The Perfect Pick-Me-Up

When I was in Italy I ate my fair share of tiramisu. During lunchtime at the Villa, the students eagerly waited to see if tiramisu would be served for dessert. The moments when the “pick-me-up” made its way to the buffet table, everyone would rush into line and proceed to take large spoonfuls. Sprinkled with coffee powder on top, the caffeine is not hidden. Yet despite the espresso laden ladyfingers and coffee dusting, the rich custard and overwhelming portions meant for very sleepy afternoons. 

While the Villa’s tiramisu was hands-down my favorite of its desserts, it competed for my affection with the layered confection from the Florentine restaurant La Giostra. Owned by members of the royal Hapsburg family, the restaurant is named to honor its site of the former merry-go-round in Salvemini square. According to its Web site, “Where shiny horses rested once upon a time, today there are only just sixteen tables, where couples, beautiful women, famous guests and also entire theatre troupes sit now and then… All of them united by the love of good cuisine and by the pleasure of a refined hospitality.”

The first time I visited La Giostra I went with my housemate Emily. Although we arrived on a Saturday night without a reservation, we were graciously escorted to a table for two and treated with glasses of Prosecco. For my meal, I enjoyed spinach gnocchi fatto a mano, made by hand, tossed with sautéed pancetta and tomato. Even though I could barely eat another bite, I could not deny ordering the tiramisu after Emily introduced it as the best in Florence. Such a spectacular claim warranted my attention, and upon first bite I could not disagree.

Luscious, creamy, indulgent; it was everything everything tiramisu should be. With each spoonful I felt myself falling in love more and more. The combination of mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar, espresso and, oftentimes, liquor is pure genius. Unfortunately for me, anytime I see tiramisu on a menu in the States I fear that it will not live up to my memories of those bites abroad. Not wishing to deprive myself any longer, I decided it was time for me to whip up my own tiramisu and see if anything made in my kitchen satisfy my pick-me-up craving.


Serves 6-8

  • 1 package of ladyfingers
  • 4-5 shots of espresso, not coffee (I went to Starbucks and ordered multiple shots)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 8 oz. mascarpone
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • Salt
  • Cocoa powder, optional
  1. Separate egg yolks from the whites into two separate bowls. Beat yolks with sugar until pale yellow ribbons form. Fold in mascarpone.
  2. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites. Whip egg whites to stiff peaks. Carefully fold into yolk mixture.
  3. Dip ladyfingers into espresso, and place one layer on the bottom of a 1.5 quart dish and spread one layer of egg cream on top. Repeat about two more times, first dipping the ladyfingers in espresso and topping with cream.
  4. After spreading final layer of cream, sprinkle with cocoa powder, if desired. Refrigerate for at least three hours before serving

*Note: Recipe includes raw eggs. To reduce the risk of salmonella, use fresh eggs and keep dish refrigerated when not serving. Dispose of leftovers after two days.


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