For our alternative to Christmas pudding this year I made a tiramisu. To be clear, there was still a Christmas pudding but this was also on offer for those who don’t like it. In the end most people had a bit of both!
I had my very first taste of this indulgent dessert in the 1980’s, whilst visiting a friend who was living in Germany. She found a recipe for it in a German woman’s magazine and translated it into English. I was there in the kitchen when she made it and after just one mouthful I was hooked and asked for a copy of the recipe. I still have it, written by hand on a page from an exercise book.
I have eaten many a tiramisu since but always use this recipe when making it myself. (Except of course when I made the lemon or strawberry versions which I have written about before.)
Some I find too solid and cake-like, some too floppy or runny. This one seems to have just the right proportion of cake to cream cheese, definitely best made the day before you want to serve it so that the cake absorbs the lovely flavours and the whole thing sets so that you can serve it in slices instead of spoonfuls.
I have tinkered with the recipe a bit over the years and find that the size of the dish is important for it to turn out just right. Mine is a Pyrex dish measuring 22 x 17 x 6cm and this particular one is probably meant to be a small lasagne dish (found in a charity shop). I have tried making it in round trifle bowls and in individual glasses for a more sophisticated look, but for this recipe, the lasagne dish may not look the most glamorous but seems to work the best. All eyes light up when it appears on the table!
There are zillions of tiramisu recipes out there and I’ve tried a few but always come back to this one. And forget the low fat cheese. Full fat gives the best results!
175g (1 pack) sponge fingers, also known as Boudoir fingers
1 standard espresso cup of espresso coffee, cooled
4 egg yolks
3 egg whites
250g mascarpone cheese
3 heaped tblsp caster sugar
2 tblsp Amaretto liqueur
Whisk the egg whites until stiff and set aside.
In a larger bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar using an electric whisk for several minutes until light and creamy. Add the mascarpone and whisk in. Fold in the egg whites gently until well combined.
In a spare dish, tray or plate, lay half of the sponge fingers in a single layer. Mix together the coffee and Amaretto and pour half of it over the fingers so that it soaks in.
Put roughly one third of the egg mixture in an even layer in the bottom of your serving dish. Transfer the soaked sponge fingers, arranging evenly in a single layer on top of the egg mixture and sift over cocoa powder generously.
Spread a second layer of egg mixture evenly over the top, making sure you leave a good half of it behind in the bowl for the final, top layer.
Soak the other half of the sponge fingers with the remaining coffee mixture and lay on top of the second layer of egg mixture, dusting with cocoa as before.
Spoon the remaining egg mixture over the top and level carefully. Chill in the fridge for several hours, preferably overnight or for a whole day, and dust with more cocoa before serving.
Serves 6-8. Small portions are best as the dessert is very rich.
* Lately I have found the quantity of cheese mixture insufficient to make three layers, usually ending up with not enough to put on the top layer. So I have used all of the egg whites from the four eggs to increase the volume. An alternative would be to make a smaller dessert in a smaller dish and by not using the whole packet of fingers.
Having just made a huge tiramisu for a party where I doubled the quantities of ingredients I ended up making more cheese mixture and so using twelve eggs. That covered the top layer fine.