tiramisu for valentine's day

The Ultimate Valentine's Day Dessert

Whether you believe Valentine’s Day is a Christian holiday, a pagan celebration or a savvy marketing strategy to fill empty restaurant seats during the slow season, it's hard not to get caught up in the red ribbons and hearts displayed in every store during the month of February.

tiramisu Photo Credit: Suzie DePingu

If you want to "keep it real” and make your loved one truly happy and cozy, I suggest you make a simple dessert to enjoy at home. Tiramisu has been made by Italian housewives for centuries, due to the ease of the preparation and the ready availability of the ingredients:

  • Savoiardi (lady fingers)
  • Mascarpone (I prefer a brand called Polenghi)
  • Espresso (Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso is excellent)
  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Cocoa powder or grated chocolate (for dusting)

At a recent demo with renown Italian Chef Giancarlo Perbellini, I had the opportunity to sample three different versions of this popular dessert:

  • Tiramisu “Tradizionale”: the purest and simplest of them all, it doesn't include any alcohol.
  • Tiramisu “Leggero”: uses whole eggs and whipped cream to lighten the mousse.
  • Tiramisu “a la Marsala”: in this version, we make a “zabaglione” custard with egg yolks, sugar and Marsala (a fortified Italian sweet wine) and add a meringue.

Inspired by this trio of tiramisus, I've developed three different recipes for you to share with your sweetheart. But first, a few tips for tiramisu success:

  • Make sure the mascarpone is at room temperature or, at the very least, soften the mascarpone with a wooden spoon. This will help it easily incorporate into your eggs.
  • Try to find an elegant dish or glass in which to serve your tiramisu, especially for special occasions.
  • To add a special Valentine's Day touch, cut out a paper heart that fits within the rim of your dish. Place the heart on top of the tiramisu and dust the surface with cocoa powder or grated semisweet chocolate. Carefully lift off the paper to reveal the design.
  • Tiramisu should be assembled just before serving, otherwise it needs to be refrigerated.
  • Some suggested wine pairings: Passito, Malvasia, Muscat or Mad Cuvée.

Tiramisu “Tradizionale"


  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1 lb mascarpone
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1-2 cups espresso
  • 1 package savoiardi
  • cocoa powder or grated chocolate (for dusting)


  1. Separate the egg yolks and whites, reserving both.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a whip attachment, whip egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed, until the mixture turns a lighter color and becomes thick (about 5 minutes).
  3. Carefully add the mascarpone and mix by hand until fully incorporated
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy. Then gradually add sugar and continue to whip until the whites reach the firm peak stage. The result should be a shiny, stiff meringue.
  5. Fold the meringue into the mascarpone mixture, using a rubber spatula.
  6. To assemble the dessert: Dip each lady finger in the espresso for a few seconds, until it absorbs some of the liquid. You may be tempted to add all the lady fingers at once, but this will cause the savoiardi to absorb too much espresso and become soggy.
    Place a layer of lady fingers in the bottom of your serving dish, followed by a layer of mascarpone mousse. You may repeat this step as many times as you like, then finish with a dusting of chocolate.

Tiramisu “Leggero”

This version requires you to make syrup with the sugar, to add to your eggs while whipping them.


  • 3 whole eggs
  • 5 oz sugar
  • 2 oz water
  • 8 oz mascarpone
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1-2 cups espresso
  • 1 package savoiardi
  • cocoa powder or grated chocolate (for dusting)


  1. Begin to whip your eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium-high speed.
  2. At the same time, boil the sugar and water in a small pot until the sugar reaches 234 degrees (also known as soft ball stage).
  3. When the syrup reaches the correct temperature, slowly add it to the eggs, without stopping the mixer.
  4. Continue whipping the mixture until it becomes thick and cooler.
  5. Add your softened mascarpone and mix by hand until fully incorporated.
  6. In a different bowl, whip the heavy cream until medium peaks form, then fold it into the mascarpone mixture.
  7. Assemble the dessert as described for "tradizionale".

Tiramisu “a la Marsala”

This version incorporates Marsala wine, a sweet, fortified wine from Sicily. The procedure requires you to make a “zabaglione”, in other words, to whisk the yolks, sugar and wine in the bowl of your electric mixer over a pot of boiling water until thick.


  • 4 eggs
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 2 oz Marsala
  • 8 oz mascarpone
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1-2 cups espresso
  • 1 package savoiardi
  • cocoa powder or grated chocolate (for dusting)


  1. Separate egg whites and yolks, reserving both.
  2. Prepare the zabaglione by whipping the wine, sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of your electric mixer over a pot of boiling water, until they get thick and the volume increases (up to eight minutes).
  3. Transfer electric mixer bowl to stand mixer, continuing to whip on medium-low speed until the mixture becomes very thick and has cooled.
  4. Add the mascarpone, and mix by hand until fully incorporated.
  5. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until frothy. Slowly add the sugar and continue to whip into firm peaks.
  6. Fold this meringue into mascarpone mixture and proceed to assemble the dessert, as described for "tradizionale".
victoria burghiA 2007 graduate of ICE's Culinary Management program, Victoria joined the school's faculty in 2011, translating her more than 15 years of professional experience into enriching technical instruction for ICE Pastry & Baking Arts students. http://www.chefvictoriaburghi.com/