for texture which is AWESOME.
- I love this texture – less dense (in between a tiramisu and a cake) with just the right balance of whipped cream to light coffee flavor
- Texture was moist but neither too mushy nor dry. It seemed similar to [A Cozy Kitchen] to me, although with a less custardy feel
- The sweetest one with a little coffee, booziness, and creaminess, would have liked it a little boozier
- A tiny bit blander than the others, but smooth
A Cozy Kitchen: a creamy, perfectly balanced tiramisu that’s also a breeze to make
Adrianna’s recipe was highly requested and I almost omitted it because it’s so similar to Del Posto (aside from the sponge cake), but I’m glad I didn’t! This was by far the easiest recipe to make–you literally dump egg yolks, rum, cream, sugar and mascarpone in a bowl and cream everything together for 2 minutes exactly.
I love how this recipe is a manageable 8×8 pan size. I love how easy it is to make. I love how it looks. And I love how it tastes!! This was one of my ideal ratios of cream to ladyfingers, had a good rum flavor, good coffee flavor, rich cream flavor, and overall great texture and balance. It was a clear crowd favorite and I would definitely make this again thanks to the pure ease of this recipe! It doesn’t feel often that the easiest recipe to make wins the top spot, but I’m so glad this one did!
- My FAVORITE; I can taste the alcohol; so soft, so delicious, just so good!; my favorite, immediately finished it
- Fluffy and light, a good cream to ladyfinger ratio. Coffee and cream reminds me of a balanced affogato, exactly what I image when I think of tiramisu
- Very close to ideal tiramisu, pillowy soft, subtle coffee after taste
- Mascarpone flavor is distinct which I love! Very mellow otherwise. I notice more chocolate than coffee, would hope for more coffee
- Great flavor, would increase ladyfinger to cream ratio and add slightly more coffee flavor
- Well balanced cocoa flavor with a decidedly bold alcohol punch (but not too hard)
- Very creamy, would have liked more sponge
Tips for Making the Best Tiramisu
- USE COLD MASCARPONE! I’ve made the mistake of letting mascarpone come to room temperature before beating and it curdled on me instantly. I whipped cold mascarpone with other cold ingredients for each of the recipes and it turned out well every time.
- Cleanly separate yolks and whites: When whipping egg whites, ensure that your beaters/bowl are clean of any oil and that no yolk made it into your white mixture or your whites won’t whip up properly.
- Dip ladyfingers quickly: While I probably erred on the side of dipping for too short a time, general guidance is to dip for just 1-2 seconds on each side so that the ladyfingers don’t become soggy.
- Sprinkle cocoa on at the end: It seems obvious, but if you sprinkle the final layer of cocoa and then refrigerate the tiramisu for hours, it’s not going to look as pretty. I think finishing it a few minutes before serving looks best.
My personal pick: Giada de Laurentiis or A Cozy Kitchen. Actually, I recently made a mash up of Del Posto’s cake (because I didn’t have ladyfingers on hand) paired with a 1.5x amount of A Cozy Kitchen’s cream and it was very ideal!!
Best easy recipe: A Cozy Kitchen
Best booze-forward tiramisu: America’s Test Kitchen, Sally’s Baking Addiction
Best alcohol-free recipe: Elena’s Cucina
Best for chocolate lovers: Bravetart, Elena’s Cucina
Best for cream lovers: Bravetart, Giada de Laurentiis, Sally’s Baking Addiction
Best for cake lovers (less cream): Del Posto, Kitchen Joy