Ladyfingers & Tiramisu Brains: Creamy Temptation

“Why do you love it?”

<whisper> “The happy juice.” </whisper>


Mmmmm. Tiramisu. That lovely creamy concoction. It has coffee, chocolate AND marscapone. What’s not to love?

Until this past weekend, Marscapone and I had flirted from a distance and mingled with friends over dessert, but somehow missed that one on one introduction. If only we had made a point of doing this sooner. It is delish.

As lovely as marscapone is, though, I should mention that once I found out how easy ladyfingers are to make it was the most difficult ingredient for me to find. There was one store locally that I found it at, but I was going downstate to visit my family and Trader Joe’s has it for $1 less a container. It would make my heart happy if they built a Trader Joe’s closer than an hour away from here, or even a Whole Foods. Until then I shall just have to trek.

On to the recipe. I made a batch and a half because I knew I was taking it to work, so this would be enough for 2 9×9 dishes. Feel free to cut it in half or a third for a more normal number of servings.


Brains or Classic
based on the recipe from

9 egg yolks

2 cups white sugar

16 oz marscapone cheese

20 oz heavy whipping cream

2 oz cooled espresso

1.5 oz Kahlua liqueur

2 batches of ladyfingers

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

3 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate

1) Combine egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and whip yolks until thick and lemon colored.

I was a little nervous about the double boiler portion of these instructions initially. I don’t own a double boiler, so I did mine the do it yourself way and frankly was a bit worried at first by the whole sealing off the flow of air from boiling water. In reality it wasn’t that frightening and it worked. I used a stainless steel pot and bowl for mine. If you’ve never done it before you here’s what it looks like once you’ve set the bowl over the water (wait until its boiling to put the bowl on then turn the heat down).

2)  Add mascarpone to whipped yolks. Beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold into yolk mixture and set aside.

3) Split the lady fingers in half, and line the bottom and sides of a large glass bowl. Brush with coffee liqueur (and espresso mixed together). Spoon half of the cream filling over the lady fingers. Repeat ladyfingers, coffee liqueur and filling layers.

Since I was dividing my tiramisu into two separate dishes I decided to experiment a bit. In one dish I used the single pack of ladyfingers I could find at the store and in the other I used the ladyfingers I made. After trying both my taste buds informed me that the homemade ones were better by far. Also, I tried both dipping one side of the ladyfinger into the espresso mix and brushing it on. The dipping seemed easier. Just don’t dip for more than 5 seconds or the cookie will lose its structural integrity.

Garnish according to the variation of your choice and  refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Variation 1: Classic

To finish off the classic tiramisu simply dust with cocoa powder and add chocolate curls. These are made by taking a vegetable peeler and running it down the edge of the chocolate bar.

This is messy work as the chocolate is, of course, melting over your fingers as you attempt to curl it. For the sake of any other folks consuming your tiramisu, please wait to lick your fingers until the task is complete.

Variation 2: Brain

This one is a bit more complex. First of all, you need to build up the shape of the tiramisu to be convex instead of flat like your classic tiramisu. See how it is taller than the edges of the pie plate? Also, there is an indentation along the center for lobal separation.

Originally my intent had been to do the brain pattern with a frosting of some sort, but one of my co-workers is allergic to corn and my frosting supplies are not corn free so the first thing I did to add that brain look was cut up a few ladyfingers and lay them out in brainish shapes.

I wasn’t really satisfied with that result alone though, so I spread a bit of cream over to smooth up the edges and pulled out the chocolate.

To make the chocolate I put 3 oz of semi-sweet baking chocolate on the stovetop with 1 1/2 tbsp of sweet condensed milk and a bit of the cream mixture. As it melted I mixed and once it was mixing smoothly I removed it from the heat and allowed it to cool to the point that I could pipe it out into the brain pattern.

During all of this I did have the tiramisu in the fridge chilling and returned it there for the night after the chocolate was administered. Here’s the view from topside:

No matter which way you prepare it the dish is delicious and has received the co-worker mark of approval. Enjoy!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Donald
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 17:46:18

    I can vouch for the brains–yum-yum…


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