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Apr 11, 2007 08:17 AM

What's so special about Tiramisu, and what else is mascarpone good in?

I'm kind of over the tiramisu. It is good, but it's a long shot from being my favorite dessert. Can anyone explain to me the general craze over tiramisu? I can think of at least five people who would call it their "favorite dessert," and if you ask a roomful of people what they want for dessert someone is bound to shout "Tiramisu!" and be met with a round of agreement.

Name me one great quality of a tiramisu--it's creamy, it's chocolatey, it's boozey--and I'll name several desserts better exemplify that quality. To me, tiramisu is a little of everything, a lot of nothing. Of course, maybe it's the "greater than its parts" quality that people like. However, it is exactly this quality that overpowers the delicate flavors of a great mascarpone, which to me is only unique thing about a tiramisu in the first place.

My next goal is to find a dessert in which mascarpone shines. Any ideas?

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  1. I think of it like an italian trifle. I like the way everything comes together kind of mushy but I haven't had tiramisu in years. As mascarpone goes, you can use it in place of cream cheese to give a lighter texture. Mascarpone cheesecake is good. I also like whipped ricotta and mascarpone for a cold summer dessert:

    2 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      Actually, there is a classic Italian version of the English Trifle - look for "zuppa inglese" on the dessert menu; it literally means "English Soup".

      1. re: chowser

        Have to disagree that Tiramisu isn't that great - have you ever eaten it when its cooked by a first generation Italian? You haven't lived! This is a traditional recipe for Tiramisu which is beautiful...

        Do tend to agree with you that Mascarpone is more of a glob on top sort of product, but really you can use it as a replacement for any recipe with cream in it - and it gives a richer deeper flavour.

      2. it's creamy, it's chocolatey, it's boozey--

        Well, there you go ... you answered your own question.

        Also it is the Zagut of desserts ... it self-perpetuates.

        Once a restaurant is in Zagut, people know about it, go, and vote for it, and it goes in the next book ... So it goes with tiramisu.

        It is on so many restaurant menus, so people order it more often, making it their favorite dessert out of the usual sad dessert list, so because people order it so much, restaurants keep it on the menu. It beats the sad, usually rubbery cheesecake, ice cream, chocolate mousse, creme brulee or piece of chocolate dessert.

        Also, it keeps well, like cheese cake and ice cream which is why it is often on menus. Seriously though, how many people make tiramisu at home? I was going to prove my point by pointing to Home Cooking, but there are a few recipies including one for Twinkie tiramisu

        Which brings up the point that maybe you don't like tiramisu because there are so many dreadful versions out there. When everything is balanced, it can be a very nice dessert. By no means my favorite, but good.

        Top fresh figs with marscapone. I've seen Marscapone cheesecake. I haven't tried it, but in our area, if ever in Sepastopol, it is at the new Sfoglia Sicilian bakery.

        So, what are the several desserts that exemplify the qualities of tiramisu better?

        12 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          I have to agree that people probably like the combination of qualities, i just feel that each quality is diluted. Maybe my problem is I don't like trifles either!

          I'm not saying any of these is superior to a well-made tiramisu, but personally I would rather:
          -eat a chocolate cake with ganache frosting to satisfy my chocolate craving
          -eat a cream puff to sate my gooey creamy dessert craving
          -have a bowl of chocolate mousse to satisfy both
          -drink a glass of port or have a biscotti with vin santo to quell that booze craving

          I guess I'm one of those who can identify my craving of the moment, and I want something that's really going to hone in on that craving and satifsy it.

          And yes, it irritates the !$!@ out of me that people will order anything with the word tiramisu attached to it, even when it's bound to be terrible (at a Chinese bakery, for instance, where it's almost always a layer of cake covered in rubbery coffee mousse). And then they complain that they got a bad tiramisu, when it was so obvious to me the restaurant's strength would have been something else.

          But you're right. If I owned a restaurant or cafe, I would serve it too.

          1. re: Pei

            You also forgot to mention that there's coffee in them-there tiramisu . . .

            . . . I would definitely count a well-made tiramisu among my favorite desserts, but then, I'm really into creamy, custardy desserts. I will order the gelato, the bread pudding or the panna cotta over the cake/pie/tart any day of the week.

            I think the key for tiramisu to become a transcendant dessert is that it HAS to be well-proportioned. To me, the recipe linked beliow makes the BEST tiramisu bar-none -- if you follow this recipe for tiramisu to a "T" and STILL don't get it, I think we can just chalk it up to differing personal preferences :-)


            1. re: DanaB

              I'll give you this--that is one of the best recipes out there. I got a lot of compliments when I used it!

              1. re: DanaB

                Interesting, never heard of lemon juice being used. The recipe I was verbally told and have stuck to without fail is 500 grams of marscapone, 5 eggs, 5 soup spoons of sugar, espresso and whatever alcohol to taste. More or less same technique as yours, no cooking. However, this only works for me with imported cheese, NEVER the domestic. I got stuck one NY's eve making one pan with imported and one with domestic (Bellgiosa or something?) and the difference was so pronounced!

            2. re: rworange

              Years ago, I used to make tiramisu fairly often, only it was hard to find mascarpone cheese (years ago...) back then. I like it home made. I guess I've had it poorly done at enough restaurants that I don't even notice on the menu anymore since I don't look for it. The last straw was having it w/out mascarpone cheese, only whipped cream on yellow layer cake and canned peaches. Sorry, call it something else at that point.

              1. re: rworange

                Holy crap. Literally. So fascinated was I by the concept of "twinkie tiramisu" I googled it and, surprise surprise, there was a recipe for it on It got 4 stars! All the reviewers pronounced it good, except for one who said it was tasty, though not as tasty as homemade tiramisu.

                Gee ... ya think?

                Now don't get me wrong, I'm generally no food snob. (Though that's another thread). I am an avid Panera patron, a vigilant defender of several food network personalities, and I love me some Krispy Kreme bread pudding -- with Cool Whip! But seriously, twinkie tiramisu even makes ME go ker-blink.

                Though I'm so fascinated, I sorta want to make it and try it, just to see what it's like ...

                1. re: charmedgirl

                  ker-blink! I love it.

                  Please, oh please, do report back on the home cooking board if you make it!

                  1. re: charmedgirl

                    Wonder if you could take it up a notch and deep fry the Twinkie first.

                    1. re: charmedgirl

                      Never mind that. I want the recipe for Krispy Kreme bread pudding.

                      1. re: rworange

                        I've had that! For an approximation of the flavor and feeling it leaves in your stomach, take a bite of a krispy kreme doughnut and a good slug of sweetened condensed milk.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Heh, I was only kidding about the Krispy Kreme bread pudding.


                          It's a Paula Deen recipe and she gets a TON of flack for it, though plenty of other supposedly more "foodie" chefs also have donut bread pudding recipes out there. I actually came across one in (I think it was) Gourmet magazine within the past year. Anyways, I made the Paula Deen one for my girlfriends one night out of sheer curiousity and we all thought it was good! Two caveats though: (1) I like donuts, I like bread pudding, and you will rarely hear me pronounce something too "sweet", so it was up my alley anyway and (2) I haven't made it since, and this was about 3 years ago. It just never comes to mind when I'm wracking my brain for desserts to make and serve.

                          Anywho, if you're curious give it a shot! And don't skip the butter rum sauce.

                          Oh, P.S. I halved it, serving five girls and there were still left overs.

                      2. re: rworange

                        I have to agree with rworage... of the bites I've had of everybody else's tiramisu at dinners (I don't order it myself), most have been pretty awful. One or two were simply amazing. I think before dismissing tiramisu, finding the preeminent tiramisu and tasting is worth it.

                        That said, I largely agree with the OP.

                      3. I think I've only had really good tiramisu once or twice in my life. Most places just screw it up somehow - cheaping out on the mascarpone, too much booze, too little booze, watery, etc. Now, I usually refrain from ordering it, which is okay, because I've been on a big coconut dessert kick lately.

                        1. I LOVE tiramisu! It's sinfully rich, delicious when made with top-quality ingredients, and it's a perfect dessert when served with a little Vin Santo on the side.

                          1. Yeah, I'm guilty- it's probably one of my favorite desserts! I love to make Wolfgang Puck's version where you make your own ladyfingers- so much better and also a pain to make! But, if you think tiramisu is over done and over-rated, I offer you up creme brulee! Blech... I'm so tired of seeing that on menus and think, what's the big deal! You said name you something with one of the qualities: creamy *or* chocolatey *or* boozey, but name me something better with all three qualities!