Sunday, March 20, 2011

Heavenly Cake Baker: Tiramisù (free choice)

heavenlycakeplace It's free choice this week in the Heavenly Cake Baker club. I was debating between the Red Velvet Cake on page 83 of Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rose's Heavenly Cakes and Tiramisù on page 267. Tiramisù won out in the end as it seemed like more of a challenge.

I must confess that I cheated a bit this week and deviated from the recipe in the book to (mostly) follow a recipe I'd made once before. While baking, I went back and forth between the two but the final cake, in the end, leaned more toward the more familiar recipe and not the book. I hope I won't be kicked out of the club!

To start with, I got totally flummoxed when reading RLB's instructions for the ladyfingers because she instructs you to pipe the fingers but also to pipe out an 8" disk...but the disk is never called for in the tiramisù recipe. It wasn't until much, much later that I realized the disk instructions were for the recipe on the previous pages. D'oh!

The recipe I (mostly) used called for ladyfingers for the top and bottom layers and a sponge cake as the middle layer (another reason I kept wondering where to incorporate the ladyfinger disk). As you can see from the pictures below, my ladyfingers were pretty much a disaster. Next time I will definitely either use RLB's ladyfinger recipe or the sponge cake recipe (which said it could also be used to pipe the ladyfingers).

I'm not sure exactly what went wrong with my ladyfingers. I think I may have over-beaten my eggs, egg yolks and sugar mixture, but everything seemed fine until just before I started filling the pastry bags...then the batter just collapsed before my eyes. Sad.

mise en place for the ladyfingers

beating the eggs and sugar

I can tell disaster is coming; after adding the flour and butter, the batter is already collapsing

as you can see I had a hard time getting a light dusting of powdered sugar!
the first set wasn't great but they weren't too horribly bad

the second set was a complete disaster

they look okay from afar and were actually very light inside...but

...they were so sad and FLAT up close

The sponge cake, on the other hand, was fantastic. It was easy to pull together, it didn't collapse on me and it baked in less than 10 minutes. It was spongy and moist (it would roll up nicely for a roulade!). It was a bit sticky on the top, but otherwise was very easy to work with after it was baked. I picked it up, flipped it over - both dry and wet - and it never tore.

mise en place for the sponge cake

egg whites and sugar are whipped to a stiff peak


dry ingredients are added to the egg yolk, sugar, vanilla and water mixture

after the whipped egg whites are folded in, it's baked in a sheet pan

less than 10 minutes later - done!

mise en place for the pastry cream

making the pastry cream...whisk whisk whisk until it boils

the mascarpone has been added to the pastry cream which is set over an ice bath to cool

the final ingredients: cream to lighten the pastry cream; super strong coffee and Kahlua to soak the layers;
and cocoa/powdered sugar to decorate

adding the whipped cream to the mascarpone pastry cream

almost incorporated - smells delicious!

the first layer of cookies are soaked with the coffee/Kahlua and
covered with the mascarpone pastry cream

the sponge cake layer is up next; it's given a good soaking

I had lots of extra cookies and more sponge cake than I needed for the large serving dish I was using so I made a second dish (what I'm going to do with TWO dishes of tiramisù though, I don't know). However, at this point I started thinking that I was going to run out of the cream filling by the time I got to the top so I whipped up some more heavy cream, added a few splashes of the coffee/Kahlua mixture for a bit of flavor and then incorporated it back into the mascarpone pastry cream mixture. It diluted the delicious pastry cream flavor a little, but definitely made it go further.

the final layer is made up of ladyfingers and then topped with more cream

all done...looks great

now I just need 20 people to serve this to!

after setting up for about an hour, I sliced into it; I think it will be even better tomorrow after the
flavors have more time to meld


Bye for now...


  1. Despite the flat finger, the final cake looks beautiful. I love all the different layers. I'm not big on coffee so I doubt I'll be making this one... :o(

  2. Thanks, Hanaa! I can totally understand the coffee therefore tiramisu aversion. You could try with chocolate or some other flavor if you like the other components. I feel like I've seen recipes that have other flavors. Maybe I'll try it someday with that raspberry puree that I loved - I think that might be nice :)

  3. Too bad you weren't in the group when we made ladyfingers for the first time! Some of the group were already ladyfinger pros, but a lot of us made our ladyfinger-baking debut on these pages, and some of us did not do well at all. Your tiramisu looks beautiful--I can almost taste it!

  4. this is heaven! i so love tiramisu

  5. Alice, kudos to you for choosing the more complicated recipe. I've made sponge cakes where it deflated right away so I know how you feel. Sadly, I'm not sure what caused it.

    Your tiramisu looks really good though. The slice picture looks particularly yummy!

  6. Marie - thanks, yes I wish I had been around when everyone was making ladyfingers. I would have loved to see and read everyone's experiences and see what tips people had. Oh well...I'll just have to try again :)

    Thanks, Megan! It is delicious, isn't it? I'm finding it is even better two days later too, as the flavors have blended even more.

    Jenn - thanks! I definitely was in the baking mood this weekend so wanted a challenge. I love making cakes with lots of parts to them. A side note: for some reason I can't post a comment on your blog (and a couple of others...not sure what the problem is!) but wanted to tell you your vanilla bean cupcakes and mini pecan pies are ADORABLE! Your photos are beautiful too :)

  7. Oh my gosh that looks good! I haven't made it yet but I love tiramisu.

  8. Alice, your tiramisu looks great! I'll bet it was delicious, it's one of my favorite recipes in RHC. Even though you weren't happy with the looks of your ladyfingers, I'll bet once they were syrupeed and layered with the custard, they were marvelous.

    For the ladyfingers, one of the captions says, "...after adding the flour and butter."

    Did you add butter? Because the recipe doesn't call for butter... and that would definitely make a sponge cake deflate.

    If you didn't use butter, then it's mostly a matter of beating yolks/whites long enough and being careful to fold the minimum amount and to be gentle and work quickly when handling the batter so it doesn't deflate.

  9. Thanks Julie :) I actually used a different recipe than in the book and it called for butter...but that might have been what collapsed it! I probably would have been better just sticking with the book! I had made the other recipe once before so thought it might be easier to manage since it was a little familiar.

    It's weird about the egg beating because I started thinking that I had overbeaten them and that's why they collapsed so quickly. I'll just have to try again and see if I can figure it out :)