For birthdays and special occasions, our family doesn’t purchase the standard cake from the grocers. Instead, my mom whips up an Italian favourite…Tira Mi Su. Layers of espresso and marsala dipped cookies, marscarpone and whipped cream.

Tira Mi Su means “pick me up” in Italian. It’s probably a reference to the espresso or the marsala that is used to dip the cookies into.  Most people think that this popular Italian layered cake has been around for ages. Did the ancient Romans eat it??  No. No they didn’t.

A little known fact is that Tira Mi Su is actually a recent addition to the Italian dessert table. It actually originated in the Treviso region in a bakery called Le Breccherie sometime the 1970s.

This recipe was from Ricardo magazine. Love the fact that it’s in a trifle bowl. It turned out really well the first time around. The second time…not so much.

It is not a traditional Tira Mi Su as it doesn’t have any of the liquor you would normally use, but it can easily be added. My mom normally used marsala, but you can substitute Tia Maria or a favourite that you may add to a coffee.

Tira Mi Su
Adapted from Ricardo Magazine, December 2008 issue

  • 3/4 cup espresso, hot
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 container of marscarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup cream (35%)
  • Approximately 24 ladyfinger cookies, broken in half
  • 1 cup white chocolate shavings

In a bowl, combine the coffee and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Stir in the milk. Refrigerate. You can also add a touch of liquor at this point if you wanted.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla and 1/2 cup of sugar using an electric mixer until the mixture turns pale and falls from the beaters in ribbons. Mix in the cheese. Set aside.

In a third bowl, whip the cream with the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. I found that the whipped cream needs to be really stiff here in order for the cake to hold.

Using a spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the cheese mixture. Dip the ladyfingers quickly into the coffee to moisten them. You don’t want the cookies to be soggy so a quick dip in the espresso is all that is needed.

Tira Mi Su
Dipping the lady finger biscuits

Place a third of the ladyfingers in the bottom of a clear serving or trifle bowl. Cover with a third of the cheese mixture, then repeat with remaining ladyfingers and cheese mixture.

Placing the biscuits into the dish

Sprinkle with the white chocolate shavings or even cocoa powder.

The mascarpone is then added

Refrigerate for about 2 hours or overnight. When you serve it just use a spoon to scoop out all that goodness out of the bowl.