Baked History: Tiramisu, I see you!
After a long hiatus, we’re doing another baked history article! Today, we’re doing an article on the mysterious beginnings of the Tiramisu, an international favorite. The word Tiramisu is Italian for “pick me up”, most likely an ode to the coffee component, and the oldest recipes refer to it as “Tirime su” or “Tirime on”. Layered desserts aren’t very popular in Italy, so this definitely stands out as a dessert. There’s a lot of disagreement on the particular region that the dessert originates from, but it could be anywhere from Treviso to Tolmezzo to San Canzian D’Isonzo to Tuscany to Torino . Basically, everyone has their own claim to the famous dessert! What we do know is that the dessert is a more recent invention, coming to the Italian public eye somewhere around the 1950s.
There’s a variety of stories with how Tiramisu was created. What’s clear is that this is a “restaurant” recipe, and not a familial one. The stories vary anywhere from a restaurant creating a similar recipe, and then somehow, over time the credit was “stolen” from them to an energy-giving treat for prostitutes working in an Italian brothel in the 1950s. Each region seems to have its own “indisputable” proof as well that they were the first to create it.
Treviso claims the recipe is theirs, having been created in the restaurant “Le Beccherie” in the 1970s by Ada Campeol, who created the recipe to give herself energy after giving birth to her son . (The restaurant closed inn 2014 due to an economic crisis). The region already had a dessert “zabaglione custard”, which may have been the inspired beginnings to tiramisu itself. The zabaglione was inspired by the “Zabaja”, having existed since the 1700s. In his book, gastronome Maffioli says, “The groom’s bachelor friends at the end of the long wedding banquet, maliciously teasing, gave him a big bottle of zabajon before the couple retired to guarantee a successful and prolonged honeymoon.” . “The zabajon,” Maffioli continues, “sometimes had whipped cream added, but in this case was served very cold, almost frozen, and accompanied by baicoli, small thin Venetian cookies invented in the 1700’s by a baker in the Santa Margherita suburb of Venice.”
Author and blogger, Anna Maria Volpi has provided this original recipe from the Le Beccherie, which she found in a Spring 1981 Vin Veneto magazine article.
Original recipe: 
12 egg yolks
1 lb 2 oz (½ kg) sugar
2 lb 4 oz (1 kg) mascarpone cheese
60 ladyfinger (savoiardi) cookies
Espresso coffee, as necessary
Cocoa powder, as necessary
She resized the recipe to fit in a 8 inch x 8 inch x 2 inch pan:
1 -1/2 cups (360 cc) espresso coffee
2 teaspoons sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1 lb (450 g) mascarpone cheese at room temperature
30 savoiardi (ladyfinger cookies)
2 tablespoons bitter cocoa powder
1. Prepare a strong espresso coffee, about 1½ cups (360 cc). Dissolve 2 teaspoons of sugar in it while the coffee is still hot. Let the coffee cool to room temperature.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until they become light and fluffy.
3. Combine the mascarpone cheese
4. Dip half of the ladyfingers in the coffee and place them in the pan in a single layer.
5. Spread half of the mascarpone cream on the cookies
6. Dip the remaining ladyfingers in the coffee and place them in the pan in a second layer layer.
7. Spread the remaining mascarpone cream on the cookies.
8. Sprinkle with the cocoa powder and refrigerate for about 3 – 4 hours.
In Tolmezzo, however, there’s a very different story. They claim that there are not one, but two official recipes. .
The first is a classic recipe created in Hotel Roma di Tolmezzo by cook Norma Pielli. Tolmezzo claims the irrefutable evidence is a receipt dated December 13, 1959! The second is called “Vetturino Tirime su Cup” created by chef Mario Cosolo of Al Vetturino restaurant in Pieris, near San Canzian D’Isonzo, dating back to the 1940s. This second recipe, shockingly doesn’t include the ingredients we know and love today, but instead, sponge cake, marsala wine and cocoa!
The hotel Roma has been around since the 1880s, and in the 1950s was being managed by Bepi del Fabbro and his wife Norma Pielli. The dessert was originally proposed to “To cheer me up a little and to crow the flors” (respectively, the coffee and at the time, zucchini flowers in the recipe!). The recipe was so popular, it became a mandatory stops for skiers coming down the mountains. According to legend, residents from the town of Trieste suggested changing the name of the dessert to Trancia to Mascarpone to Tirime on (in the Trieste dialect, this means “pull me up”).
In Norma Pielli’s diary : “Tiramisu. Ingredients: 4 whole eggs, 300 gr. of white sugar, 500 gr. of mascarpone, 40/45 biscuits biscuits, 300 cc. of bitter and strong coffee left to cool, 100 gr. sprinkling of bitter cocoa. Prepare coffee (moka or espresso) in advance and let it cool. Place 3 egg whites in a bowl and whisk them with a pinch of salt. With a whisk, beat the 3 egg yolks and the whole egg together with the sugar then, using a spatula, add the mascarpone and mix slowly from bottom to top to form a cream. Finally add the whipped egg whites and mix everything by mixing very slowly, from the bottom up, not to remove the cream. On the flat bottom of a bowl or a baking dish lay a layer of ladyfingers, soaked in coffee, drained and lightly squeezed with a fork to remove excess liquid. On the layer of ladyfingers spread a layer equal to half of the prepared cream. Then spread over it a second layer of ladyfingers, soaked and treated like the previous ones. Spread over the remaining cream. Put the cake in the fridge for 12 hours and taste it after having dusted it with bitter cocoa with a colander.“
In 2013, daughters of Chef Mario Cusolo claim they found important evidence that their father is definitively the inventor of the dessert. In the storeroom of their house, daughters Gianna and Flavia found a portfolio containing photos that confirmed the Vetturino Cup had turned into “Tireme su” right after the 2nd World War . The portfolio contained photos and a poster, which has unfortunately not stayed in tact. The photos, however, show the poster displayed in the background of the restaurant. The photo is from the marriage of Tiberio Mitri and Fulvia Franco in 1950, and the poster states “The Tirime on created by Mario is worth more than what it costs” (note the usage of the Tirime on instead of su). The Cosolos also point to an article written in 1975 by Giorgio Mistretta, in “La Buona Tavola”, where he states “In addition to the many specialties already mentioned, it deserves a separate mention of the ‘tirame su’ served at dessert: it is a semifreddo made with zabaglione created in 1935 and the progenitor of a whole family of ‘tirame su’ that you can meet today in the Friuli restaurants” (translated from Italian).
For 8 cups :
For the sponge cake :
sugar (equal to the weight of 4 eggs with shell)
flour (equal to the weight of 3 eggs with shell)
baking powder ½ sachet (Author’s note: I’ve translated this as a total of 8g) 
the grated rind of 1 lemon.
For creams :
6 egg yolks
8-9 tablespoons of sugar
1 liter of liquid cream
80 ml of dry Marsala (a wine)
2-3 tablespoons of bitter cocoa.
In addition : dry Marsala for the bagna (Author’s note: this means bathing) as needed, bitter cocoa for dusting as needed
Sponge cake : in a bowl break 5 whole eggs and with electric whips mount them by adding the amount of sugar equal to the weight of 4 eggs with the shell. Beat for a long time until a swollen and fluffy mixture is obtained. Incorporate, sieving little by little, the flour , whose weight is equal to that of 3 eggs, together with half a packet of yeast and a pinch of salt (or half flour and half potato flour or frumina). Perfume with the grated peel of a lemon. Pour into a mold and bake at 160 ° / 170 ° C for 30/40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Creams : in a bowl with a concave bottom, whisk very well, with electric whips, 6 egg yolks with 6 tablespoons of sugar: when it becomes a nice clear froth, 80 ml of dry Marsala are added, one spoon at a time. The container is placed in a warm bain-marie placed on low heat and continuing to whisk with a hand whisk, always in the same direction, the eggnog is thickened. When it is well swollen, ie at the first boil, it is extracted from the bain-marie, allowed to cool and then placed in the refrigerator. Add a liter of fresh cream, with a high percentage of fat (at least 60-70%). Sift 2 or 3 tablespoons of bitter cocoa powder together with 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar and mix in small doses to 400 g of whipped cream. Return immediately to the refrigerator. This cream can be made by replacing cocoa powder with melted dark chocolate and warmed. With a hand whisk gently incorporate the eggnog to the remaining whipped cream: the cream should be full-bodied and light in taste.
Prepare the cups . Place the chocolate cream on the bottom of each (about half cup); above is placed a square of sponge cake soaked in Marsala; then it is covered to the brim with the zabaione cream. Decorate the surface using a sac-à-poche with a 10 mm curly nozzle. Finally sprinkle with plenty of cocoa. Store in the refrigerator for a few hours. This dessert should be savored “vertically”, collecting all the layers of the cup with a spoon.
And who could forget Tuscany? More precisely in Siena , where on the occasion of a visit by the Grand Duke Cosimo III de ‘Medici was invented a sweet called “soup of the duke” or “Zuppa del Duca” . The dish was successful particularly among courtesans, who found it both stimulating and an aphrodisiac, enjoying it before their “trysts”. The dessert shares some characteristics to the current tiramisu . However, there are some discrepancies in this legend because both the sponge biscuits and the mascarpone were little used in the Sienese pastry between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Marscapone, in particular, could hardly be preserved and transported quickly from Lombardy to Tuscany.
And finally, Torino. The legend says that during the unification of Italy a famous pastry chef prepared a special, potent dessert for Prime Minister Cavour, something that would sustain him in his difficult work of unifying the Italian peninsula. The coffee and liqueur mixture helped perk him up . At the time, however, food preservation wasn’t great, to say the least, which presents the same problems as the Tuscan legend.
Torino Tiramisu 
3 egg Yolks
¼ cup Heavy Cream
½ cup Sugar
1 tsp. Marsala
½ cup Mascarpone
9 tbsp. Espresso (regular coffee can be used too)
3 tbsp. Kahlua
50 g Lady Fingers
- Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, until cream is formed and sugar is slightly dissolved. Whisk in marsala, continue to beat for a minute or so, and then take off heat. Let sit to cool.
- In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream until stiff peaks form.
- In a larger bowl, fold the mascarpone into the egg yolk cream.
- The mascarpone is folded into the egg cream.
- Fold in the whipped cream.
- Fold the creams together.
- In a small bowl, mix the kahlua and espresso together.
- Crack 1 & 1/2 lady fingers into a small cup.
- Lay out your cups. I like to use these little espresso cups. Tiramisu is rich, so it’s the perfect portion!
- Pour coffee mixture over lady fingers until submerged.
- Pipe the cream on top.
- Dust with cocoa powder.
Well I hope you all enjoyed this special, way-longer-than-I-thought-it-would-be article about Tiramisu!
If you have any questions, or suggestions for the future, please don’t forget to comment below or contact us directly!
4. Giuseppe Maffioli, Il ghiottone Veneto (The Venetian Glutton). 1968.