Tiramisu cake: pick me up and carry me away

Shhh, come closer. I have a secret to share…

I don’t like (hangs head)… coffee. Java lovers everywhere may swarm to swat me with stirrers, or grind me into gourmet grounds, but I can’t help it. I just don’t like coffee.

Believe me, coming from a household where my father’s brew method included one scoop for every two cups and one more for the Corps (Marine Corps, that is) coffee has been in my life for a long time.  My folks still polish off about 3 pots a day.

I started in my teens trying to drink coffee. Everyone said to start with milk, add a little coffee and work your way up to more coffee and less milk, maybe a little sugar. No matter how much milk I used and how little coffee, I just couldn’t enjoy the flavor. Feeling like I was missing some rite of passage, I gave up trying for several years.

I tried again when I moved in with my husband, who is not fit to live with until he has had his first cup of joe in the morning. More milk, more sugar, no dice. Secretly, I still felt like I had failed some kind of grown-up test.

Fast forward to the present. I still don’t drink coffee and I rarely use PJ’s beloved espresso powder in my baked goods. The world of mocha baked goods just doesn’t send me.

So, imagine my joy when I tried this Tiramisu Layer Cake which has  coffee syrup soaked cake layers, and I loved it. I mean I LOVED it! I’m a sucker for cake and cream and this take on classic Italian dessert just hits the spot. The coffee enhances and tempers the sweetness of the cream and the hint of marsala makes me feel like I really am a grown-up after all!

So imagine, if a non-coffee drinkin’ gal like myself enjoys this cake that much, you folks who thrive on espresso and cappuccino are going to beat feet to the kitchen for this one.

For the Tiramisu Layer Cake you will need a single 9” round cake layer, chocolate or vanilla, split in half horizontally.  I used our Golden Vanilla Cake mix, it’s a real favorite of mine. Just freeze the second layer for another day or double the filling and give one to someone who needs a pick-me-up.

To make the coffee syrup, add to a  small saucepan:
½ cup water
2 teaspoons espresso powder
¼ cup sugar

Stir over medium heat until the sugar is fully dissolved.

Bring to a full rolling boil, remove from the heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm.

While the syrup is cooling, whip 2 cups of heavy or whipping cream to soft peaks.

In a small bowl combine one 3 ounce package of Tiramisu Filling Mix with 1/4 cup water.

Immediately add 1 cup of the soft whipped cream to the mix. It sets up quite quickly, so be on your toes.

Fold the cream into the mix.

Add the cream lightened tiramisu filling back into the rest of the soft whipped cream and fold until well combined, being careful not to over mix and deflate the cream.

While I’m a huge fan of this mix, you may not have it on hand to make the cake this weekend. If not, use one 3 ounce package of instant vanilla pudding mix made with 1 cup of milk and 1/4 cup of marsala wine. It will be thick but folding in the whipped cream will lighten it.

Now for the assembly. Remove the top browned layer of your cake to expose the soft absorbent cake inside. I’m sure someone will nibble up those crumbs, eh?

Place half of the cake in a parchment lined 9” springform pan.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the coffee syrup evenly over the cake.

Spread 2 cups of the tiramisu cream filling over this layer of cake.

Top with the second half of your cake. See that big split? Dinna fash yourself, (Gaelic for don’t worry about it) it’s all going to be covered in cream soon.

Sprinkle the cake with another 2 tablespoons of the syrup, let it soak in for a few minutes, then top with the remaining tiramisu cream.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

When you’re ready to serve, remove the plastic wrap and run a thin, flexible spatula around the edge of the cake.

Unlatch and remove the springform ring. The cream should be well set and stand tall all on its own.

If you’d like, sift a fine layer of cocoa over the top of the cake.

All that’s left is to slice, serve and enjoy. I must say I’ve had tiramisu in the past that overwhelmed you with strong coffee flavor, never letting you taste the other flavors involved.

This cake does have the coffee flavor, but in a much more subtle way. You know there is coffee, but you also taste the sweetness of the cream, the vanilla in the cake, even the hint of marsala-like essence in the filling. Truly, a dessert to lift you up at any time of day.

Please bake, rate and review our recipe for Tiramisu Layer Cake.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. dariawalton

    I always make tiramisu as a cake now – very much like this, except I do the from-scratch thing rather than use mixes. The cake is SO much easier than ladyfingers – especially if you try to make ladyfingers from scratch. I used a sponge cake recipe, and I always double the soaking liquid, because we like our tiramisu nice and juicy.

    I always thought it would be nice to make a “tiramisu” with lemoncello, lemon syrup, and lemon curd in addition to the regular cake and filling. Mmm.

  2. sweetminnie

    We don’t like coffee, is there a substitute?
    You can flavor this with anything you would like. Almond extract, chocolate extract, vanilla. Make it your own. ~Amy

  3. aoster

    Sigh…I really wish so many of your recipes did not call for special ingredients that only you sell (ie, “tiramisu filling mix). I understand you’re a company trying to sell your products, but I grow weary of coming to your blog and feeling like it’s one big advertisement.
    We appreciate your feedback and we are reviewing some of our recipes and blogs to ensure we are offering a good variety of scratch baking and mix baking alternatives. If we are featuring a mix or other specialty item, you can bet it’s because it caused a stir in the kitchen and we’re excited to share it with our fellow bakers. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. Dogmom

    I had such a good laugh with your “dinna fash” comment. I am a huge fan of the Outlander saga by dear Diana Gabaldon and have actually listened to all 7 of the huge books unabridged on CD, and “dinna fash” is so Jamie! Love it! And love this recipe. And thanks so much for an alternative to the tiramisu mix since I do want to make the cake for an event this week and don’s have the time to order it. I will get some on hand though.
    Yes, I love Jamie. There is a family in town that is actually related to Simon, his “grandfather”(?), kinda cool.
    I think this cake will be a huge hit for many parties in the next few weeks. Have fun! ~ MaryJane

  5. lucyjoyce1

    The recipe calls for cutting the layer in half but the pictures seem to show three layers Which is correct?
    The tiramisu actually only has two cake layers. The center layer is the filling, so you only need to cut the cake in half. ~Amy

  6. pcstirn

    MaryJane, You are not the only person to say they like Tiramisu but cannot stand coffee! I grew up in a 3-pot-a-day family too (I think I learned how to make coffee for my parents about the time I learned how to make toast!). I didn’t really like it until my Army days and now I drink almost a pot a day myself. My, how our tastebuds mature!
    I will definitely try this! I used to have a recipe for a Hot Milk Sponge Cake that would work excellently, but, I lent the cookbook to someone, never to see it again…. Will be looking for that again. I will substitute my homemade Coffee Liquore for the bulk of my syrup, but I also want to add some espresso powder, too, to kick up the flavor. As for the cocoa powder sprinkled on at the end, I like the dark stuff now (didn’t used to, though).
    Thanks for blogging one of my favorite desserts. I always enjoy seeing what you come up with that I hadn’t enjoyed for a while! Yummmm!
    Thanks for connecting. We’ve got a nice recipe for Hot Milk Cake cake in our 200th Anniversary cookbook. If you send your address to bakers@kingarthurflour.com, we can photocopy and send it off to you. I’ve been thinking about trying coffee again, but I’ve recently discovered vanilla almond milk and it’s like having a milkshake for breakfast, so I’m good for now 😉 . So much for mature, tee hee! ~ MaryJane

  7. gaitedgirl

    MJ – Just wanted to let you know that you have a fellow non-coffee drinker out there too. I cannot stand coffee. Never have liked it and although I’ve tried to many, many times, I just cannot stand the taste of it. And I don’t like using espresso powder or coffee in my chocolate goods. My tastebuds pick up on the flavor every single time (and I mean, every single time – I can go to restaurant and can usually tell you if the pastry chef used coffee in their baked goods). My husband is not the biggest fan of coffee (although he does enjoy a cup of cafe con leche every once in a great while) so we won’t be trying this recipe but I wanted to reassure you that you aren’t alone out there in the baking universe!
    You’re so lucky to be what I call a “Super Taster”! It’s a great gift – or skill – that would come in handy for many foodies! Thanks for sharing your expertise! Irene @ KAF

  8. Apricot

    re:lucyjoyce1’s question about layers and Amy’s answer–if I’m not mistaken, the bottom 2 layers are cake and the top layer is a thick layer of filling.

    It stacks up this way…cake, filling, cake, filling, cocoa. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

  9. Christi

    I like the idea of making tiramisu with a cake base. I always worry that the supermarket bakery won’t have 3 packages of lady fingers when I make my traditional tiramisu.

    I was thrilled to find Tiramisu liqueur in NH. It’s hard to find but the flavor is so worth it if you make tiramisu. http://www.crownwineandspirits.com/p-1894-tiramisu-liqueur.aspx?vid=2185

    I felt compelled chime in as another reader who honestly, skips over when a recipe calls for a specialty KA products like cake enhancer, tiramisu mix and pizza dough stupifier and the like. My Nannie didn’t need these gimmicks to bake wonderful desserts and I don’t either.

    Be sure to read the review and other comments on the recipes when they are published….or even read through the blog text with pictures. Ingredients substitutions are often listed there. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

  10. "Linda S"

    With regard to aoster’s comments about your highlighting KAF products in your recipes, might I offer a suggestion?

    It is also often frustrating for me when I see a new recipe or blog posted, eager to try it, only to find it requires a special KAF or other specialty product I don’t have. I will usually then check out the comments section to see if someone has hopefully asked about an alternative for that particular ingredient. Sometimes you do give them in the comments and even in the blogs, but they’re not always noted in the recipes themselves.

    What would be great is, if you could always add notes to your recipes that offer commonplace alternatives for those particular ingredients that you feature, such as your baking and filling mixes, hi-maize fiber, pastry flour, etc.

    That way, if we don’t have the required product ingredient(s) but want to make the recipe right away, we won’t feel left out and can still make the recipe using alternate ingredients. It will also save you a lot of time replying to customers’ questions about what they can use in place of a particular product.

    I, too, realize that you are in business to sell and promote your products, but it really would be wonderful to have your recipes knowing that if we either don’t have a particular product ingredient, or, if someday that product is discontinued for some reason, we will always be able to enjoy your great recipes one way or the other!

    That being said, please keep up the great work and the wonderful blogs! I learn so much from all of you!
    Like you, I read recipes from many different resources and try to decide if the existing ingredients in my pantry will work. I know recipes are tested and published as written, and sometimes take the risk of making my own variation with less predictable results. Irene @ KAF

  11. HMB

    I didn’t like coffee either until a boyfriend (now my husband of nearly 30 years) said, “You don’t like coffee because you’ve never had good coffee. I’m half Viennese, so coffee’s in my blood. I guarantee you’ll like my coffee.” Yeah, it was so good I had to marry him, LOL!
    Anyway, for those who REALLY don’t like coffee, the Fresh Berry Tiramisu on the KAF website is really good, and it doesn’t require any specialty mix ingredients. I like to make it on Mothers Day, because that’s when the strawberries are plentiful here, and this makes a lovely treat!

  12. The Café Sucré Farine

    This looks divine! Wow, thanks for all the great instructions also. This would be a great ending to a fun dinner party!

  13. marcin

    To the people who are concerned about the number of products (and not all of them are KAF products, by they way) talked about in this blog: I’m amazed that people are concerned about this and not grateful for it. I’ve been cooking a long time. How would I have learned anything without this kind of information? I’d be walking into a store and not seeing anything at all. (Like listening to a symphony and not being able to pick out the cellos.) Let’s go back in time and see how we learned about everything we know and how much richer our lives are for the knowledge. I like to dabble in gardening too, and I listen each week to Paul Parent’s radio show. I learn every single week from his show, and my life is so much better than it would be without his patient explaining. Gardening is his life’s work, but it isn’t mine. He, like the KAF blog writers, tunes in so sensitively to those of us with great interest but not much experience or skill or knowledge. Paul Parent is often chided for his mentioning products on his show. But how would I know about these products and the tremendous advances some of these companies have made in gardening without his talking about them? When I walk into a grocery store or garden center, I’m looking at 300,000 products. I have no clue which ones work and which ones don’t or how to achieve the results I’m seeking. This blog, like Paul Parent’s radio show, has changed my life. Suddenly lots of things seem doable that never seemed that way before. It has refreshed my desire to bake and cook, and it is truly the highlight of my day. I mean that with all my heart. I love the banter, the jokes, the pictures–I feel like I have a baking family. When you think about it, all of us are baking to give to other people. So this entire blog, in fact, the entire KAF company, is all about–wait for it: Love. I’m so grateful for its presence in my life. And I really mean that.
    Thank you so much for your kind words. Please believe me, we are listening to everyone’s comments about recipes, products, and substitutions. We WANT you all to love reading the blog and we WANT you to love baking as much as we do. Above all we DON’T want you to be frustrated and upset over a recipe you can’t make. The blog team is hard at work reviewing upcoming blogs and recipes and making changes that hopefully will help keep the love alive. Thanks again for your touching post. ~ MaryJane

  14. gaitedgirl

    @ HMB – Thanks for the fresh berry tiramisu link! The husband and I may have to try it (after all, I have 8 quarts of strawberries sitting at my house, just begging to get used!)!

    @ Irene – Thanks 😉 But for every blessing, it can sometimes be a curse. I can really, really want to like something but the minute that coffee flavor hits my tongue, that’s it – I’m done and will pout for the rest of the day lol

    @ Marcin – I have to agree with you. Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating having all the KAF products listed in a blog/recipe but when you have sooooo many products, as KAF does, it’s nice to know that they have MULTIPLE uses for a product. They have so many different flours that it made my head spin the first time I looked at them all. But I pushed through and bought my first batch of Kamut flour to try and it was good to know that even though I didn’t use all the flour on the first try, there are many, many ways of using the remainder of it. Without the helpful assistance of all the KAF bloggers and service people (y’all are the best, honestly!), many people would end up having products wasting away on our shelves because you felt like you could only use it for one thing and one thing only. Are there usually substitutions? Sure. But this is a business after all – not a personal blog. Part of their job is to sell their products so they have every single right to “product place” their products. At least they are helpful in saying, “Yes, you can use this instead” rather than “Nope, sorry. You’re out of luck.” Every is entitled to their own opinions (that’s what makes life interesting) but I don’t mind all the product placement simply because this is the King Arthur Flour blog so of course they’re going to use KAF products. It’s almost expected, in my opinion. No one says that you have to run out and purchase everything that is listed on the blog. That’s what the comments are for – to find out where you can change things or where other people have substituted. If you don’t like the product placement, disregard them and just enjoy the helpful hints and tips that come out of this blog (not to mention the mishaps!).

  15. "Linda S"

    For those who’ve commented on subject of KAF products:

    Please don’t misunderstand my/our comments about KAF products featured in their recipes.

    I am NOT ungrateful that they use them, and totally understand the need to promote them. I only want to know that if I don’t have a particular item or choose not to get it, the recipe is still perfectly usable with other ingredients, and having that included in the recipe is just a help.

    I’ve learned about a lot of ingredients I’d never heard of before thanks to KAF, and have gotten quite a few of them. But I don’t always have the chance to get everything I’d like. Money’s tight these days wherever you are, so I try and get just those things I will use more often. I can’t afford to spend money on one or two ingredients that I may only use for that one recipe, so there will be times when I need to substitute if I still want to try and make it. I’d much rather use an alternate ingredient than stash a good recipe away and never use it.

    I also know that the finished product may not be as good as it would be with the originally listed ingredients. But, I’m sure anyone who bakes knows, you don’t always have what’s needed, so you use what you have and find a way to make it work. Sometimes it works just as well; sometimes it doesn’t…and sometimes it turns out even better! You just get what you’re dealt when you have no choice and hope for the best. 🙂

    So, for those who feel some of us are complaining, all I’m asking is to know what can work in place of those particular ingredients that can’t be obtained except at KAF or a specialty store. Often the blogs DO give that information when someone asks, but it’s not always included in the recipe, so if you only print the recipe, you won’t know about it.

    I’m VERY grateful that the folks at KAF are so dedicated to putting out quality products, and that they listen to their customers and are willing to always help whenever there’s a question. I’ve never known a place where you could e-mail with a question and get a response the next day.

    They could easily take the attitude that their recipes are only to promote their goods, but they don’t. They are always open to comments and feedback, and never get defensive about what they do.

    So…PLEASE continue promoting your products! Just let us know in the recipe if there’s something we can use in case we don’t have one of them. That way if we don’t have something, we won’t have to go crazy waiting until we get it to try a recipe. I know I’m not the only one who wants things yesterday!!

    Thanks again!

  16. twombly3

    I have a question about substituting the vanilla pudding mix with the tiramisu filling mix. Do you make the vanilla pudding by cooking it as directed on the package but with 1 cup of milk and the marsala or do you mix it all together cold and then fold it in with the whipped cream?
    I believe that it is supposed to be a package of instant pudding which would not need cooking and cooling. I will check in to make sure this is specified in the recipe. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. ~Amy

    Thanks for checking Amy. Yes, it’s instant pudding and I’ve updated the blog to say “instant”. Thanks Twombly!
    ~ MaryJane

  17. deb1223

    I made this cake for a party last night – it was fabulous!! I used your chocolate cake recipe and took another poster’s thoughts about using a spray bottle for the coffee syrup – YUM. The chocolate cake was amazing – but did not rise as high as I expected, so I just used both layers. Delicious!!

  18. roultm

    I was hoping for tips on slicing the layer in two without shredding it. I assume I let it cool first, but then what? We don’t have a cake knife on hand; would a bread knife do? I don’t want to start on this (I DO want to try it!) until I’m reasonably certain I can slice that layer and have it survive intact.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      A serrated knife will be your best friend! Be sure to saw through the cake instead of sliding or pushing the knife through. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

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