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Valentines Day Baking: Tiramisu Cake

One of my worst qualities is my lack of patience. I want things now now now. And this inability to wait for good things to come has often led me down unexpected detours. I’m not exactly sure what the rush is, which is strange considering I’m often lost in it. Maybe it’s my type-A personality or my need to check things off (to-do list obsessed)…

However, my patience has been severely tested in the past month or so, in both the professional and romantical way. You see, I’ve been on somewhat of a role in my personal life (knock on wood) and all I want to do is shout from the top of my lungs FINALLY GOOD THINGS ARE HAPPENING WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN I JUST WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW.

Seriously, that’s all I want to say most of the day and my need to figure everything out is all-consuming. From a cute new friend to a brand new job, I have been rolling in changes and beginnings always leave me a bit frenetic. The unfamiliar leaves me edgy, unbalanced, which I think is the point but it’s so me to want to hurry from point A to point B, whether it be in dating or my career.

Right now is all that matters. There’s no need to rush, no need to hurry. A wise friend of mine told me to savor these beginnings because pretty soon, the beginnings will morph into routines and the excitement will be gone. It took me a while but I agree. I’m trying to stop the train, manage my need to push forward and really enjoy the moment. Not easy, kids, but totally essential. I’ve learned that being patient isn’t just about impulse control and managing wants, but it’s about sitting with the unfamiliar and, more importantly, trusting the process. Having faith that things will work out in the long run and that you are right where you need to be. Nerve-racking? Definitely. But worth it? Yes.



Which brings me to this Tiramisu cake.

I so wish I could say to you all it was so simple to make and required no thought. But, alas, I’d be lying and I ain’t that kind of girl. This cake, while totally worth it, took a lot of time and work. The cake layers need to be baked, then cooled. The frosting needs your complete attention and the filling needs a close eye too. Then, the flavors need to develop and strengthen. Which makes this cake super frustrating but let me tell you, you need to bake this cake. Not for tonight, but maybe for tomorrow. From the silky smooth frosting to the coffee flavor, it’s just the thing you deserve. And I dare you to not have more than one slice – seriously, I tried and it was impossible. I haven’t really been a big fan of tiramisu but in cake format? It’s got just enough dimensions to keep my tastebuds intrigued.

My only gripe about the cake (you knew it was coming) was that it was a tad bit dry. This can be fixed, obviously. Watch your cake as it is baking and make sure to test it a few minutes shy of the recommended baking time. Also, use ample amounts of syrup to coat the layers so the cake can soak up the true coffee flavor. The cake’s dryness almost didn’t matter as the frosting was so ridiculously good. Think of a not-too-sweet whipped frosting that doesn’t taste grainy or too melt-in-your-mouthish. If that makes sense.

But, you know what they say: good things come to those who wait. So here I am. Waiting. For cakes to be baked, for new romances to unfold and for new professional ventures to become routine.



Tiramisu Cake

Yield: 10-12 servings

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours


    For the cake layers:
  • 2 cups (255 grams) cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons or 140 grams)) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk
  • For the espresso extract:
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) boiling water
  • For the espresso syrup:
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy (Deb note: I used brandy)
  • For the filling and frosting:
  • 1 8-ounce (225 grams) container mascarpone
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy (Deb note: I used brandy)
  • 1 cup (235 ml) cold heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 ounces (70 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or about 1/2 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
  • Chocolate-covered espresso beans, for decoration (optional)
    Cocoa powder, for dusting


  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9×2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess, and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
  2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
  4. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them, and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right-side up.
  5. To make the extract: stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.
  6. To make the syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy; set aside.
  7. To make the filling and frosting: Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.
  8. Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.
  9. To assemble the cake: If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Place one layer right-side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer – user about 1 1/4 cups – and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.
  10. For the frosting, whisk 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the frosting as you go to decide how much extract you want to add. If the frosting looks as if it might be a little too soft to spread over the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so. Refrigerate the cake too.
  11. With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top. If you want to decorate the cake with chocolate-covered espresso beans, press them into the filling, making concentric circles of beans or just putting some beans in the center of the cake.
  12. Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day) before serving – the elements need time to meld.
  13. Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa. I cut a star shape out of waxed paper and placed it lightly over the cake, and shaved a layer of chocolate over it with a microplane, before carefully removing the star to leave a stenciled shape.
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February 11, 2013 - 10:20 am

Finance Girl - Girl, i feel you on the whole patience thing. I’m the same way–but as I’ve gotten older I feel like I’ve finally realized that I just need to breathe and take things in along the way. Enjoying the journey if you will.

the tiramisu looks amazing btw.

February 11, 2013 - 5:11 pm

colleen - oh my my my. this looks so good – and i love tiramisu and i love lighter, whipped frostings, so i think i’ll have to make this soon. as for the beginnings – yes. enjoy them, savor them, they are so exciting. but…the really good stuff comes later. you’ll look back and be nostalgic and re-live the beginnings, but it only gets better. enjoy.

February 12, 2013 - 1:00 pm

Lindsay - So happy for you Amanda! And the cake looks delish!

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