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Although I’ve often been critical of the French trend towards putting food in silly little glasses, called verrines, once again, I find myself eating my words around here.

On a recent trip to Ikea (I know…I know what I said…) I saw these great little glass candle holders and thought they’d be perfect for servings of something…like, say…individual portions of Tiramisu. Which are great for those of you, if you’re anything like me, who will forage around their apartment all all hours, desperately searching for something to eat. I am like an aspirateur for food and will eat anything, but have a strong preference lately for this chocolate spread I bought in Nice with bits of caramelized pears in it, crunchy organic peanut butter, and Chex party mix.

(Oh great, another thing I need to add to my ever-expanding shopping list for my trip to the states next week…)

But if something is individually-portioned, it keeps how much I’m going to eat in check.

2 yolks

The other great thing about individual portions is that there are no serving “issues”.

No messy digging around in the pan trying to get neat servings: everyone gets their own pre-set, pre-determined portion, so there’s no bitching about something getting gypped since everyone’s getting one that’s exactly the same size.


And in France, that’s really part of our rights, anyways. Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité is the motto. And the dining table should be no exception.

I have no idea what the Italian motto is (from what I hear, things are a bit less-organized over there) but I think they’re a bit less-restrained when it comes to Tiramisu, which they invented. So I guess they can do whatever they want with it, which I do (even though I’m not even a bit Italian) by sneaking some shaved chocolate between the layers.

ladyfingers inside

Since they invented Tiramisu, I’m in no position to tell the Italians what to do. But if they’re looking for a motto, as far as I’m concerned, they might want to consider: Mascarpone, Espresso, and Chocolate.

And these are a pretty good argument in favor of that.

tiramisu half-done


This recipe uses raw eggs, which is the traditional way of making Tiramisu. If you have concerns, be sure to use very fresh eggs, ones they that you practically stuck your hand in the chicken and plucked out for yourself. If you don’t have chickens, get your eggs from a trusted source. Depending on your ladyfingers, you might need a bit more espresso. But mine were super-dry and this was just the right amount. My glass containers hold roughly 1/2 cup (4 ounces, 125ml) each. Feel free to use regular custard cups or ramekins, in which case you may get four servings.
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) espresso, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 tablespoon cognac
  • 2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 7 tablespoons (90g) sugar, divided
  • 1 cup (250g) mascarpone
  • twelve 3½-inch ladyfingers, (70g, or 3 ounces)
  • optional: 1 ounce (30g) bittersweet chocolate
  • unsweetened cocoa powder, for serving
  • Mix together the espresso, rum, and cognac. The mixture should taste strongly of alcohol. If not, add more until it does. (That flavor will tone down when mixed with the other ingredients, but feel free to adjust to taste.)
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they begin to get stiff. Beat in half of the sugar until stiff. Scrape the egg whites into a small bowl.
  • In the same bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until stiff and light-colored, about three minutes. (If using a standing electric mixer, you may need to stop and scrape down the sides.) By hand, beat in the mascarpone with a spatula or whisk, until lump-free.
  • Fold in half of the beaten egg whites, then the remaining half, just until fully incorporated.
  • Put a splat, a heaping soup spoon, of the mascarpone cream into each vessel.
  • Submerge each ladyfinger in the espresso mixture for 5-10 seconds, until completely, utterly soaked. (Dried ladyfingers will take longer to saturate than softer ones.) Break the ladyfinger in half to be sure; they should be dropping wet, and can’t be saturated enough. Then layer them over the mascarpone cream in each vessel. Use two ladyfingers per.
  • Grate a generous amount of chocolate over each.
  • Top with remaining mascarpone cream, cover, and refrigerate at least four hours, but preferably overnight.
  • Right before serving, shake powdered cocoa generously on top.
Note: I used store-bought ladyfingers, which, if you find a decent brand (one with the fewest ingredients listed), work well here. Especially when saturated and buried underneath all the other ingredients, you can save yourself a bit of effort. If you want to try your hand at making your own ladyfingers, you can find recipes at La Tartine Gourmand and Tartlette.


    • Abra

    I actually think verrines are cool. Not only do you get portion control and equalization, but things in verrines are largely meant to be made ahead, and they usually look like little jewels on the table. I thank you on my husband’s behalf for this one, as he’s a tiramisu lover and it’s something we never see in restaurants, even though we’re not that far from Italy.

    • David

    Abra: Unfortunately being near Italy doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a good Tiramisu. Just like searching for one in the states, doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a good burger.

    But next week, I’m sure going to try!

    • Susan

    I was just thinking about tiramisu the other day (while staring at the two tubs of mascarpone in my fridge) and wondering why it has to be the crisp ladyfingers..for reasons other than it’s the traditional recipe. Why not macarons? Why not Lornadoons? Why?

    • marion

    Tiramisu is wonderful, and those glasses are perfect : not too big, and so cheap !
    Tapas glasses are also great for this job.
    I want Tiramisu right now, can you explain we why ?????

    • Sue

    My new personal motto is going to be “Mascarpone! Espresso! Chocolate!” said with great enthusiasm.

    Thank you, David, for the great entry, (it made me laugh out loud as I ate my breakfast), the new motto and the great recipe.

    Enjoy your visit to the States. East Coast? West Coast or somewhere in-between?

    Or all three? Best time to be here — as you know– is Fall.

    • Dana Mccauley

    Hmmm. I seem to have lost my comment – sorry if this turns up twice by some feat of technological mystery.

    If you have to eat your words this is delicious little chaser.

    My husband, a restaurateur and chef here in Toronto, loves Ikea for finding this kind of glassware – perfect for amuse gueles (sp? my spelling isn’t awake yet!), dessert samplers and such. And, best yet, their glassware doesn’t need assembly!

    • Shubs

    HI David,
    I loved your recipe.
    Which store (in Paris) did you buy the LadyFingers from? I’ve been looking for them for a while .

    • Arabella

    Bonjour David,
    being half Italian, half French, living in the States for the past 12 years, I love reading your blog on life in Paris for an American … cultural backlash is about little things!
    For years, I have been trying to make a version of Tiramisu’ respectfull of the original one using raw eggs, but not scary to the American crowd. Where I live it is very difficult to find reliable fresh eggs. I have always wondered if it was ok to use the pasteurized fresh eggs that you can find at the grocery store. That would make feel much better when I make “crema pasticcera” as well …
    ciao, Arabella

    • Eileen

    I saw the greatest glasses in Carpentras this summer. Very shallow, clear glasses and I thought they would be wonderful for individual servings of panacotta layered with fresh fruits. They were less than one euro and I didn’t buy any :( Of course I can’t find anything like them back here in the states (even checked out IKEA). Your tiramisu looks wonderful in the candle holders. May have to consider that as a substitution.

    • Caitlin

    Thank goodness – I think my personal motto already was Mascarpone, Espresso, and Chocolate. Even though I know it can’t be as good as if I were to make it, I always order tiramisu in restaurants. Because even if it isn’t great, there’s still mascarpone, espresso, and chocolate. And that always makes it worth it.

    • Amy

    I love the idea of them in smaller serving sizes. Did I also mention I LOVE tiramisu. Love Love LOVE tiramisu.

    Thank you!!

    • Roberta Infranca

    I look forward to reading your posts and they never disappoint! These “bicchierini” look delicious, I always shave some chocolate in between the layers myself!

    • Elra

    My husband does that a lot, “forage” around my kitchen looking for something sweet to eat. Often, he even eat my chocolate that I save for baking.
    I like the new look on your tiramisu in a small/little glasses. The French, seems to master on how to make things look pretty!

    • Cheryl

    Hey David,
    Just curious- what are ladyfingers called here in France? Thanks!

    • My Sweet & Saucy

    I do have to admit that I love little dessert glasses and this dessert looks fabulous in them!

    • Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    I second your motto but I think I’ll forego the little serving sizes while I’m in the vicinity – it’s much easier to slide a second serving on your plate rather than hide that second empty cup :)

    • flavia

    I am quite relieved of your new found fondness for IKEA. We don’t have it in Brazil, and I sure miss it – so much so that when I am in Paris this october, I will be making a trip there (my family does not comprehend it but I think the white plates and the napkins are a good buy ! ) But I have to agree that the verrines are so overated, overused, over-everything!!! Any plans to come to Rio ?? We sure could use a pastry chef around here!!

    • Mike

    Once again; such excellent photos.

    • Chef Spadanini

    Hi David, just found your blog which looks wonderful, with so many nice ideas in it.
    I have a question – as far as I know, the traditional Italian Tiramisú is made with “pan di spagna” instead of ladyfingers. Do you know if there is a big difference between both? I have a recipe for pan di Spagna somewhere but I can’t seem to find it – as far as I remember, though, it is a sort of sponge cake, and not nearly as dry as ladyfingers.

    • David

    Susan: You could use another cookie. I’ve made similar-style cakes (ie: trifle) with pieces of spongecake, which is a great use for leftover scraps.

    Arabella: Some pasteurized eggs are suitable for whipping while others aren’t. I’m fairly certain it’ll say on the packaging whether the brand you find is or isn’t.

    There’s really interesting information about egg safety at the site for the American Egg Board. Still, for people for health reasons much avoid raw eggs, if you can’t find a suitable pasteurized egg product, just fold some whipped cream into the mascarpone instead, just enough to lighten it and make it fluffy.

    Cheryl and Shubs: They’re called biscuits à la cuillère, which I got at Monoprix.

    • Erin

    I am a huge proponent of the silly little glasses. It doesn’t matter how much I know about proportions, I always serve too much, must be my maternal side coming out. The favorites are my collection of Moroccan tea glasses and the bistrot glasses that to me seem more like absinthe glasses, but who am I to argue with Sur la Table.

    The recipe sounds lucious.

    • Hillary

    Tiramisu = bliss, so tiramisu in a cup = bliss in a cup. Thank you David!

    • krysalia

    david said : ” I saw these great little glass candle holders and thought they’d be perfect for servings of something…like, say…individual portions of Tiramisu. ”

    tssst, anyone knows that an individual portion of your tiramisu would be a salad bowl, pas moins :D

    Cheryl and shubs : it’s sometimes called “boudoirs”, or “biscuits de reims”. (the last one is one special kind, pink colored, flat biscuit à la cuillère) .

    • Caitlin

    David, I read what you wrote about a burger. Well, I mostly eat vegetarian, but when I have had a burger in the past, where have I gone here in San Francisco? Joe’s Cable Car. As Joe proudly exclaims in his bold signs, in both hand-lettering and neon, “We grind our own chuck daily.” And they do! The atmosphere is like a contained carnival, with every little tchotshke one can imagine hanging from the ceiling. It’s like a burger palace decorated by Fellini, having started life many years ago as an actual cable car burger stand (but is now an enclosed, sit-down affair). Joe is pretty much there all the time, and he must be in his 70s, if not 80s, still bossing around the pretty-but-dour waitresses. This is where you should get a burger (not to be confused with Tony’s Cable Car on Geary Blvd.) Joe’s is on Mission Street, and I’ve even plucked the website for you : I realize this has nothing to do with tiramisu, but I heard you mention burger!

    • Mai Tan

    Wow, I bought the same tealight holders from Singapore’s ikea for desserts too! I’ve only used them once, for individual serve caramel custard which looked so pretty. Plan to use them again this Saturday to serve lemon curd with fruits on the side for dipping, all placed on a small white ikea plate. :)

    • FoodJunkie

    your Ikea article made me crack up! What are the verrines you bought called? I am going to IKEA very soon and I wouldn;t mind getting some of those. I love verrines

    • Laurence Perfecto

    hi! mascarpone is expensive where i live…would you have any personal suggestions on alternatives to mascarpone? one that you would actually use if you didn’t have mascarpone… thanks :)

    • David

    FoodJunkie: They’re candle holders and cost about 1€ for six. Such a deal!

    Hi Laurence: I don’t know where you live, but good alternatives are ricotta or farmer’s cheese. Or if available, you can blitz the heck out of full or low-fat cottage cheese in a blender, until as smooth as possible.

    Just don’t tell the purists.

    I’m already on their bad side for adding grated chocolate ; )

    • Laetitia

    Tiramisu is SO decadent. It should be called “sex in a verrine”!

    I tried Pierre Herme’s raspberry tiramisu and it was delicious. I think it’s great during the Summer. I love your blog! :)

    • Arabella

    Is the Pierre Herme’s recipe for rasberry tiramisu’ posted somewhere online? I remember reading a recipe for tiramisu using Limoncello for soaking the Savoiardi cookies, and mixing red berries to the mascarpone base cream.

    P.S. I love the biscuits de Reims with a flute of Champagne …

    • Laetitia

    Arabella, I actually tried his recipe and wrote about it myself: Raspberry Tiramisu

    Let me know what you think!

    • Lucy V

    That is very strange, I had a tiramisu dream the other night. Thank you for my dream come true!

    • Arabella

    Thank you, Laetitia. I will check it out.

    • Danielle

    I too have a love/hate relationship with IKEA but have to admit I do have some very similar candle glasses from there and love the idea of getting another use out of them. I love this idea! Anytime I can find a dual purpose for things in my small kitchen…well, great tip! Thanks.

    • Susan

    I do like the idea of tiramisu in individual portions like this. No trying to dig out that first piece intact or having liquid bleed out because SOMEONE stole a finger scoop out of the pan with their salty, acidy finger! I think my bowl shaped coffee cups that I never use for coffee, will work with the dampened cookies. Finally a use for them, which is an even better use!

    • justfoodnow

    In Italy they use Savoiardi biscuits as well, not just the pan di Spagna. They are very similar to ladyfingers or boudoir biscuits (as they are called down here in Cape Town) but just broader .

    I think they make a much lighter tiramisu – and a much improved one, at that.

    I’m not nuts about the rum and cognac though, but then I don’t like rum at the moment. I’ll just use all cognac.

    • Amy

    This entry made me die and go to heaven.

    It’s sad I’m not tasting it. Or making it. : P

    • Kristina

    It’s like you’ve been reading my mind. I’ve just been telling myself I need to attempt making tiramisu and you magically deliver me a recipe. Tiramisu is like, hallowed.

    • David from Charleston, SC

    David, I was having a rough day and this recipe made me happy.

    Thank you so much!

    Any chance of getting you to visit the southeast on your next stateside trip?

    • Amanda

    Amen! I’m all about pre-controlled portions. Heaven forbid the lack of portion-controlled sweet treat in my kitchen, else my poor husband is likely to find me with my face half-buried in the bag of marshmallows in the cupboard. Give me an individual tart or small glass of mousse… ooh, now there’s the thing. There could be 15 of them in the fridge, and I’ll take only one, savor every bite, and when it’s gone–voila, it’s gone! It’s magic, isn’t it?

    Also–I’ve made tiramisu at home with a lovely stiff almond-flour cake I also made–it soaked up the espresso very nicely! (I did it this way to convert to a lower glycemic index version for dietary concerns.) So you can use something other than ladyfingers with great success–even sliced pound cake. You’ll use less espresson with cakes or soft cookies, though.

    Love, love, love the ikea diatribe, by the way. I, too, have the “line curse” in checkouts. Someone ahead of me always seems to require a price check.

    By the way, you should use caution when using candleholders and other types of containers for food. There are different chemical (lead, cadmium) allowances when making glassware that is not intended for food.

    • laura @ cucina testa rossa

    look at the color of those gorgeous egg yolks! we certainly don’t get those here…. yet another thing i miss about paris…. SIGH!

    • Zsuzsi

    These verrines / candle holders are sure looking nice, but they are nowhere close to an acceptable portion. Not from Tiramisu :)

    • jy

    Just curious, you mentioned a decent brand of lady fingers is one with the fewest ingredients listed… Is there a basis for this?

    • David

    jy: I have an aversion to the taste of artificial vanilla, which is often used in poor-quality packaged baked goods. It leaves a funny aftertaste to me, so I always check the ingredients and look for foods without it.

    In my experience, if using “short-cut foods”, a proliferation of preservatives and chemicals generally means they will be of inferior quality. Since I, and my friends, will be eating it, I like to use the best tasting ingredients that fall within my budget.

    Zsuzsi: Well, no one said you have to eat just one ; )

    laura: I know. Every time I go back to the states, I’m always surprised at how pale egg yolks are.

    Amanda: That’s an interesting point about glassware. I know that some people won’t use crystal for that reason. Depending on where one lives, glazed and unglazed ceramics may be suspect, too.

    I know the prevailing wisdom is simply not to let things sit too long in these kinds of containers. A good excuse to eat things quickly!

    • Aaron

    hey david, I just saw your segment on ‘Food Lovers Guide to the Planet’ on NatGeo.
    I love your blog! Great photography and recipes, definitely gonna try out your tiramisu recipe!

    With Much Enthusiasm from Singapore,

    • Claire

    I made this dessert on the weekend for some foodie friends who were staying and it was unbelievably delicious!!! Thank you for such a simple and yet gorgeous recipe (and yes, I made very sure that the espresso mixture tasted highly alcoholic only because you recommended it :-)). Thank you thank you thank you.

    • Pepy

    I should bookmark this…MEC= Mascarpone Espresso Chocolate

    • liz c.

    Thank you! This recipe gets it right!

    The combination of classic ingredients, well executed techniques and detailed instructions result in the most perfectly balanced and decedent tiramisu that one could hope for.

    David your technique of dipping the lady fingers (LF) is key. The end result is perfectly saturated LF. Other sources say brush it on, soak them, pour the espresso all over until soaked, etc. But this technique ensures that each LF is not too dry. Not to soggy. But just right. This is important because you never know if your readers are using a sponge type LF or a drier biscotti style LF. But this covers both and is a good method to add to ones repertoire and carry over to other desserts.

    Lady fingers are easy to make and to all of you out there trying to decide if it is worth the extra little effort – it is! It makes it all the more special.

    About the grated chocolate – The Silver Spoon calls for grated chocolate so maybe you should cut your self a little slack.

    I will be making this for years to come.We did not make individual servings but made a dish full. Which has almost been completely consumed. Next time, I will make individual servings to control ourselves.

    Again, thank you for your good work and sharing it with all the world.




    • Barrett

    David – I had a cup of coffee and some pretty good Italian butter cookies at a restaurant in Baltimore called Piedigrotta. The owner there is one of the claimants to being the inventor of tiramisu –

    I don’t know if he did or did not invent the dish, but he was a very down to earth kind of guy and we’ve taken tiramisu out from his place – it was fantastic. Well worth a trip if you find yourself in DC/Baltimore.

    • Pam

    I simply love tiramisu, however I am pregnant and concerned about using raw eggs, which one is meant to avoid during pregnancy…is there any alternative?



    • David

    Pam: You can use whipped cream. Can’t tell exactly how much it would take to lighten the mascarpone, but you can do it to taste. Good luck with the baby~

    • Sabine

    ouh la la as we say here in Paris (and anywhere else in France) ! A tiramisu with rum and cognac ? that is really not Italian… : for a real tiramisu get a real Marsala wine that you should be able to find at any decent Italian caterer. It is really the closest you can get to a real Italian tiramisu !

    • Crumbs

    Hi David! i have a question about the egg beating part. is it like making meringues and macarons where we need a whisk and foam has to form? thanks! :)

    • David

    Crumbs: Yes, in step #2, you beat them until stiff and the egg whites hold their shape when you lift the whisk.

    Sabine: I spent a full day going to liquor stores in France, including the 3-story Lavinia and no one had Marsala. (The people at Lavinia tried to sell me Madiera, saying it was the same thing!) I did eventually find some at an Italian épicerie, after I developed this recipe, although the price was pretty astounding. So readers are welcome to use Marsala if that’s available to them. But since I live in France, it’s just not easily available. Nor it is inexpensive, so I used other liquors.

    And if anyone can tell me why Marsala, which is from Italy, (which shares a border with France), is three times as expensive as it in the states, I’d be interested in hearing why. Bonus points for letting me know why it’s so hard to find here when it’s easily available elsewhere.

    • Rosemarie


    I’ve been searching for a recipe for a Limoncello Cream Torte to make for my husband for Valentines day. I found this tiramisu recipe of yours using Limoncello and it looks wonderful but it’s just not quite what I’m looking for. I was hoping you could give me some pointers on how to go about replicating this torte.

    The torte has a sponge like yellow cake that I believe is sprinkled with Limoncello then layered with a marscapone cream topped with a streusel topping.

    Thank you in advance for any advice you can give.


    • cheryl Morrison

    i had a client from italy who ate Zabaglione and tiramisu her whole life. She said her family always made tiramisu with Marsala in the custard but cognac or rum in the expresso or super strong italian coffee.

    i am sure there are many regions and ways to make it but thought i would share this one because it is wonderful. i cook my custard and use whipped cream from scratch rather than egg whites as i am allergic to them.

    • Rosemarie


    I realize now that this recipe doesn’t use Limoncello. I pulled it up using the Google custom search bar and it was listed because you talked of Limoncello on that page. I hope you don’t think me a fool. It was late and I had been looking for recipes all evening for the torte.

    In any case, I love your website and refer to it often. Thank you for sharing all your wonderful adventures and recipes with us.


    • Eva

    David and dear world wide readers,

    I have been cooking Tiramisu for years and always was sticking to the basic recipe I found years ago in some American cooking book(at that time I lived in DC). It is very pleasing to see that David’s recipe matches my version and I have been cooking the correct (if I may say so) Tiramisu. The only difference is that I don’t make it in separate servings but prepare a big cooking dish, which I cover overnight in the fridge to let the ingredients soak it.
    So, no matter where you prepare this Tiramisu, you will be praised by your friends all nationalities (including Italians). I have been cooking this Tiramisu from Russia to Switzerland and USA (of course) and all my friends loved it!

    If I may share some other versions of Tiramisu for those who would like to try something else besides the traditional coffee Tiramisu. Also, this might be good for those cooking for children or people who do not want strong alchocol in their dessert. These are lighter versions of the classical Tiramisu with fruits.

    I recently learned about this myself from my Italian mother in law (Marche region). What she does is adds fruits between the layers of Savoiardi cookies and Mascarpone cream mixture. The fruit versions I have tried are rasberries, canned peaches, and mangos. All three versions came out great. Just remember, that in stead of dipping the cooking in coffee, you make fruit juice of the fruit you are adding to your Tiramisu. In addition, she suggested to add some Grand Manier liquer. GM will add some delicious flavour and make your Tiramisu not to alchocol like. In the fruit versions I don’t add any congac. If you want to add run, 1 tsp is fine. For example, if you use canned peaces, dip the cooking in the peach juice with GM. If you use rasberries (or any other berries) take 2 TBspoons of berries with their juice, add some honey and sugar and simmer in a small sauce pan for about 10 min. Then add to this GM and you will have the perfect dipping juice for the Savoiardi cookies.

    Tasty Tiramisu cooking to all of you!!!

    • Yummita

    Hi, that´s great! I also made tiramisu – yesterday and it was delicious! I used almost the same ingredients as you did, but different amounts of them. It´s a nice idea with using the glasses. I really like it :)



    • Big T

    Was just perusing your site looking over the interesting tart pastry recipe when this one caught my eye, I just realised while reading that you are using the exact same recipe I have been using and indeed ended up with after much experimentation over the years. Most recipes have marsala wine in them but for me the rum and cognac make this perfect. The only real difference is the amount of time I dip the ladyfingers for; no more than 3 seconds or so and not completely soaked so that the juices soak through slowly while it rests in the fridge. I also sprinkle a little more rum over the fingers before the next layer to give it a little bit more kick. I have also found rum and sherry make a good partnership. :)

    • Christina

    can i replace rum & cognac with baileys Irish cream instead?

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Christina: Sure!

    • Christina

    Thanks very much david for the quick response! I was worried of the time difference! Am going try it tonight and hopefully it would turn out well so I can give them out as christmas pressie tomorrow at a party. Hehhe

    Thanks again! :D

    • Karen from Globetrotter Diaries

    I’m making this tonight for New Year’s dinner, and I sampled a little bit– SO GOOD! Thanks for this awesome recipe :)


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