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How to Make Tiramisu Cake

This tiramisu cake is made with yellow cake layers soaked in coffee-flavored syrup and filled with coffee cream cheese frosting and chopped chocolate. If you love tiramisu, you will love this tiramisu cake. Or make a tiramisu birthday cake for the coffee-lover in your life.

What is tiramisu?

Tiramisu (actually “tiramisù”) is a favorite Italian dessert. The traditional tiramisu is a no-bake dessert made with espresso-soaked lady fingers. It has a filling of heavy cream, mascarpone (an Italian cream cheese), and raw egg. And then it’s dusted with cocoa powder.

What is tiramisu cake?

A tiramisu cake is a decadent layer cake variation of the classic Italian tiramisu. Instead of lady fingers, it should have a rich, dense vanilla cake that is soaked in a strong coffee syrup made with marsala or coffee liqueur. It should have a creamy filling, and it should be finished with cocoa or chocolate.

interior of the tiramisu cake and a cake server on a stand.

Voila! Now you have a tiramisu-flavored cake.

Tips from the wise quacker: One huge bonus about this cake is that it gives you the flavors of tiramisu without raw eggs. Public Health likes to warn us, but we all know that the raw eggs in tiramisu carry risk of food-borne infections.

Recipe adaptation

The original version of this tiramisu layer cake recipe was adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours. After I made it the first time, my notes say, “great concept. too dry. totally soak?” So, when I first adapted her recipe, I tripled the amount of coffee syrup.

But since then I have read more about “reverse creaming.” The classic creaming method starts by beating butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. With the reverse method, flour and sugar are mixed and then beaten with butter and a bit of liquid. Eggs are added at the end.

The 2022 update of this tiramisu cake reworked the recipe entirely and now uses this reverse creaming method. It’s much simpler and miraculously even more delicious than before.

Flight school: mascarpone versus cream cheese

This recipe uses cream cheese as a substitute for mascarpone. Although mascarpone has a higher fat content than standard cream cheese and would give the frosting a slightly richer taste, it costs twice as much. You are also more likely find cream cheese in your grocery store. And, honestly, in this tiramisu cake, I can’t taste the difference.

Tips and tricks

The reverse creaming method

The cake layers come together quickly with the reverse creaming method. First, add the cake flour and other dry ingredients to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and mix in the cubes of softened butter and most of the milk (Panel #1, below). Combine the eggs, remaining milk, and vanilla extract, and add this egg mixture in two or three batches (Panel #2).

two panels showing the steps in making the cake layers.

Bake the cake batter until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean and the cakes are just starting to color and pull away from the edges of the pan. Compared to the classic method, cakes made using reverse creaming won’t dome as much, making cake assembly much easier!

two baked cake layers in pans.

Soaking the cake layers

The cakes should get their coffee soak as soon as they are removed from the pans. Release the cake onto a cooling rack over a sheet pan or sheet of waxed paper (Panel #1, below). Then use a pastry brush or spoon to paint on or drip the coffee syrup (Panel #2) until covered completely.

four panels showing the soaking and leveling of a cake layer.

Carefully turn the layer over and remove the top of the cake with a serrated knife to let the syrup soak in better and level the cake if you need to (Panel #3). Soak the top of the cake layer with more coffee syrup and allow it to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the second layer.

Cake assembly

When the cake layers have cooled, assemble the tiramisu cake. Start with one cake layer right side up (Panel #1, below), and add about one cup of coffee cream cheese frosting (Panel #2). Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting on the cake in an even layer.

four panels showing assembly of the tiramisu cake.

Sprinkle with the chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips, and top with the second cake layer, right side up. Use the remaining frosting to cover the rest of the cake, and sprinkle with more chopped chocolate, shaved chocolate curls, or cocoa.

tiramisu cake on a cake stand.

Variations and substitutions

  • If you don’t have cake flour, you can use 2 and 5/8ths cups (328 grams) of all-purpose flour in combination with three tablespoons of cornstarch.
  • Use espresso or espresso powder in place of the brewed coffee, but make it strong.
  • Feel free to substitute decaf.

FAQs

Can I make this tiramisu cake without alcohol?

You can definitely make this tiramisu cake without alcohol. But you should also know that vanilla has about twice the alcohol content by volume (ABV) compared to kahlua. You can reduce the alcohol content by adding the liqueur when you heat the sugar syrup. Just know that the most of the alcohol won’t burn off in a short period of time.

How long can a tiramisu cake last?

This cake actually needs a bit of time in the fridge to set up before serving and so should be perfect for a day or two in the fridge. It will be fine to leave for another day or two, but any more than that and I would probably freeze it.

Can I freeze this cake?

YES. Most cakes freeze very well. Leave the tiramisu cake overnight in the refrigerator. The next morning, slice the remaining cake into family-sized pieces. Wrap each large slice in two layers of sturdy plastic wrap, put the slices into a freezer bag, and try to squeeze out any air. To defrost, pull out the cake, unwrap it, and put it on a plate while still frozen. Depending on the size of your slice and your room temperature, it will take about 2 hours to defrost.

Extra frosting can also be frozen in an airtight container for three months or so.

tiramisu cake on a cake stand with a slice on a plate and more forks and plates.

Related recipes

Check out other uglyducklingbakery cakes and delicious desserts, including the purple velvet cake, a chocolate chip loaf cake, chocolate orange cake, Earl Grey and lavender cake, or this blackberry and lemon quick bread.

If you love coffee, try this coffee and walnut loaf cake or an espresso martini like this gin espresso martini or this creamy espresso martini with Baileys.

Tiramisu Cake

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Category: Cakes
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Assembly (not including cooling time): 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 681kcal
This tiramisu cake recipe is made with yellow cake layers soaked in coffee syrup and coffee cream cheese frosting for classic tiramisu flavor. Make a tiramisu birthday cake for a coffee lover, or serve it after an Italian-themed dinner.
Print Recipe

Equipment

  • Mixer
  • 2 9 inch round cake pans

Ingredients

Cake layers

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups (375 grams) cake flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks or 6 ounces) unsalted butter softened and cubed

Coffee syrup

  • 1 cup strongly brewed coffee or substitute instant espresso powder in boiling water (see note)
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup Kahlua, sweet marsala, or rum

Filling

  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened and cubed
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter softened and cubed
  • 2 to 3 cups (342 grams) powdered sugar more or less for desired taste and consistency
  • 1 tablespoon Kahlua or other coffee liqueur, sweet marsala, or rum
  • 1 tablespoon coffee from above
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Assembly

  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
  • unsweetened cocoa, for dusting, if desired
  • bittersweet chocolate curls, if desired

Instructions

Cake layers

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and line two 9 inch round cake pans with parchment paper, lightly butter the parchment paper, then lightly dust the pans with flour.
  • Into a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs, ¼ cup of milk, and vanilla.
    4 large eggs, room temperature, 1 cup whole milk, divided, 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the sugar, and mix just until combined.
    3 cups (375 grams) cake flour, plus more for dusting the pans, 1½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Add the butter and remaining ¾ cup of milk to the mixing bowl, and beat on low just enough so the flour doesn't spray everywhere. Then increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 to 3 minutes. You will need to scrape the butter down from the sides of the bowl a few times during this process.
    12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • In two or three batches, add some of the mixture of eggs, milk, and vanilla, and beat for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl between each addition.
  • Divide the batter evenly into the two pans and bang them gently on the countertop to spread out the batter and remove any bubbles. If you're the kind of person who's compulsive about them being equal, there will be about 625 grams of cake batter in each pan.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans in the oven at about 15 minutes, if needed, to ensure even baking. Start checking for doneness at about 25 minutes. the cakes will have colored slightly and a toothpick inserted the center will come out clean.
  • Let the cake layers cool in their pans for 10 minutes and then unmold them carefully onto cooling racks for immediate soaking and cooling.
  • Clean the mixing bowl and beaters here to have them ready to go when you want to make the filling and frosting.

Coffee syrup and soaking the cake layers

  • While the cakes are baking, make the soaking syrup. If using coffee, brew a strong 8 ounce cup of coffee, and then, in a small pot, boil the coffee until it has reduced by about half.
    1 cup strongly brewed coffee
  • Remove about 1 tablespoon of coffee for use later in making the cream cheese buttercream.
  • In the same small pot, add the sugar, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.
    1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • Remove from heat, and add the coffee liqueur.
    ¼ cup Kahlua, sweet marsala, or rum
  • To soak the cake layers, put the cakes on their cooling racks over a baking sheet or piece of waxed paper. Starting with soaking the cake bottom (i.e. upside down), pour or use a silicone brush to drip about one quarter of the soaking syrup evenly across the cake layer. Carefully flip the layer over and repeat with the top of the cake layer. Use a serrated knife to remove a thin layer off of the top of the cakes to help the syrup soak into the cake. You can use this to create a perfectly flat top to the cake layer if you want.
    Repeat with the remaining syrup and second layer. Let cool to room temperature.

Filling and frosting

  • In the bowl of a mixer, blend the cream cheese and butter until lightened.
    8 ounces cream cheese, 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • Add 2 cups of confectioners sugar and sample for desired taste and consistency.
    2 to 3 cups (342 grams) powdered sugar
  • Add the coffee liqueur, reserved coffee, and vanilla and beat until well mixed. Check again for sweetness and consistency and add more confectioners sugar, if desired.
    1 tablespoon Kahlua or other coffee liqueur, sweet marsala, or rum, 1 tablespoon coffee from above, 1 teaspoon vanilla

Assembly

  • Place one cake layer right side up on a cake stand or plate. Spread about 1 cup of coffee cream cheese frosting on top of this layer, and then sprinkle the chocolate or chocolate chips evenly.
    ½ cup mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
  • Place the second cake layer upside down on top of the first and use the remaining frosting to cover the cake. Add chocolate curls, if desired.
  • Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least three hours before serving.
  • Dust cake slices with cocoa or slice some chocolate into curls, if desired, right before serving.
    unsweetened cocoa, for dusting, if desired, bittersweet chocolate curls, if desired

Notes

This cake tastes better after time! So make it and put it into the refrigerator the morning of or even the day before serving.
Variations and substitutions:
  • If you don’t have cake flour, you can use 2 and 5/8ths cups (328 grams) of all-purpose flour in combination with three tablespoons of cornstarch.
  • Use espresso or espresso powder in place of the brewed coffee, but make it strong.
  • Feel free to use decaf coffee!

Nutrition

Calories: 681kcal | Carbohydrates: 95g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 128mg | Sodium: 301mg | Potassium: 125mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 71g | Vitamin A: 969IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 131mg | Iron: 1mg
Love this recipe?Mention @Uglyducklingbakery or tag #uglyducklingbakery!

This tiramisu cake recipe was originally published on March 21, 2021. It was last updated on May 9, 2022.

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a slice of tiramisu cake on a plate next to the cake.

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11 Comments

  1. I never thought to make a tiramisu cake before but this recipe sounds amazing! Love the photos and I can’t wait to make this for my birthday coming up later this week!! 🙂

  2. If you don’t have all purpose flour,but you still want to make it easy of baking a cake, could you just get white OR yellow cake mix to make the cake itself much easier and faster too?

    1. Hi George. Sure! I’m never done it, but if you prefer the convenience of using cake mix for this tiramisu cake, I’d use a yellow cake mix and follow the directions for the mix without changes. Then I’d use those yellow cake layers in this recipe. Let me know how it goes! Joanne

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