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Tiramisu: Folklore and Fun Recipes for a Fantastic Italian Dessert

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

exploring-tiramisu

Who Created Tiramisu?

I did a Google search on “history of tiramisu” and within 0.55 seconds had 16 million results. Of course, there aren’t quite that many stories, but there is no one “for certain” account of who first conceived of tiramisu.

What Is It?

Perhaps I should rewind a bit and introduce you to tiramisu. First, it’s an Italian phrase which loosely translated means “pick me up” or “cheer me up.” The original is a coffee-flavored layered dessert somewhat like the English trifle. Crisp ladyfingers stand in for the pound cake of the English treat, and custard is replaced with a fluffy mixture of whipped eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese.

So, Back to the History Lesson

Most references on the internet say that the dessert was created in the 1960s in the Veneto region of Italy. In fact, some say that “Le Beccherie” in Treviso is ground zero for this miracle. But there are other stories too. I’ll present them below, in no particular order, and let you decide.

  • Roberto Linguanotto was the owner/operator of Le Beccherie, a bakery in the Piazza Ancillotto in the center of Treviso. On Christmas Eve 1969 he assembled and sold the first tiramisu.
  • In the 17th century, the Grand Duke of Cosimo de’ Medici III (a guy who’s level of importance was almost at big as his title) visited Sienna, northwestern province of Tuscany. In his honor “Zuppa del Duca (the duke’s soup) was created. He loved it so much that he took the recipe home with him to Florence.
  • Lidia Bastianich, famous TV personality and restauranteur remembers a dessert that her Istrian grandma would make; frothy zabaglione made of eggs freshly laid and still warm, drizzled with a bit of espresso and served with stale cookies.
  • Speranza Garatti is credited with serving a custard and cookie dessert in goblets in the 1960s, giving it the name coppa Imperiale.

And then, I found a September 17, 2019, article on the website La Cucina Italiana. They shared this tidbit:

In 1955 when the then-owner of the restaurant, Alba Campeol, was pregnant with her son Carlo . . . Alba’s mother-in-law would prepare her a hearty breakfast of zabaglione and coffee to fill her with energy to face the many commitments of the day. As soon as she had weaned her son and returned to the restaurant’s kitchen, Alba decided to propose a new dessert inspired by that delicious breakfast. Together with the restaurant’s pastry chef Roberto Linguanotto, began a long trial which ended 1972.

Do You Have a Favorite?

How to Make a Traditional Tiramisu

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces boiling water
  • 2 rounded teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 50 ml Kahlua (optional)
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 boxes crisp ladyfingers
  • unsweetened cocoa powder for garnish

Instructions

Listen to the above video.

Limoncello Tiramisu

Limoncello Tiramisu

Limoncello Tiramisu

When my family and I visited Italy, we were introduced to limoncello, a lemon liqueur made from simple syrup and the zest of Sorrento lemons. Every family has its own cherished recipe, and every restaurant that we visited was certain that theirs was the very best. In fact, they were so supremely proud of their citrus beverages that samples were dispensed free of charge, the owners hovering in the background awaiting our smiles and nods of approval.

Yes, limoncello is reminiscent of Italy, so making tiramisu with the flavor of lemon makes perfect sense. There's something about the flavor of lemon that makes me think of springtime. This limoncello tiramisu pops with fresh citrus flavor and would be a perfect addition to a Mothers' Day brunch or bridal shower.

Raspberry Tiramisu

Raspberry Tiramisu

Raspberry Tiramisu

In this light and airy dessert, the traditional flavors of chocolate and coffee are replaced with the bright taste of fresh raspberries and orange liqueur to create a summertime raspberry tiramisu. Mixologists will tell you that the combination of orange and berries is a match made in Heaven.

Pumpkin Spice Tiramisu

Pumpkin Spice Tiramisu

Pumpkin Spice Tiramisu

Imagine that a coffee/chocolate tiramisu and a pumpkin pie met and fell in love and had a baby. This pumpkin spice tiramisu would be the result. All of the creamy, pillowy softness of a traditional tiramisu has the comforting warm spicy flavors of pumpkin, nutmeg, and cinnamon spice.

No Eggs No Alcohol Tiramisu

No Eggs No Alcohol Tiramisu

No Eggs, No Alcohol Tiramisu

There is no denying that tiramisu is rich and indulgent, and because of the alcohol and raw eggs might not be a good choice for kids, moms-to-be, or those who abstain from alcohol. This no eggs, no alcohol tiramisu is light and fluffy with all the luxurious flavor of the original.

Vegan Tiramisu

Vegan Tiramisu

Vegan Tiramisu

Tiramisu is made of eggs, cheese, and heavy whipping cream. How can one possibly make a vegan (no animal protein) version? Sophie and Paul have found the key, creating a vegan tiramisu with all of the creamy texture and none of the guilt. (Do you want to know the secret? It's silken tofu and coconut cream. And no, it won't taste like tofu.)

Sources

© 2020 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 27, 2020:

Sp, I do hope that I've inspired you to make one.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on June 27, 2020:

I've never seen this on the restaurant dessert menus here and it's such a nice dessert too. The only version I've tried is the traditional version, but the others look just as good.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 13, 2020:

Denise, you are such a clever cook. I'm confident that you can take the best of both recipes and combine them into a delightful dessert.

By the way, I think that the distaste for coffee is similar to the dislike for dark chocolate. It's actually genetic. Hmmm, perhaps I should look into that, unless, of course, you'd like to.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on June 13, 2020:

I'm intrigued and so happy you included a vegan version. I bookmarked it although I hate coffee... yes, I know, I must be strange. I could do a fruity version. Sounds yummy.

Blessings.

Denise

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 11, 2020:

Hi Mary - I've fixed the section on pumpkin-flavored tiramisu to include the link (gosh, I wonder where it went?) As for deleting the alcohol, look at the one named "No Eggs, No Alcohol."

Mary Wickison from Brazil on June 11, 2020:

The first time I had a tiramisu was in a restaurant in Monaco with my in-laws. It was wonderful but because of the coffee, it kept me up all night.

How different would the outcome be without the alcohol in these? I don't drink and can't imagine buying a bottle just to make these. Also, I can't find a link for the pumpkin one. Would love to make a small version of these.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 09, 2020:

Liza, you are so very welcome. I'm glad this brought back good memories for you

Liza from USA on June 09, 2020:

Reading your article makes me want to go back to when I was a student. I first found out about Tiramisu means when I was in my Italian language class. It was a fascinating dessert. I prefer Tiramisu with no eggs and alcohol in it. Thanks for the awesome article, Linda.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 09, 2020:

Yes, Manatita it is good, but perhaps overpriced because it is a commitment, especially if one makes their own ladyfingers (crisp biscuits).

manatita44 from london on June 09, 2020:

Well Linda,

Your capacity to come up with such fascinating stories, never cease to amaze me. I bow to your great culinary keen appetite for taste.

I may have tasted Tiramisu for the first time in February. I was in Heidelberg and returning home from Pujaloy, our sacred Temple. It was about 10 p m, and the charming Italian shop, was the only one opened in this tiny village at this time.

I ordered a coffee to go and asked about pastries. Turns out all they had was Tiramisu. So I ordered same. I remember asking if it had alcohol and the guy said yes, only a little. Then he added, quite cleverly, I thought, that all my friends had it.

We are always dressed in whites and girls in sarees, so I guess he knew who I was. It was nice but expensive.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 09, 2020:

Lisha, I'll never forget my first tiramisu. Although I adore the "classic" I'm anxious for fresh raspberry season so that I can try out that recipe too. Thanks for commenting.

Lisha C on June 09, 2020:

Tiramisu is a delicious dessert, thanks for sharing the recipe. Also, these are interesting alternatives to the traditional recipe. The pictures look very tempting!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 09, 2020:

I do hope that you make a tiramisu. You deserve it and you can do this.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on June 09, 2020:

O, yes, adore some yummy tiramisu. I have never tried making it but I think you have given me the courage.Angels headed your way this morning.ps

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 09, 2020:

Wow Bill, it sure rained hard last night and hasn't let up much this morning. I forget are you the one building the ark, or is it our turn?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 09, 2020:

Shauna, I'm certain you would like any version of tiramisu because, as you said, they aren't too sweet. Make one for Thanksgiving?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 09, 2020:

Pamela I love lemon desserts in the spring and summertime. Something about that tart tang just shouts warm weather and dining al fresco. I don't know why. I'm glad you enjoyed the brief history lesson.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 09, 2020:

Flourish, wouldn't it be great to have at Thanksgiving instead of pumpkin pie (or is that a sin?).

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 09, 2020:

Eric, every Italian baker here or across the pond believes that their version is the ultimate (and right now I'm thinking of a certain television personality from New Jersey, no need to mention the name).

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 09, 2020:

There were a couple of those I would eat. That yellow one is questionable, but the others look like a go! :)

Enjoy the rain; we really don't have much choice today but to grin and be strong. :)

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 09, 2020:

Yummy, now I'm craving tiramisu, Linda. I like sweets that aren't too sweet and this creamy dessert fits the bill. I love pumpkin pie, so that variation appeals to me.

I've never made tiramisu but might need to give it a try.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2020:

These Tiramisu recipes look wonderful. I would like to try the lemon one first as I like anything with lemon flavor. Each of the pictures make you want to try a sample. Thanks for sharing the history and the recipe, Linda.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 09, 2020:

The pumpkin spice omg version calls my name even at this time of year and the vegan version certainly intrigues. Thank you!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 09, 2020:

No issue, the food is fit for a king - or Grand Duke and he was a Medici. I had no idea there were so many variations. But I am afraid I will just have to order one in a restaurant. As soon as practical :-)

I imagine each restaurant features their own.