This tiramisu layer cake has soft genoise sponge cake layers soaked in espresso with a creamy mascarpone frosting.
This cake with tiramisu-inspired flavours of espresso-soaked sponge cake and creamy frosting is so dreamy. I've always admired the effortlessly undone nature of tiramisu with the soft crumb of the sponge cake that almost falls apart before it reaches your mouth, the burst of coffee flavour as you sink your teeth in, and the generously thick layers of cream that give way to your spoon.
Mascarpone cream without eggs
The mascarpone cream in tiramisu is traditionally made by mixing raw eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese or in modern recipes, using a double boiler to heat the eggs to a safe temperature.
In this recipe, I've opted to eliminate the eggs in the mascarpone cream frosting completely and make it by whipping the mascarpone cheese with only whipping cream and sugar. While this won't give you the exact same texture and taste as the real deal, it is a lot less technical and much easier.
This eggless mascarpone frosting is stiffer and holds its structure better which makes frosting a layer cake a breeze without the need to set the tiramisu in the fridge for hours or risk the cake layers slipping around.
Cream cheese as a mascarpone substitute
Mascarpone cheese is a main component of tiramisu but it may be harder to find depending on where you live or you might not have it on hand if you don't use it in other recipes. In my area, really great mascarpone cheese can often only be found at specialty Italian grocers.
Mascarpone can be substituted with cream cheese if you're in a pinch. In this recipe, you can substitute cream cheese directly for the mascarpone cheese. In most other recipes that call for mascarpone as a standalone ingredient, you can mix 8oz cream cheese with 1 cup heavy whipping cream as a substitute for mascarpone cheese.
How to make a tiramisu layer cake
For the genoise sponge cake
Prep oven and pans: Preheat oven to 350°F and line the bottoms of three 6” cake pans with a round of parchment paper. Set aside.
Whip air into the egg mixture: In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat eggs on medium speed for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the sugar while mixing. Once all the sugar has been added, beat for at least 10 minutes until the mixture has at least doubled in volume and become a pale yellow colour.
Fold in flour mixture: In a small bowl, stir together the cake flour and baking powder. Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift these dry ingredients into the egg mixture ⅓ at a time. Use a silicone spatula to fold the flour in to combine. Don’t overmix otherwise you will deflate too much air from the batter.
Bake cakes: Divide the cake batter evenly into your cake pans (I portioned out approximately 200g into each of my 6” cake pans). Bake cakes for 23-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cakes cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes until cool enough to handle. Run a knife or offset spatula around the edges of the cake to release from the pan and turn the cake out upside down onto a cooling rack, peel off the parchment paper, and let cool completely before frosting.
For the espresso
In a small bowl, stir together espresso powder, hot water, and coffee liqueur and set aside for when you’re ready to assemble the cake.
For the mascarpone frosting
In a mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the mascarpone cheese until creamy. Mix in the whipping cream and then the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
Assemble the tiramisu layer cake
Soak cakes in espresso: Place your first cake layer down on a turntable. Drizzle 4-5 spoonfuls of espresso mixture across the surface of the cake until the top is saturated.
Frost: Add a generous amount of mascarpone frosting on top of the cake layer and use an offset spatula to smooth evenly. Repeat with your remaining cake layers, espresso mixture, and frosting.
For a “naked” style cake, spread a thin layer of frosting on the sides of the cake and use a bench scraper to smooth and remove excess frosting until the cake can be seen through the frosting.
Decorate: Transfer the remaining frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large piping tip of your choice and piping a design on the top of your cake. Dust the top generously with cocoa powder.
Commonly asked questions
Tiramisu cakes should be stored wrapped or covered in the fridge. The mascarpone frosting is food safe at room temperature for about 4 hours but it's best to refrigerate the leftovers immediately.
You can store this cake in the fridge for 3-4 days but it tastes the freshest if eaten within 1-2 days.
Yes! Wrap your tiramisu cake slices with plastic wrap and/or aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight before eating.
Espresso or espresso powder tastes stronger than coffee. In a pinch, you could use a very strongly brewed coffee but keep in mind that coffee will be more watery than espresso and the taste may be more bitter.
To make a fluffy sponge cake, whip the egg mixture for at least 10 whole minutes. The eggs should be very pale in colour and tripled in volume. You want to incorporate lots of air into the batter so that your cakes will be fluffy once baked. Gently fold the flour into the eggs and don't open the oven door while the cake is baking until it is ready to come out to prevent it from deflating.