Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tiramisu Layer Cake

Tiramisu is a delicious Italian dessert. Traditionally, tiramisu consists of ladyfingers soaked in coffee and layered between a sweet mascarpone filling. The first time I made this dessert, it was for dinner at a friend's house. I wasn't sure what to make and wanted it to be something more than cookies or a plain cake. I scoured for a new dessert to try. Because this was for dinner at a friend's house, I wanted the recipe to be highly rated. I narrowed it down to two possibilities: tiramisu or baklava. Apparently I was feeling ethnic that day. Because I didn't have access to thawed out phyllo dough to make the baklava, I went with the tiramisu. This recipe has over 1000 five star ratings! I didn't make many changes to it the first time...I omitted all of the liqueur and replaced it with plain coffee. Now that I've made it a hundred times, I still haven't changed a thing.

I surrounded the cake with pirouette cookies and topped it with a light dusting of cocoa powder and chocolate shavings (white chocolate and semisweet chocolate). I also made some cupcakes for the kids because I didn't think they'd appreciate all of the coffee flavor and I knew I wouldn't appreciate all of the caffeine from the coffee! 
When we got to their house, we started talking about food (naturally). Bro. Doug asked if I knew how to make baklava. He had tried it when he went to Israel and it was apparently a new favorite of his. Darn it! I knew I should have gone with the baklava!
Then I introduced them to tiramisu. Now, this is NOT a traditional tiramisu. This is a layer cake and contains no biscuits or ladyfingers. But it is just as delicious. After I made this cake the first time, my husband went to work bragging about it and one of his coworkers ordered on. I'm not sure why he would order it though because he specifically told my husband, "I've tried tiramisu and I didn't like it." I think he was having a party for his girlfriend and she liked coffee....Whatever the reason, I know that this customer had tried tiramisu from an Italian bakery and had not been impressed. 
And then...I delivered his cake. He couldn't stop talking about how great it was. Personally, I've never had real tiramisu either so I can't make comparisons but I can tell you that this is a customer favorite! Probably the most popular flavor cake I have for now and one of the top selling cupcakes as well. And after all that praise I just gave it, I'm a little embarrassed to comes from a box mix!


  • CAKE:
  • 2 (18.25 ounce) package moist white cake mix
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder or espresso powder
  • strong coffee
  • 1 tablespoon coffee flavored liqueur
  • 1 (8 ounce) container mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 3 (9 inch) pans.
  2. Prepare one cake mix according to package directions. Pour into prepared pan.
  3. Prepare second cake mix, substituting coffee for the water. Add in instant coffee or espresso powder. Pour into prepared pan.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. In a measuring cup, combine brewed coffee and 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur; set aside.
  5. To make the filling: In a small bowl, using an electric mixer set on low speed, combine mascarpone, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur; beat just until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  6. To make the frosting: In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the cream, 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar and 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur until stiff. Fold 1/2 cup of cream mixture into filling mixture.
  7. To assemble the cake: Level and tort cakes into two pieces. Place one coffee cake layer on a serving plate. Using a thin skewer, poke holes in cake, about 1 inch apart. Pour one third of reserved coffee mixture over cake, then spread with half of the filling mixture. Top with a plain cake layer; poke holes in cake. Pour another third of the coffee mixture over the second layer and spread with the remaining filling. Top with remaining coffee cake layer; poke holes in cake. (You won't use the second piece of plain cake...but you could...add an extra layer and adjust your filling amount) Pour remaining coffee mixture on top. Spread sides and top of cake with frosting. Place cocoa in a sieve and lightly dust top of cake. Garnish with chocolate curls. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.
  8. To make the chocolate curls, use a vegetable peeler and run it down the edge of the chocolate bar.

At some point in time...after I had made the recipe several times and didn't actually need to look at the recipe anymore, I forgot about mixing in half of the whipped topping mixture into the filling mixture...but everybody still loves it and that's how I make it now. Because I surround the cake with pirouette cookies, I usually just make a coffee flavored buttercream instead of the whipped topping. It holds up better, still tastes great, and makes me less anxious to drive anywhere with the cake. (We usually go on a lot of hilly, bumpy, curvy roads).

My sister-in-law made this cake for her daughter's birthday and completely forgot about the middle, plain vanilla layer. People still gave the cake rave reviews so if you don't feel like wasting part of the vanilla cake, feel free to skip the middle layer!

I have found that mascarpone cheese is a little difficult to find and when you do find it, it is a little pricey. Here's a cheap alternative:
8oz cream cheese
1/4 c. whipping cream
2 1/2 T. sour cream

Whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl often. Add whipping cream and sour cream and mix until smooth and combined. 
I usually make this faux mascarpone in the KitchenAid and then go straight to making the filling. It is slightly more than you need but it won't make a difference. 

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