perfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocksperfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocks

Is “tiramisu” a dessert classic ? For my generation, perhaps not, since it only appeared and was most probably first prepared in the early 70’s in Italy, then was modified and reinterpreted over time until today, 50 years later, everywhere.

This dessert is a simple assembly of repeated layers made of ladyfinger cookies, espresso coffee, coffee liqueur, perhaps some fortified wine, mascarpone cream cheese, egg yolks, egg whites, sugar, cocoa, vanilla.

You’ll need 3 layers of ladyfingers or savoiardi biscuits, soaked in a mixture of 2 parts strong espresso coffee and 1 part alcohol-based coffee liqueur (occasionally combined with some fortified aromatic wine like Marsala or Vermouth, for a more complex flavor) and slightly thickened with sugar and cocoa powder and accentuated with a hint of vanilla. 

In my opinion, the best result is when the coffee-flavored soaking liquid is very slightly syrupy (and thus slightly thicker and stickier) and after the cookie is very briefly soaked, the cookie weight has exactly doubled (13-14 grams) when compared to the dry unsoaked cookie weight (6,5-7 grams), becoming just moist and tasty enough without falling apart nor turning the dessert soupy.

You will also need 3 layers of the cream mixture, with 2 parts of mascarpone cheese and 1 part of the sugar and egg mixture, which is half sugar and half eggs. One half of the egg mixture is beaten egg yolks with sugar, like a pre-custard before adding the milk and the other half of the mixture is whipped egg whites with sugar, like an unbaked meringue. Both mixtures should be slightly heated to cook the egg yolks and egg whites partly so they do not remain raw, but I explain that in the instructions.

Assembly is easy since its 2 alternating layers of soaked cookies and the cream mixture and I like to do 3 of each with a final dusting of dark cocoa powder, once before freezing and once when serving.

For serving, even after refrigeration, the dessert is quite soft and creamy and difficult or impossible to slice cleanly, unless it’s prepared in individual ramekins with no slicing. Ideally, for something clean and straight when sliced and served, this dessert should be frozen before unmolding, slicing and plating and then allowed to thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature until soft and creamy again, but still remaining chilled, like a semifreddo, which is how it was initially prepared and served a long time ago.

The important question, depending on the recipient(s) you will be using to make 1 large version or 2 medium versions or 3 to 4 smaller versions, is how much mixture will you need ? 

That’s easy, but only after all of my testing of course ! It’s all about measurements with volumes and densities. Whatever you decide to use, it’s better to measure the volume of your assembly dish using plain water filled up to rim of your recipients and weighing it. Whatever the result is, you’ll need 80% of that weight in prepared tiramisu weight.

The cookies I use are 9 cm long and I happen to have straight-sided metal baking containers that measure 18 cm x 18 cm and also inexpensive flexible silicone containers (for making home-made soap blocks) that measure 9 cm x 9 cm each so it’s easier for me but use what you have and preferably use something with straight and not sloping sides and use baking paper to line everything for easy removal and for freezing and cut the cookies if you must so they fit just right. 

By the way, you can make several batches of tiramisu and freeze the blocks as is or slice them after an initial freezing and then place them in freezer bags with the air sucked out (with a straw) back inside the freeze and take them out when needed, even 2 months later, if well sealed.

To recap everything, the dessert is approximately 1/3 coffee syrup-soaked cookies which are half cookies and half soaking syrup and 2/3 cream mixture which is 2/3 mascarpone cheese and 1/3 egg and sugar mixture which broken down further is ½ eggs and ½ sugar and broken down further is the egg whites with half of the sugar and the egg yolks with the other half of the sugar.

The recipe if flexible. A little more or less of this and that will make practically no difference but I’m giving you the precise measurements that I used for my own corresponding volume measurements of the square recipients but it’s so much easier to just use a kitchen scale to weigh everything instead of using cup and spoon measurements that will just mess up everything in the kitchen ! 

The recipe and quantities here represent 10% more of what I needed to use because you always lose a little here and there by tasting and adjusting and transferring mixtures from one mixing bowl to another so always make just a little bit more than what you think you need which will be closer to 75% with 5% that is lost. The 80% ratio or weight of the finished tiramisu compared to the recipient volume(s) measured with water which is 100% is ideal and 100% safe.

I also tell you exactly how much to make of everything from start to finish, even if you don’t have coffee liqueur, by making your own fancy version and how strong to prepare your coffee and all the rest.

TIRAMISU in Italian means “pick me up” or “pull me up” or “cheer me up”, which is why you should make some soon, as the big return to school and work schedules (and newer and older events in this crazy world) have swooped down on us and are shaking us about ! … :)

perfectly square tiramisu semifreddo blocks


1,6 kg or 16 pieces x 100 grams each


coffee-syrup soaked cookie layers (625-650 grams) :

cookies :

  • 312-325 grams (48 whole) ladyfinger cookies

coffee syrup for soaking (360 grams (1 ½ cups) coffee syrup but you will only need 312-325 grams) :

  • 180 ml (¾ cup) strong espresso coffee (simmered and reduced down from 210 ml)
  • 90 ml (¼ cup + 2 tbsp) coffee liqueur (or a mixture of coffee liquor with some Marsala wine or red Vermouth)
  • 38 grams (3 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 30 grams (4 tbsp) cocoa powder
  • 22 ml (1 ½ tbsp) vanilla extract

mascarpone-eggs-sugar cream layers (1125 grams or 5 ½ cups) :

sweet cream cheese :

  • 750 grams (3 ¼ cups) mascarpone cheese

eggs & sugar mixture (375 grams total) :

  • 188 grams (¾ cup + 3 tbsp) fine (castor) sugar, separated into 94 grams (7 ½ tbsp) for egg whites + 94 grams (7 ½ tbsp) for egg yolks
  • 188 grams (½ cup) eggs (2 ½ whole eggs + 2 egg yolks) separated into 94 grams (2 ½ egg whites or 6 ½ tbsp) egg whites + 94 grams (5 egg yolks or 5 ½ tbsp) egg yolks 
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) fine sea salt, separated into 1/8 tsp + 1/8 tsp

decorative dusting & garnish :

  • 15 grams (2 tbsp) cocoa powder
  • 5 grams (1 tbsp) whole roasted coffee beans


  • *note : to begin, decide what dish(es) you will use for the final assembly and fill up with water up to the rim(s) without overflowing, write down the weight in grams, which represents 100% of the volume available for the tiramisu; this recipe is for 4 blocks measuring 9 cm x 9 cm x 6,5 cm high or 1 large block measuring 18 cm x 18 cm x 6,5 cm high so my available water volume is 2200 grams for either version but what I will need is 80% for the assembly or 1600 grams with some leftover 10% or 160 grams for tasting, adjustments and extra soaking syrup … better safe than sorry !

coffee syrup-soaked cookies mixture :

  • begin by figuring out how many cookies you will need by laying one layer in your assembly recipient, multiply it by the number of layers and weigh them (because you will need an equal amount or preferably more of the syrup for soaking)
  • prepare the strong coffee in an espresso maker with 250 ml water and 25 grams coffee which should result in 210 ml strong coffee, transfer to a small casserole, add the sugar and simmer until reduced to 180 ml, then add the cocoa and vanilla and whisk until smooth and let cool down
  • add the coffee liqueur to the cooled down coffee mixture and set aside or make your own very simple coffee-flavored alcohol the night before (see note below)
  • *note : combine 120 ml (½ cup) dark rum or whisky or cognac (or a combination of all three) or for a more complex aromatic version, use 105 ml (7 tbsp) dark rum or whisky and cognac with 15 ml (1 tbsp) Marsala wine or red Vermouth and combine with 12 grams (2 ½ tbsp) espresso coffee grounds, in a sealed jar, shake well and let rest overnight and strain well the next day which should result in 90 ml of strong coffee-flavored alcohol and use it as is, set aside in a sealed jar until needed … this is not a real coffee liquor that is slightly syrupy with caramel and vanilla flavors but close enough since the coffee mixture is thickened and reduced with brown sugar, then flavored with cocoa powder and vanilla extract …
  • set the cookies and the syrup aside separately until needed for the assembly

mascarpone cream cheese-eggs-sugar mixture :

  • use 5 whole eggs and separate them into 5 egg whites and 5 egg yolks but use only 2 ½ egg whites or an amount equal to 94 grams and also 5 egg yolks or an amount equal to 94 grams too (reserve the remaining egg whites for another recipe such as almond amaretti, see recipe here) and set aside
  • use a small casserole partly filled with water and a small rounded bowl that you can set on top to prepare the egg yolk and sugar mixture but the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water so empty out any extra water
  • whisk the 94 grams egg yolks and 94 grams sugar and 1/8 tsp salt in a small rounded bowl until smooth
  • heat up the water in the casserole until simmering, remove from the heat, place the small rounded bowl on top and keep whisking by hand or an electric whisk for several minutes until pale and creamy and slightly warm to the touch (simmer the water again if not warm enough) and keep whisking, then remove the bowl from the warm casserole and set aside until completely cooled
  • preheat the oven to 180°C
  • beat the 94 grams egg whites with 1/8 tsp salt until peaks form and set aside
  • use a baking sheet covered with baking paper and spread the other 94 grams of sugar on top and heat up for 2-3 minutes until warm to the touch
  • while whisking, slowly add the warmed sugar to the whipped egg whites and keep whisking until glossy and thickened and set aside and let cool down completely
  • place the mascarpone cheese into a large bowl and whip until smoother, then add the egg yolk mixture and whisk until well combined, then carefully add the egg white mixture and gently combine until the mixture becomes lighter and looser, then cover with plastic film and refrigerate until chilled

assembly : 

  • cut out sheets of baking paper to line the insides your assembly mold(s) and overlap 2 sheets in a crisscross manner and make them long enough to extend beyond the sides
  • brush a thin layer of cream mixture on the bottom of the assembly mold(s)
  • transfer the soaking syrup to a deep flat-bottomed dish
  • soak each cookie one by one, for 2 seconds maximum and lay inside the assembly mold, one by one and repeat until the first bottom layer of syrup-soaked cookies is complete
  • place 1/3 of the cream mixture on top of the cookies and smooth out until even
  • repeat by adding 1 more layer of syrup-soaked cookies until complete, then add another 1/3 of the cream mixture on top and smooth out and repeat again with the final 3rd layer of syrup-soaked cookies and the final layer of cream mixture until it reaches the rim and smooth out until perfectly even
  • sprinkle the assembly with ½ of the cocoa powder (1 tbsp) and transfer to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 6 hours for the flavors to blend before transferring to the freezer for at least 6 hours or until completely solid before removing from the mold(s) and slicing into 4 smaller portions (if you’ve made a large 18 cm x 18 cm block)
  • if not serving immediately, unmold the 4 blocks of 9 cm x 9 cm while frozen solid or slice into 4 blocks of 9 cm x 9cm if you’ve made the larger version, leave the baking paper on to protect and surround each block and transfer to freezer bags and suck out the air using a straw and seal shut and place back inside the freezer until needed (up to several months if well sealed)

serving :

  • when ready to serve, slice into smaller blocks (I sliced each 9 cm x 9 cm block into 4 equal portions of 4,5 cm x 4,5 cm or 100 gram each), remove the baking paper, place each piece on a small dessert plate, sprinkle with some more cocoa powder and add a few whole coffee beans as decorative garnish and place back in the refrigerator to slowly thaw for at least 30 minutes before serving and serve or let them thaw out even more at room temperature for a few minutes more for a softer version and serve.