Tiramisu Then and Now: Copycat Confessions

If you’ve never had Tiramisu, the heavenly Italian concoction of espresso, chocolate, creamy goo, and squishy caky stuff, then you’ve never really lived. And by heavenly, I don’t just mean delicious, I mean light and fluffy like a cloud. In short, it’s delightful, and anyone who says otherwise needs a neurological examination. Just sayin’.

Trying a New Dessert

I didn’t try it until I was well into my twenties. Tiramisu is not the kind of dessert a salt-of-the earth, casserole eating, coupon clipping, family of six generally enjoys. We were easily satisfied with a Texas sheet cake and a bucket of Neapolitan ice cream–Butter pecan or mint chocolate chip for special occasions. Even if it weren’t cost prohibitive, we were teetotalers and would have been horrified at the thought of the hidden rum and Grand Mariner it contained.*

Anyway, I needed encouragement from my best friend to try it. She’d had it when she’d studied abroad in Italy and assured me that it was delectable. I was skeptical since I believed her about the Tequila. Nope. And the hostel we once stayed in. (There was a naked French dude wandering around and the toilet seat was always covered in urine.) Nope. And the accent wall we painted. Nope. And the ramekins we absconded with from Applebee’s. Nope. But she was right about the Tiramisu, and I’ve had a love affair with it ever since.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always thought of it as a celebratory dessert. Perhaps because I’ve never eaten it alone. I’ve always shared it with someone. I introduced my husband to it on our first anniversary and he lost his mind. A true dessert feat indeed, since he almost always passes sweets up.

As much as I loved it and gazed upon its exquisite layers, I never considered making it. That would break its enchanting spell. And while I was fairly certain that my piece was commercially produced, I still wanted to believe that a little Italian grandmother handcrafted each batch from an old world recipe. I’m a die-hard romantic, what can I say?

Trying a New Recipe

But I got tricked into making it, damn Google! I don’t know how the recipe came up in my search results because I wasn’t looking for it. Once I noticed that it was on my favorite food blogger’s site, I was done.

There were a lot of steps, particularly with the mascarpone cream layer. It required attention to detail and following the steps in order. Sometimes when I’m baking I’ll prep different steps ahead of time, or work on two projects at once. That wasn’t possible in this case. I must have read and re-read the instructions 43 times worrying that I’d make a grave error and that I’d insult Italian cooks everywhere with a monstrosity of soggy cookies and heavy whipping cream.

I was also surprised to find out that Tiramisu isn’t baked. Who knew? I knew it used Lady Fingers, although I’d never tried them, but I still assumed baking was involved. I guess there would be baking if you made the Lady Fingers from scratch, but there’s no way. I mean, NO WAY. This was one of the biggest pain in the ass desserts I’ve ever made. Baklava was more work, and I’ve made some layered cakes that were nightmares, but this one was still a commitment.

It needed 12+ hours in the fridge to set up before serving, and let me tell you–that was agonizing. It was like waiting for a turkey to roast. I kept peeking, as if it were going to rise or something. I tried to tell myself to think about it like I would a cake–leave it alone! Let it do its thing! I just wanted to poke it and dig inside and see what was happening to the layers.

The texture wasn’t quite as silky as I would have liked when I first cut into it, but it was still delicious. I had triumphed! I found that Tiramisu is a bit like quick breads in that is gets better the longer it sits. The texture and flavors are optimal at day 2-3. Now that I know this it’s an ideal make ahead dessert, particularly for a special occasion or the holidays.

Trying It Out On My Friend

When I was done, I called my bestie and told her of my success. She didn’t waste much time in coming over to sample it. She told me it was good, but I knew I’d succeeded when she’d gone back for thirds. The recipe made an overflowing 9 x 13 pan so I had a wealth to share. As I packed her up with some to take home, I got lost in memories of previously shared Tiramisu. You don’t know when you try something for the first time how it will impact you later in life. It makes me wonder what my next Tiramisu will be.

Later, after I had enjoyed another piece with a cup of coffee I sent her a text.

Me: I gotta say, I make pretty okay desserts.

Danielle: They don’t suck.

Tiramisu is amazing, but friends are even better.

*I had neither rum nor Grand Marnier on hand so I made a couple of substitutions. For the rum I used milk and a hefty amount of rum extract. For the Grand Mariner, I substituted Kahlua. It was perfect.

Do you like Tiramisu? Have you ever tried to copy or make a dessert you had at a restaurant? What is your favorite celebratory treat besides cake and ice cream? Share in the comments!

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