Tomorrow we’ll be celebrating my husband’s birthday, and this year I’ve promised to bake him a tiramisu cake. Back in May, I decided to bake a tiramisu cake for our marriage anniversary because we both love tiramisu. I experimented with that cake again for Father’s Day, and now I’m confident I can get the exact results I’d like. Much of my inspiration came from Smitten Kitchen, which had the most detailed recipe out there — and the prettiest pictures, too! There are six specific parts to my version: espresso extract, espresso syrup, a genoise cake, a zabaione, the mascarpone mixture, and whipped cream. As you can tell, it’s very involved and very not conducive to a step-by-step picture post — never fear, pictures will be here, but not for each individual step and part. Let’s start with our ingredients for each part:
4 tablespoons of instant coffee or espresso powder
4 tablespoons of boiling water
1 cup of water
2/3 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of espresso extract
2 tablespoons of Kahlua Mocha (or coffee liqueur of your choice)
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup of sugar
3/8 cup of Kahlua Mocha (or Moscato/ Marsala/ Brandy/ other spirit of your choosing)
8oz tub of mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract (no imitation nonsense — the cost is the same, use the real thing!)
1 tablespoon of Kahlua Mocha (again, you can use a different spirit of your choosing — I go for a coffee flavor throughout my cake)
1 cup of cold heavy whipping cream
Coffee-flavored Genoise Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) of melted butter
4 large eggs
1 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (again, the pure way is the right way!)
2 tablespoons of Kahlua Mocha (or other coffee liqueur of your choosing)
1 tablespoon of espresso extract
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder (okay, not orthodox in a genoise cake, but I like the little extra lift)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Pretty intense, I know. So, let’s get down to creating this lovely round piece of heaven.
To make your espresso extract, boil the water. In small container, measure the instant coffee/ espresso powder, then pour the boiling water over it. Stir to dissolve the granules. Cover loosely and set aside.
To make your espresso syrup, heat the water and sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the espresso extract and Kahlua, stirring to combine. Allow the syrup to simmer until the syrup begins to thicken. You should have over a cup of syrup reserved — of course, you could halve the recipe if you don’t enjoy the soggy, cake-y goodness that usually comes with tiramisu. We happen to love every coffee-flavored syrup-soaked bite in this house, though.
To make a zabaione, either get out your double boiler, find two pots that fit together, or get a metal bowl that will sit atop one of your pots. Put enough water into the bottom pot, but don’t put in so much that it touches the bottom of your top pot/ bowl. Heat the water. In your top part, mix the yolks and sugar until fluffy and yellow. An electric mixer really facilitates this process. Once your yolk mixture looks pale yellow and creamy, stir in the liqueur and place on top of your simmering water. Mix constantly for about 10 minutes, or until fluffy and thick like custard. Set aside to cool, then refrigerate.
To make the mascarpone mixture, whisk or use your electric mixer to combine the ingredients into a fluffy, creamy mixture. Refrigerate. Ignore the desire to eat it as is.
To make the whipped cream, pour the cold cream into a cold bowl (it’s recommended that you use a metal bowl, but I’ve had luck with plastic, too). Get your electric mixer, attach the whisk, and beat the cream until it’s about doubled in size and forms stiff peaks. Be careful not to over whip your cream, or else you will end up with butter.
To make the cake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. If you’re confident in your genoise baking skills, omit the baking powder. Set aside. Next, melt the butter and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat your eggs and sugar constantly. You’re going to want a very fluffy, airy cake batter with lots of wonderful little air pockets. Carefully pour in your flavoring ingredients while beating your egg and sugar mixture. Once your mixture looks like it’s about doubled in size, gently fold in the melted butter with a spatula. You don’t want to over mix it, or you will risk deflating all the air you’ve beaten into the batter. Then carefully fold in the dry ingredients, again being diligent not to over mix. Pour the batter into two grease cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes. I find that my oven bakes them in 20 minutes. Allow your cake layers to cool for a bit.
Still with me? We’re not finished yet. We still have to mix our filling and frosting, soak our cake layers, and assemble the beautiful thing. Get out your cocoa powder because you’re going to need that for garnishing. Here’s how we’ll do it:
Half the mascarpone mixture
Half the whipped cream
Gently fold together the zabaione and mascarpone mixture. Then gently fold in the whipped cream. Resistance is futile — you might as well lick the spatula. If it’s a little runny, you can whip the mixture a bit to help thicken it up.
Half the mascarpone mixture
Half the whipped cream
A drizzling of espresso extract
Whip the frosting to fluffy perfection.
We’re finally ready to assemble our cake. Take the first cake layer and begin soaking it with half the espresso syrup. Be careful and patient about it — you want to have an evenly soaked cake, and you don’t want to make a sticky mess.
Once you have soaked the bottom layer, spread the filling evenly across the cake layer.
Place your top cake layer atop the tiramisu filling. Soak the top layer with the remaining syrup.
Then spread your frosting on top of your cake, careful smoothing it down the sides of the cake.
Finally, dust the top of your cake with cocoa powder. Voila! You are now ready to cut a slice and enjoy the Italian “pick-me-up!”