Finding (and Making) the Best Tiramisu

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How We Found An Authentic Tiramisu Recipe 

I had my first Tiramisu dessert in Germany in the mid 1980s and I have been on a mission to find the best tiramisu recipe ever since. Naturally, this creamy, fluffy dessert is a staple in practically every Italian restaurant in the world.  However, it is surprising how many different methods there are to prepare it. So what is the “traditional” tiramisu recipe? Where did we find our favorite tiramisu?

Just What is a Traditional Tiramisu?

It’s hard, really, to use the term “traditional” when talking about tiramisu. It hasn’t been around that long; most experts figure the first tiramisu showed up on a menu in Italy in the 1960s and has exploded in popularity since then. How should it be made? Do you use eggs, no eggs, just the yolk, incorporate the beaten egg whites? Should the mixture be cooked over a double broiler? Alcohol or no alcohol? If so, which do you use? All of these questions over such a seemingly simple dessert; it boggles the mind.

I had tried a few variations by the time we visited Sicily but hadn’t settled on my favorite tiramisu recipe. So when we wandered past the Ristorante Tiramisu in Taormina, Italy on the island of Sicily, I knew where my lunch stop would be. Of course, first we had to spend a few hours climbing around the ruins of an ancient Greek (yes Greek, not Roman) amphitheater.

The Ancient Amphitheater of Taormina

Well, it’s impossible to have something that old that wasn’t also used by the Romans, so naturally this is the case with the amphitheater. The outer wall, constructed of brick, and most of the stage side wings were reconstructed at some point in the past 2000 years. But archaeological evidence points to a previous Greek theater on the site. Today, the theater has been gently renovated and reconstructed to maintain as much antiquity as possible while still allowing the site to be used for concerts and other performances. Walking through the threshold, I could immediately see why this site has been so popular for such a long time. The views of the Mediterranean Sea far down below at the bottom of the cliff and Mount Etna quietly puffing away in the distance are both utterly remarkable.

After climbing up and down the seats of the amphitheater and exploring the tunnels and passageways, it was time for some good eats. It turns out there are two restaurants in Taormina named Tiramisu, one is a Pizzeria Ristorante and the other is a trattoria. They both looked good and both ranked pretty high in Yelp and Tripadvisor, so I don’t really think you can go wrong with either one. However, we were more impressed with the Ristorante Tiramisu menu so that’s where we went. What a serendipitous decision!

Tiramisu – A Restaurant And A Recipe

We were given a choice of sitting inside the restaurant or in an inner courtyard garden. And, despite some earlier rain showers, the green and flowery garden was much more pleasant looking. I noticed a small counter all set up for food preparation in one corner and kept wondering what was gong to happen, and when. Who doesn’t like a live cooking show? Eventually I couldn’t take it any longer, so I asked the waiter, “What are we cooking?”

He laughed, “We aren’t cooking anything. My mama is making tiramisu, no cooking needed!” Shortly after that, out she came with one  bowl of eggs and another bowl overflowing with mascarpone. She went right to work cracking the eggs and separating them into different bowls, then whipping like a mad woman. It was fascinating to see how quickly the egg whites fluffed up; and, before we knew it, she was dipping and layering tray after tray of the delectable tiramisu cake. She left us in a cloud of cocoa dust, wheeling a cart stacked with enough trays of tiramisu to feed an army. I asked our waiter if that was the weekly preparation. “What? No! Tiramisu must be eaten fresh. That is for the dinner tonight.” The tiramisu was perfect. I collected my notes and vowed to give it a try as soon as we returned home.

I’ve been making it the same way ever since with only a few modifications. First of all, the idea of whipping egg whites by hand is not for me. I have a Kitchenaid for that. Second of all, I’ve tried a few different liqueurs and have settled on Amaretto as my favorite flavor enhancer. But I’ve stuck with the uncooked version just as Mama Leone in Taormina made it, all those years ago.


Some kitchen essentials for making the perfect tiramisu recipe include:

  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B000CNY6UK” locale=”US” tag=”reflectionsen-20″]Bialetti 6-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B00B4G6GAM” locale=”US” tag=”reflectionsen-20″]The Keurig Rivo Cappuccino and Latte System[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B00M389F76″ locale=”US” tag=”reflectionsen-20″]Lavazza Espresso Classico Keurig Rivo Pack, 18 Count[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B011ALZCNM” locale=”US” tag=”reflectionsen-20″]Pyrex 6-Cup Rectangle Food Storage, Pack of 2 Containers[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B001E5DYT4″ locale=”US” tag=”reflectionsen-20″]Illy Ground Ground Espresso Medium Roast, 8.8oz (Pack of 2)[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B01KB2OOTY” locale=”US” tag=”reflectionsen-20″]illy Espresso Ground Decaffeinated Coffee, 8.8oz (Pack of 2)[/easyazon_link]

If you should find yourself in Taormina, eating at Ristorante Tiramisu, and you you need a place to spend the night, why not try out one of these excellent options…


Pin our Best Tiramisu Recipe for later!

Do you love true and authentic Italian food? Oh, and the desserts! Click here to learn how we found and executed the perfect Tiramisu recipe all the way from Taormina, Italy.......................................... food | foodie | quest

10 thoughts on “Finding (and Making) the Best Tiramisu

  1. Ayngelina (@Ayngelina) says:

    I don’t know if this was intentional but I loved how you shared a photo of the tiramisu with some of it removed and then the Ampitheatre ruin – it was a great visual connection between the two

  2. Kavey Favelle says:

    This is the best way to enjoy the food of a place, to learn the secrets of making a dish while you are there. We had a favourite local Italian restaurant near our home for many years, and their tiramisu was hands down my favourite. We became such regulars that they taught us their recipe, which is our favourite one. Not too dissimilar to yours, actually. 😀

  3. Kathy Marris says:

    Now this is a big coincidence. I was recently in gorgeous Taormina in Sicily during our Mediterranean Cruise. I have been writing a blog all about it this afternoon! I didn’t see the Ristorante Tiramasu, but I has particularly nice canoli here. 🙂

  4. Rhonda Albom (@RhondaAlbom) says:

    This is a recipe I can sink my teeth into. As a coffee loving family, tiramisu is just another way to enjoy the essential brown fluid. I’ve adjusted my weekly shopping list to give it a go. The fact that you discovered the basics of this recipe in Sicily is no surprise to me

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