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Tiramisu, The Frugal Recipe – Guest Post

Most birthdays are celebrated with cake and icing, but what do you make for the birthday boy who doesn’t like cake?  You make whatever the birthday boy asks for and for his 30th birthday, my husband requested Tiramisu.

The key ingredient for Tiramisu is mascarpone cheese, which is NOT frugal at $5.99/lb!  However, there is a substitute that can be made for half the price, plus everything else in the recipe can be found regularly on sale (if it’s not already in your fridge or pantry!) which helps to lower the bottom line.  The dessert is also rich and one batch serves 12, easily covering two nights worth of dessert.  Use the mascarpone substitute for a delicious everyday dessert.  Splurge on the real thing for decadent birthday treat!


Yield – 12 servings

Ingredients – Lady Fingers

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup and 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

Ingredients – Mascarpone Substitute

  • 13oz full fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp full fat sour cream

Ingredients – Tiramisu

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla (or use homemade vanilla extract!)
  • 16 oz mascarpone cheese, or cheese substitute (see above ingredients)
  • 1 cup espresso, cooled
  • 3 Tbsp brandy
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/8 bittersweet chocolate bar
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder


Directions for Tiramisu

  1. Prepare Ladyfingers according to the recipe below.  Let cool completely before using in Tiramisu recipe.
  2. Prepare mascarpone cheese substitute by combining the cream cheese, heavy cream and sour cream well in a bowl.  Let the mixture sit at room temperature while the rest of the cake is prepared.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the espresso and while hot, add 3 Tbsp sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Bring all your ingredients to room temperature except the heavy cream.
  4. Place the lady fingers on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until they are golden brown & almost crispy.  Set aside to cool.
  5. Place a large skillet filled with 1-2 T of water on the stove and bring to a high simmer.  In a medium heat-proof bowl, beat egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar on high for about two minutes, until it’s thick and pale yellow.  Whisk in Marsala wine and water.
  6. Set the bowl into the skillet and whisk by hand (or on low speed) until the mixture reaches 160 degrees.  Remove the bowl from the skillet and pour the mixture into a separate bowl to let cool, stirring from time to time.
  7. In a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.
  8. In a separate bowl, ensure the cheese substitute (or mascarpone cheese) is smooth by smearing it against the sides.  Fold in the whipped cream and the cooled egg yolk mixture.
  9. In a shallow dish, combine the espresso mixture with the brandy.  Dip the ladyfingers or sponge cake into the espresso mixture and arrange in a 9×13 glass pan.  It is better to leave a little bit of space than to squish them in.  Spread the cheese/egg/whipped cream mixture over the cakes.
  10. Grate the bittersweet chocolate over the cheese.  Sift the unsweetened cocoa over the chocolate and on top of the cheese.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 24.

Directions for Ladyfingers

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line one 17×12 inch baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high until soft peaks form.  Slowly add 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue to beat until the eggs are stiff and glossy.  In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and remaining sugar until thick and very pale in color.
  3. Sift flour and baking powder together into a bowl.  Fold half of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the flour, then add the remaining egg whites.
  4. Spread the mixture evenly onto the baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  While slightly warm, gently cut the cake into 24 “fingers” and cool completely.

Tiffany is a full-time mom navigating the bumpy road of food, money and nutrition… with a little bit of real-life too!  She shares her experiences (the good, bad and ugly) at Don’t Waste the Crumbs.