Tira mi su means ‘pick me up’ in Italian and this is how the dessert started life — as a nourishing dish to be eaten when feeling low. It originated in Venice, but now is popular worldwide. Tiramisu is made from sponge fingers soaked in coffee and an alcohol such as Marsala, and layered with a mascarpone cheese mixture. You can also make a fruit version, using framboise and puréed raspberries instead of Marsala or brandy and coffee.


  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 170 g (6 oz/¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 300 g (10½ oz) mascarpone cheese
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) cold strong coffee
  • 3 tablespoons sweet Marsala or brandy
  • 36 small sponge fingers (lady fingers)
  • 80 g ( oz) dark chocolate, finely grated


  1. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is light and fluffy and leaves a ribbon trail when dropped from the whisk. Add the mascarpone and beat until the mixture is smooth.
  2. Whisk the egg whites in a clean dry glass bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture.
  3. Pour the coffee into a shallow dish and add the brandy. Dip enough biscuits to cover the base of a 25 cm (10 inch) square dish into the coffee. The biscuits should be fairly well soaked but not so much so that they break up. Arrange the biscuits in one tightly packed layer in the base of the dish.
  4. Spread half the mascarpone mixture over the layer of biscuits. Add another layer of soaked biscuits and then another layer of mascarpone, smoothing the top layer neatly. Dust with the grated chocolate before serving.