Eight years ago, my husband lived in Rome for three months during the Fall. I went to visit him near the end of his time abroad. While he traveled around Rome, Italy and other countries, his home base was Trastevere, a neighborhood known for its unique character, local establishments, and nearby outdoor market in Campo de Fiore. My husband spent three months eating his way through Rome, studying architecture, and incorporating into the community. Finally, after three long months apart, I was able to reunite with my husband (then boyfriend), starting our journey together in Paris and traveling south to Rome where we would then fly home.
When I think of my time in France and Italy with my husband, my mind instantly travels to the food we enjoyed together. In particular, I think of the many dishes of tiramisu we devoured in our search for the perfect slice. While we could have been searching for the best pizza, glass of wine or plate of gnocchi, we chose tiramisu. For some reason tiramisu has always been special to me. I am not entirely sure why since it was never a standby in my home, but I recall always ordering it when available on the menu. Sometime in my late teens, I decided I wanted to make tiramisu and my mother uncovered a recipe deep within a cookbook from the Sons of Italy of America (Grand Lodge of the Northwest) of which my parents and grandparents were members. The recipe is transcribed on a typewriter within the handmade, makeshift cookbook and is described simply on top as: “Italian Cake, Cheese & Chocolate Dessert”. While I am sure the recipe is delicious as written, I have never followed the exact ingredient list. I also have never made it for myself or my family, only for large gatherings with friends. However, I think it is time for that to change because I truly think this version may be one of the best we have tried yet, which is ironic since we searched all over Italy for “the one” when it was sitting right in front of me.
I love that whenever I pull out this recipe, I am instantly transported back to memories of my grandparents, Sons of Italy outings, and the journey my husband and I took to find the best tiramisu in Italy. While making tiramisu may seem a daunting task at first, it is fairly simple to throw together, requires no baking (unless you make the pound cake from scratch), and satisfies a crowd. If you make any of the recipes I’ve shared on this blog, I hope this is the one because it certainly is one of my favorites and one that I will continue to make for years to come.
“Italian Cake, Cheese & Chocolate Dessert”, highly adapted from the Ecco: Ricette Italiane Favorite cookbook
2 fresh pound cakes, sliced into horizontal pieces
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup Kahlua
1 container mascarpone cheese
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp vanilla
6 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate, grated (or ground in a coffee grinder)
Use a deep square dish for the cake. In a small sauce pan, combine 1/4 cup of the sugar with a 1/4 cup of water and cook the mixture over moderately low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the Kahlua. I often double this syrup mixture for soaking the pound cake, but it depends on how saturated you prefer the pound cake.
Spread 1/3 of the cream filling and top with a thick sprinkling of chocolate on top. Cover the chocolate with another layer of cake, one side soaked in the syrup. Cover this layer with a portion of the remaining cream and spring with chocolate.Repeat one last time compiling the pound cake, half of the remaining cream, and grated chocolate. Finish the cake with a final layer of pound cake soaked in the syrup. Add the remaining cream on top and sprinkle with a thick layer of grated chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerator for at least three hours or overnight.
Use a knife and spoon to cut square pieces and serve.
This recipe originates from Calvari, Italy, right outside of Genoa where my grandmother’s family resides. This cake is to be served and enjoyed in community with friends and family. Serves 10-12, depending on the serving size.