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!
What is tiramisu?
Tiramisu (actually “tiramisù”) is an Italian dessert. It’s made with espresso-soaked ladyfingers; a filling of cream, mascarpone (an Italian cream cheese), and raw egg; and a dusting of cocoa powder.
The original version of this tiramisu cake was adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours. It was the first of several cakes I baked and delivered to friends for my zoom birthday party during one year of the pandemic.
My notes on the original cookbook recipe say: “great concept. too dry. totally soak?” So, when I first adapted her recipe, I tripled the amount of coffee syrup.
But I have been read more and more about “reverse creaming.” The classic creaming method starts by beating butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. With the reverse method, the flour and sugar are mixed together and then beaten with butter and 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 yet even more delicious than before.
Tips and tricks for this recipe
One bonus about making tiramisu as a cake is that it avoids the raw egg, which carries the risk of foodborne infections. I’ve also substituted standard cream cheese for the mascarpone. Although mascarpone has a higher fat content than standard cream cheese and would give the frosting a slightly richer taste, it also costs twice as much.
The reverse creaming method
The cake layers come together quickly with the reverse creaming method. First, add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix in the softened butter and most of the milk (Panel #1, below). Then mix in the eggs, remaining milk, and vanilla (Panel #2).
Bake 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!
Soaking the cake layers
The cakes should be soaked 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.
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 (Panel #3). Soak the top of the cake layer with more coffee syrup and allow to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the second layer.
Assembling the tiramisu cake
When the cakes 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).
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, chocolate curls, or cocoa.
FAQs about this tiramisu cake
I subbed concentrated decaf coffee in place of espresso powder in order to avoid caffeinating my kiddo. You can use the ratio of 2 tbsp instant espresso in 2 tbsp boiling water from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe, but you’ll want to increase the amount to 1/2 cup.
Sure, but know that vanilla has about twice the alcohol content by volume (ABV) compared to kahlua. You can reduce the alcohol content by adding it when you heat the sugar syrup. Just know that the most of the alcohol won’t burn off in a short period of time.
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.
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.
- 2 9 inch round cake pans
- 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
- 1½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 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
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
- 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
- ½ cup mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
- unsweetened cocoa, for dusting, if desired
- bittersweet chocolate curls, if desired
- 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, softened, 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.
- 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 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, softened, 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
- 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
- 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
This tiramisu cake recipe was originally published on March 21, 2021. It was last updated on May 9, 2022.
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