Maida Heatter's Tiramisu - The Sweet Rebellion
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Maida Heatter’s Tiramisu

When Little, Brown and Company contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me if I’d like to receive a copy of Maida Heatter’s new book – “Happiness is Baking“, I must admit I had no idea who she was! But of course, I jumped at the opportunity to add a cookbook to my collection and try some new sweet recipes.

After doing a bit of research, I now know that Maida Heatter is an American Pastry Chef who taught the legends – including Martha Stewart! Towards the end of the 1960’s she rose to food world fame and has since written several cookbooks, won multiple James Beard Awards and visited the White House numerous times. She is now 102 years old, and still considered to be “the Queen of Cake”.

I thoroughly enjoyed paging through this book and trying to decide what to make first. There are at least 6 different versions of Chocolate Cake alone, plus loads of cookie and dessert recipes. I eventually settled on something I have never made before, a Tiramisu! Although not a quick recipe to make, you will be rewarded with a very generous portion of a magnificient yet classic dessert, perfect for a special occassion. It’s certainly worth the extra effort to make your own Chocolate Ladyfingers, they add an extra kick of chocolate flavour (and are also heavenly on their own!).


WFor the Chocolate Ladyfingers:
(Makes about 25)

⅔ cup plus 2 tbsp sifted flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tbsp instant coffee or espresso powder (optional)
4 large eggs, separated
1¼ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp cream of tartar
½ cup plus 3 tbsp castor sugar
Icing sugar (for sifting over the tops before baking)

For the Tiramisu
(serves 12)

1 batch Chocolate Ladyfingers
1¼ cups unsweetened strong espresso
6 tbsp Grand Marnier
2 cups Mascarpone
¼ cup dark rum
5 large eggs, separated
6 tbsp sugar
2 cups whipping cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
⅛ tsp salt
Unsweetened cocoa powder


To make the Chocolate Ladyfingers, adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 160°C. Lightly butter 2 cookie sheets, dust them with flour through a sifter, and shake off excess over the sink. Set aside.

Have ready a 38cm pastry bag fitted with a plain round tube that has a 1.6cm opening (#8). Fold down a cuff about 5cm wide on the outside of the bag. Twist the tube end of the bag and push it up a bit into the bag to prevent the batter from leaking out. Place the bag in a tall glass or jar to support it while you fill it. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, and optional coffee powder until the colour is even.

In a small bowl, beat the yolks and vanilla with an eggbeater to mix well. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and salt in a clean small bowl of an electric mixer and, with clean beaters, beat on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on high speed until the whites hold a straight point when the beaters are raised. On moderate speed, add the castor sugar 1 rounded teaspoonful at a time. Then beat on high speed again until the whites are stiff but not dry. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Add the beaten yolks all at once to the whites and fold together without being thorough about it. Turn into a large mixing bowl, In three additions, sift the flour mixture over the top and fold it in with a rubber spataula. At first do not be completely thorough with the folding, and even at the end, fold only until you do not see any dry ingredients. Even if the mixture looks lumpy and not smooth, do not fold any more.

Turn the mixture into the pastry bag. Unfold the cuff, gather the top of the bag closed, untwist the tube end, and press out ladyfingers onto the prepared sheets. Form about 2,5cm wide ladyfingers that are 10 to 12,5cm long (or make them as long as necessary to fit the dish you will be lining them with). Allow about 2cm of space between ladyfingers. At the end of each ladyfinger, lift the pastry bag slowly toward the other end of the ladyfinger to prevent leaving a tail of the batter.

Through a fine strainer, quickly staring icing sugar generously onto the ladyfingers and bake immediately.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, reversing the sheets once, top to bottom and front to back, to ensure even baking. Bake until the ladyfingers are lightly coloured and feel dry and springy when gently pressed with a fingertip. Then remove them with a wide metal spatula.

Store the ladyfingers airtight, flat sides together. For the Tiramisu, they should be very fresh. They can be frozen.

To make the Tiramisu, you will need an oblong casserole about 33cm x 22cm x 5cm with at least 14 cup capacity. Set the casserole aside.

Mix the espresso and Grand Marnier. Place half the mixture in a shallow bowl large enough to dip the ladyfingers into (reserve the remaining half of the mixture).

One at a time, place the ladyfinger in the espresso mixture. Turn it upside down two or three times until it is well moistened but not until it starts to fall apart. Place the ladyfingers, flat side down, in the casserole, close together to make a fairly solid layer. If necessary, cut some of the ladyfingers to to fill in large empty spaces. Reserve enoigh of the ladyfingers to make a second layer (you will form two layers of ladyfingers alternating with two layers of the mascarpone mixture). If some of the espereeso mixture is left over in the shallow bowl, drizzle it onto the moistened ladyfingers. Set the casserole aside.

Place the mascarpone in a large bowl. Add the rum and beat or whisk until smooth. Set aside.

In the top of a small double boiler over warm water on medium-low heat, beat the yolks using an eggbeater or handheld electric mixer with 3 tablepoons of the sugar (reserve the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar). Beat for 3 minutes, or until light and foamy. Remove from the heat, and without waiting, stir or beat the yolk mixture into the mascarpone mixture. Set aside.

In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, whip the cream with the vanilla until the cream just holds a firm shape.

In two additions, fold about one-third of the mascarpone mixture into the whipped cream. Then fold the whipped cream into the remiaining mascarpone mixture. Set aside.

In the small bowl of an electric mixer with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the salt on moderate speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and beat until the whites hold a soft shape. Gradually add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and continue to beat on high speed only until the whites hold a straight shape when the beaters are raised, but not until dry. Do not overbeat. Add the beaten whites all at one time to the mascarpone-and-cream mixture and fold together.

Pour half of this mixture over the layer of ladyfingers. Smooth the top.

Pour the remains espresso mixture into a shallow bowl. To make a second layer of ladyfingers, dip them one at a time -as above – and place them flat side down close together on top of the mascarpone layer. If any of the espresso mixture is left over, drizzle it onto the ladyfingers. Refrigerate uncovered.

For the top layer, pour the remixing mascarpone mixture onto the ladyfingers. Smooth the top. (The dish will be very full.)

After a few hours in the refrigerator or longer if more convenient), sift or strain a dense layer of cocoa all over the top(so no white shows through). Wipe the rim of the casserole. Cover with plastic wrapand continue to refrigerate at least overnight.

Just before serving, sift or strain a little more cocoa on top.

The tiramisu should be served very cold, preferably on chilled plates.

To serve: You can’t be “chicken” when you serve this; you have to be gutsy. Cut the tiramisu into oblongs with a small sharp knife. Then courageously, slide a wide metal spatula under a portion, lift it and move it over a dessert plate, and with another wide metal spatula push it off, trying to keep it top side up as much as possible.

Recipe reproduced with permission of Little, Brown and Company.

  • Pam Schneider
    Posted at 17:26h, 12 January Reply

    This Tiramisu recipe is the best! Making the homemade chocolate ladyfingers is well worth the minimal effort required! It takes it to the next level. Your guests will be so impressed!

    • Astrid
      Posted at 11:06h, 28 February Reply

      Hi Pam! Yes I agree, it really is worth making the sponge fingers from scratch! Thank you for trying my recipe 🙂

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