How to Make a Classic Tiramisu Like a Pro in Only 4 Steps

Learn how to make a classic tiramisu just like you'd get at an Italian restaurant—the hardest part is being patient during the chilling time.

You've seen it on menus and you know it's an Italian dessert, but exactly what is tiramisu? It's a magical dessert made from layers of sponge cake (ladyfingers) soaked in a coffee and (if desired) liqueur syrup, creamy mascarpone, and cocoa powder. And we aren't kidding about how easy it is to make tiramisu at home. The best part? You can make the fancy-looking dessert up to 24 hours ahead so it's convenient for gatherings, too. Read on for our step-by-step process on how to make tiramisu. After you've mastered the classic tiramisu recipe, you can try some of our best creative takes featuring chocolate, pumpkin, and more.

Triple-Chocolate Tiramisu
Blaine Moats

Ingredients to Make Tiramisu

As with any recipe, the first thing you need to know is the ingredients. This is the basic makeup of most tiramisu recipes. We'll be using our classic tiramisu as the foundation for the steps to making the dessert from scratch.

  • Ladyfingers: Sponge cake piped into fingerlike shapes. You can make your own ladyfingers or purchase two 3-ounce packages. Wondering if you should use soft or hard ladyfingers for tiramisu? They come in both forms, but we tend to use the soft variety.
  • Espresso powder: We use instant espresso coffee powder ($7, Target) found in the coffee aisle at your grocery store. You could also use espresso, which is strong coffee made by forcing steam or hot water through finely-ground Italian-roast (or espresso-grind) coffee. It can be brewed at home or at your local coffee shop.
  • Mascarpone cheese: A double- or triple-cream cow's milk cheese, mascarpone has a mild flavor and a texture similar to creamy room-temperature butter. Purchase it at a supermarket, cheese shop, or specialty food market.
  • Hazelnut-, coffee-, or almond liqueur: This sweet alcoholic beverage is optional, but we enthusiastically opt for it. It adds an extra flavor dimension to your tiramisu recipe.
  • Heavy cream: You surely know what this is. Just like sweetened whipped cream, here it adds fluffy creaminess to the tiramisu recipe.
  • Pantry staples: Sugar, water, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder are all essentials likely in your pantry. If they're not, go grab 'em now so you can make your tiramisu.

Step 1: Make the Coffee-Liqueur Syrup

The tiramisu syrup is what gives the ladyfingers all their coffee flavor. The chilling time (we'll get there soon) allows the syrup to soak in. In a small saucepan, combine:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. espresso powder

Bring it to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let it boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. If desired, add 2 Tbsp. liqueur.

Mixing tiramisu ingredients in bowl with wooden spoon
Folding together the mascarpone and whipped cream to make tiramisu. Matthew Clark

Step 2: Make the Mascarpone Filling

Using chilled beaters in a large chilled bowl, beat 1⅓ cups chilled heavy cream on medium until soft peaks form (tips curl). In another medium bowl stir together two 8-ounce tubs of mascarpone cheese and ½ cup powdered sugar. Fold ½ cup of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture to lighten. Then gently fold the mascarpone mixture into the remaining whipped cream.

Test Kitchen Tip: Chilling your beaters and mixing bowl in the fridge for at least 15 minutes allows your cream to whip quickly, giving you even more fluffiness as a result.

Step 3: Assemble the Tiramisu and Chill

Arrange half of the ladyfingers in the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan ($40, Williams Sonoma). Brush with half of the syrup. Spread with half of the mascarpone mixture and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder. Repeat ladyfinger, syrup, and mascarpone layers. Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours. See, told you this was the hardest part—waiting for something so delicious is so hard! But giving the syrup plenty of time to soak in makes for the best tiramisu recipe. And you want the best, right?

garnishing tiramisu with cocoa powder
Sprinkling cocoa powder over the chilled tiramisu is the final step before serving in making tiramisu. Kritsada Panichgul

Step 4: Garnish and Serve

Immediately before serving, remove the tiramisu from the refrigerator and uncover. Place 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder in a small mesh strainer ($5, Target) or sifter, and dust the top of the tiramisu with the cocoa. Cut the dessert into 9 squares.

How to Store Leftover Tiramisu (if you even have leftovers): Cover and store leftover tiramisu in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Don't stop at just one tiramisu recipe. Our Test Kitchen has a lot of delicious ways to infuse that creamy, coffee-infused dessert into all sorts of treats. Add-on some extra flavors to create a pumpkin tiramisu or maple-bourbon chocolate tiramisu. Serve tiramisu for breakfast in this irresistible french toast recipe. Make someone's birthday really special with a tiramisu ice cream cake. However you choose to enjoy the Italian dessert, we already know it's going to be delicious.

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