Makes 10 servings
Tiramisù may be standard at Italian-American bakeries and cafés, but it has surprisingly, not been around forever. It can be traced back only to the 1970s and a restaurant in Treviso. The heavenly combination of Italian ladyfingers, Marsala, espresso, and mascarpone usually makes an unassuming, even dowdy-looking dessert. This version upgrades the ingredients into a beautiful cake. Bring out the demitasse cups and pour strong Italian roast coffee with this showstopper.
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup of water
- ¹/3 cup brewed Italian or French roast coffee or espresso, or 3 tablespoons instant
- espresso powder, dissolved in ¹/3 cup boiling water, cooled
- ¹/3 cup sweet Marsala
- 1¼ cups chilled heavy cream
- One 17-ounce container mascarpone cheese
- 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1 ounce semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a round of parchment or wax paper. Do not butter or flour the pan.
- To make the cake, melt the butter in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and let boil until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan turn light brown, about 1½ minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 1 minute. Skim the foam from the top of the butter. Carefully pour the browned butter into a medium bowl, leaving the browned milk solids behind in the saucepan. Add the vanilla.
- Bring a medium saucepan with 1 inch of water to a brisk simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain the simmer. Whisk the sugar and eggs together in the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer. Place over the water (the bowl should not touch the water) and whisk constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the egg mixture is hot (dip in your finger), about 2 minutes. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until the mixture is very pale and fluffy and has tripled in volume, about 4 minutes. (Another test: Stop the mixer and lift the whisk attachment. The mixture should form a thick ribbon that falls back on itself and stays on the surface for a few seconds before sinking. Professional bakers call this “making the ribbon.”) You can use a large heatproof bowl and a hand mixer to prepare the egg mixture, but allow at least 5
minutes of beating.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer. Sift the flour and salt together and return to the sieve or sifter. In thirds, sprinkle the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in with a large balloon whisk or a rubber spatula. Transfer about one-fourth of the batter to the butter-vanilla mixture and whisk together to combine. Return this mixture to the batter and fold it in. Pour into the pan and smooth the top.
- Bake until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center with your fingers, about 35 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire cake rack for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan to release the cake. Invert the cake onto the rack and remove the pan bottom and wax paper. Turn right side up and let cool completely.
- To make the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stop stirring and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the coffee and Marsala. Let cool.
- To assemble the cake, whip 1 cup of the heavy cream in a chilled bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until it forms soft peaks. In another bowl, whisk the mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar, and remaining ¼ cup cream just until smooth. Do not overmix. Add to the whipped cream and whip just until combined and stiff enough to spread.
- Using a long serrated knife, cut the cake in half horizontally. Place the top layer (with the “skin”), cut side up, on a 9-inch cardboard cake round. Brush half of the syrup over the cake layer. Spread with about ½ cup of the mascarpone frosting. Top with the remaining cake layer, cut side down. Brush with the remaining syrup. Spread the top, then the sides, with the remaining frosting.
- Grate the chocolate on the large holes of a box grater into a small bowl. Sprinkle the grated chocolate over the top of the cake. (Do not touch the chocolate with your fingers or it will melt.) Place the cake on a serving platter. Refrigerate until the frosting is set, about 1 hour. (The cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.) Slice and serve.