New Recipe: Tiramisu: a classic Italian dessert

By Keighley’s Mike Armstrong, an award-winning master baker with a big passion for baking. See

TIRAMISU is a classic Italian dessert.

But did you know it is a fairly recent invention, originating in the northern town of Treviso around 50 years ago?

I’ve always thought of mascarpone as “cream with edges”. Despite its softness, it is technically a cream cheese with fault lines when scooped from the tub, having a sharp taste that follows the richness like an echo.

My feelings about mascarpone sold in squat tubs from the supermarket, pasteurised for long life, are much the same as those tinned tomatoes and frozen peas – they are reassuring.

Mascarpone originates too from northern Italy, being somewhere between butter and cream – a dairy velvet, thick and creamy.

There is no doubt that pasteurising alters the texture and taste of mascarpone – dulls it –and this is why tubs need culinary help. But on the other hand, they do save you the hassle of making your own, draining it through a tea towel secured with wooden pegs – I haven’t tried it!

Mascarpone may come from supermarkets but needs to be sharpened-up, with something that can stand-up to the creamy thud. Strong coffee and rum come to mind and are a good match, along with sponge fingers and eggs, turning the mascarpone into a pick-me-up pudding.

I have no time for snobbishness about tiramisu, but a cocoa-dusted tray to be divvied-up by the slice for the family – oozing with coffee and alcohol served in squares as you would lasagne – is well worth the effort.

My wife’s side of the family came over from Italy in 1905 and made probably the first real ice cream in Keighley at the bottom of West Lane, from the cellars of a stable in Leeds Street.

Mr Antono Minchella went selling his ice cream from a handcart around the Keighley streets after a long hard shift at Hattersley.

Mr Minchella was also known to Captain Sir Tom Moore, who spoke fondly of him in his autobiography – he would often go to the Cosy Corner picture house, one of five cinemas in Keighley. The Cosy Corner was the best, but low-grade with wooden benches for a penny seat and never anything to eat or drink. Mr Minchella was always outside when the films finished and sold his one-flavour – vanilla – ice cream in a wafer sandwich for two pence but quickly sold out and had to go home and make more.



Serves 8 (or half the recipe if necessary)


200ml / 7oz strong coffee

75ml / 2 1/2oz rum or brandy

3 eggs

75g / 3oz caster sugar

500g mascarpone

20-25 sponge fingers

Cocoa powder


1. Make the coffee and allow to cool until just-warm, then add the rum or brandy.

2. Separate the eggs into two bowls, keeping one of the whites for something else.

3. Beat the yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy, then add the mascarpone and beat again.

4. In the other bowl, whisk two whites until they form soft peaks, then fold into the mascarpone mixture.

5. Dip half the sponge fingers into the warm coffee/alcohol mix and arrange in a single layer in the bottom of a square Pyrex dish.

6. Pour over half the mascarpone mixture, level out with a spatula and dust the surface with cocoa powder.

7. Now make a second layer of sponge fingers on top of the cream, pour over the remaining mascarpone cream, level and chill for four hours before dusting heavily with more cocoa powder.

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