how to make tiramisu
How to make tiramisu like an Italian
By Colleen Kinsey of Travel Meets Happy

Everyone has a favorite dessert, whether it’s a plain vanilla ice cream cone or a decadent German chocolate cake.

For me, that dessert is tiramisu.

If it’s on the menu, I’m ordering it — even if that means eating it several nights in a row, like on my recent tour of Northern Italy. It was on that trip, in the native lands of my favorite treat, where I promised myself I would soon learn how to make tiramisu myself. 

Tiramisu is made of mouthwatering layers of ladyfingers soaked in coffee or liqueur, powdered chocolate and mascarpone cheese. Directly translated, the word means “pick me up” or “cheer me up.” There have been many disputes among experts on the exact location of the invention. Some suggest it all began in “Le Beccherie” in Treviso, Italy during the 1960’s. Others believe it dates back to the 17th century in Siena.

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Vernazza, Italy
A view of Vernazza from my Northern Italy tour.

On The Road

Eventually, my travels took me to Spain. I was getting burnt out from Couchsurfing and staying in hostels; craving routine and a crowd that wasn’t focused on partying every night. So, I turned to Airbnb in search of a private room as well as the opportunity to relax and focus on work while still meeting new people.

I arrived in Barcelona on a train from Madrid. After getting lost only twice — despite being a world traveler, I’m a bit navigationally-challenged — I found myself on the doorstep of my new home for two weeks. I was greeted with a warm, Italian “Ciao!” from my host, Alessia, who was originally from Italy.

Gaudi masterpiece in Italy
Another Gaudi masterpiece

Home Sweet Home

After getting settled into my small, but comfortable bedroom, I joined Alessia in the living room and we shared our life stories over a cup of hot coffee. I was drawn to Alessia’s warm and relaxed manner, feeling immediately settled in this temporary home. 

Alessia and her boyfriend, Ema, were both professionals, but their passion was break dancing. The two had met at a break dancing competition back in Italy, but had moved to Barcelona a year ago in hopes of better job opportunities. They rented out the spare bedrooms in their flat for some extra pocket change.

Along with providing me a place to stay, Alessia and Ema invited me to cook with them. Their passion for all things culinary was obvious. They whirled around each other with grace and precision, despite being in a tiny kitchen. Sipping wine and chopping vegetables, I tried to steer the conversation toward my favorite dessert.

“So, do you happen to know how to make tiramisu?!”

Ema’s eyes lit up. He had his grandmother’s tiramisu recipe memorized by heart.

“Is it difficult to make?” I prompted, trying not to sound over excited.

“It’s so simple. I’ll teach you on Saturday morning and we can enjoy it for dessert!” Ema responded.

Park Guell
A view from Park Guell

Learning How To Make Tiramisu

Finally, Saturday morning rolled around. I was like a little kid on Christmas morning, jumping out of bed and waiting for Ema to wake up. He laughed at my enthusiasm, though I could tell he was equally excited to share such an important family tradition. 

First, we went out a few tips for how to make tiramisu. It turns out that it’s actually quite simple. The most difficult part is waiting — after assembly, tiramisu goes into the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

By evening, it was ready to taste. Having learned how to make tiramisu myself, it became more than just a delicious dessert. It was a special recipe I learned from new friends, a way I was able to closely connect with other travelers away from home.

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how to make tiramisu
Before we put the tiramisu in the fridge

Tiramisu Recipe


6 egg yolks

¾ cup white sugar

⅔ cup milk

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pound of mascarpone cheese

¼ cup of strong coffee, at room temperature

2 tablespoons of rum

2 packages of ladyfinger cookies

1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder

how to make tiramisu
How To Make Tiramisu Like An Italian


1. In a saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. I learned from Ema that it’s best to carefully drop the yolks into the mixture instead of “plopping them in” and breaking the yolk.

2. In a bowl, beat together the cream and vanilla until stiff peaks form. 

3. Whisk the mascarpone into the yolk mixture until it’s smooth. 

4. In another small bowl, mix the room temperature coffee and the rum into a bowl. Make sure the width of the bowl is long enough to lay the ladyfinger cookie flat. Ema said to soak each side of the cookie in the mixture for about 5 seconds.

5. Arrange half of the coffee soaked ladyfingers at the bottom of a dish. Then layer on top of the cookies the mascarpone mixture. Repeat the layers, then finish with a layer of cocoa powder on top.

6. Cover and set in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours.

Optional: Pair with a glass of Italian wine, like a glass from the prestigious Lombardy wine region of San Colombano al Lambro.

Do you have any tips for how to make tiramisu?

How to make tiramisu like an Italian
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The creator of Travel Meets Happy is not what one would call a responsible, one-glass-of-wine-with-dinner kind of adult. Follow along on her adventure to screw the cubicle and pursue a location independent lifestyle while building websites for small businesses.

Latest posts by Colleen Kinsey (see all)

Colleen Kinsey

The creator of Travel Meets Happy is not what one would call a responsible, one-glass-of-wine-with-dinner kind of adult. Follow along on her adventure to screw the cubicle and pursue a location independent lifestyle while building websites for small businesses.

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  1. No mention of 2/3 cup milk in the recipe. Do you cook the eggs, sugar and I’m guessing, the milk in the saucepan? Then do you cool that mixture and then add the mascarpone???????

  2. Ooh, this sounds delicious! And authentic! Tiramisu is my favorite dessert also, it’s rad to find one with the right balance of flavors, and not be too cloyingly sweet.

  3. Do you use the same saucepan to warm the milk while you cook the eggs and sugar?

  4. I’m glad to see that you have a unique way of writing the post. Now it’s easy for me to understand the idea and put it into practice

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