This Tiramisu Cake recipe makes a decadent yellow layer cake inspired by the classic Italian dessert. Cake layers are soaked in coffee-flavored syrup and filled with coffee cream cheese frosting and chopped chocolate. It’s the perfect tiramisu birthday cake for the tiramisu lover in your life!
Traditionally, tiramisu is a no-bake dessert made with espresso-soaked lady fingers and dusted with cocoa. It has a filling of heavy cream, mascarpone, and raw egg. One bonus with this tiramisu layer cake variation is you get all the flavor of tiramisu without raw eggs.
Why you’ll love this tiramisu cake recipe
- It’s a layer cake that tastes like tiramisu!
- Easy to make.
- This birthday cake tastes even better when made a day ahead.
Mascarpone versus cream cheese
Cream cheese subs in for mascarpone in the filling and frosting of this tiramisu cake recipe. Although the higher fat content of mascarpone would give the cream cheese frosting a slightly richer taste, it costs twice as much. You are also more likely find cream cheese in your grocery store. And, honestly, as a filling for this tiramisu cake, I can’t taste the difference.
Variations and substitutions
- Make this as a 13 by 9 inch tiramisu sheet cake for easier decorating.
- If you don’t have cake flour, use 2 and ⅝ths 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!
My 2021 version of this tiramisu birthday cake was adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours. Subsequent substantial updates of this tiramisu cake recipe have used the reverse creaming method.
The classic creaming method produces mechanical leavening from aerating butter and sugar together. With the reverse method, flour and sugar are mixed, beaten with butter and a bit of liquid, and eggs are added at the end. Reverse creaming is simpler and makes cake layers that are more tender and don’t dome, making the tiramisu cake assembly much easier!
Recipe tips and tricks
Step 1: 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.
Making the tiramisu cake layers
The tiramisu cake layers come together quickly and easily with the reverse creaming method:
Step 2: Add the cake flour and other dry ingredients to a large bowl or bowl of your stand mixer and mix in the cubes of softened butter and most of the milk (Panel #1, below).
Step 3: Combine the eggs, remaining milk, and vanilla extract in a measuring cup, and add this egg mixture in two or three batches (Panel #2).
Step 4: Split your cake batter into your prepared pans. 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.
Step 5: Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans in the oven at about 15 minutes, if your oven needs that, to ensure even baking. Start checking the cake layers at about 25 minutes. When done, a toothpick inserted in the center will be mostly clean, and the cake layers will be starting to color and pull away from the pan edges.
Soaking the tiramisu cake layers
Step 6: Soak the cake layers with the coffee syrup as soon as you remove them from the pans. Release the cake onto a cooling rack over a sheet pan or waxed paper (Panel #1, below). Then use a pastry brush or spoon to completely cover the layer with coffee syrup (Panel #2).
Step 7: Carefully turn the layer over and remove the top with a serrated knife to let the syrup soak in better (Panel #3). Soak the top of the cake layer with more coffee syrup. Repeat with the second layer, and let the layers completely cool to room temperature.
Decorating tiramisu cake
Step 8: 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 the coffee cream cheese frosting (Panel #2). Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting on the cake in an even layer.
Step 9: Sprinkle the first layer with 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 tiramisu cake. Sprinkle with more chopped chocolate, shaved chocolate curls, or cocoa before serving.
How to store and serve tiramisu cake
This cake tastes even better after time! So make it and put it into the refrigerator the morning of or even the day before serving.
You can definitely make a 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.
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 your tiramisu cake 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. Extra frosting can also be frozen in an airtight container for three months or so.
Related cake recipes
Check out other Ugly Duckling Bakery birthday cakes like:
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- 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 and cubed
- 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 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
- 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. Scrape 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
- Add the mixture of eggs, milk, and vanilla in two or three batches, and beat for about 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the bowl each time.
- 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 into the center will come out clean.
- Let the cake layers cool for 10 minutes and then unmold them carefully onto cooling racks for soaking and cooling.
- Clean the mixing bowl and beaters now to have them ready when you 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, gently 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 cake layers, put the cooling rack over a baking sheet or waxed paper. Use a silicone brush to drip about one quarter of the soaking syrup evenly across the bottom of a cake layer. Carefully flip the layer over. Use a serrated knife to remove a thin layer off the top to help the syrup soak. Repeat with the remaining syrup and second layer. Let cool to room temperature. Check out the post for more information.
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
- 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 on top of the first and use the remaining frosting to cover the cake.
- 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 April 2, 2023.
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