Maple-Kahlua Tiramisu

Maple-Kahlua Tiramisu
Rate it!

Our favorite dessert!

Ah, so this is what yesterday’s post about mascarpone was for. Of course, tiramisu — probably our favorite dessert. We’ve never tried to make tiramisu before, mainly because we already knew where to get the best tiramisu we’ve ever eaten. (It was at a local Italian restaurant that has since changed hands, but we haven’t tried the new owner’s version yet.) In the meantime, we’ll try our hand at scratchin up this classic Italian dessert.

This recipe is based on one by Gesine Bullock-Prado who, single-handedly, has the best-looking cakes around; you can find the original in her book Bake It Like You Mean It. We did take a few liberties with the filling and assembly, but the recipe for the ladyfingers is corrected using her errata list.

Right up front, we’ll tell you that we had a few issues — we didn’t know about the errata — but, with the correct version, you shouldn’t have the problems we had.

Finally, note that we cut our cake down in size — our baking sheets are about third sheets, instead of half sheets — which is reflected in the  pictures, but not in the recipe.

Maple-Kahlua Tiramisu

Yield: 10-12 servings

Maple-Kahlua Tiramisu


    For the ladyfingers
  • 6 eggs, separated and room temperature
  • 2 drops fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup (70g) bread flour
  • 6 Tbs (50 g) corn starch
  • For the filling
  • 1/2 cup Kahlua, divided
  • 1 tsp powdered agar-agar (or gelatin)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 6 Tbs maple syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup (250g) mascarpone
  • For assembling
  • 1/3 cup Kahlua
  • 1/4 cup (20 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Abbreviated Instructions

For the ladyfingers

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a half-sheet baking pan with parchment and lightly grease with butter.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine egg whites, lemon juice, and salt. Beat on medium until foamy. Increase mixer to high and slowly add sugar. Beat until stiff but moist peaks form. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In the mixer bowl (no need to clean), combine egg yolks and maple syrup. Whisk on high until pale and thick. Sift flour and cornstarch over the yolk mixture and gently fold in.

Add one-third of the whipped egg whites and gently stir in. Add remaining egg-whites and fold in gently until no streaks remain.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely.

For the filling

Place half the Kahlua in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle the agar-agar on top. Let stand for 3 minutes. Microwave at 50% power in 10-second intervals, swirling in between until agar-agar is completely dissolved.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg yolks, remaining Kahlua, and maple syrup. Place over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until thick enough to form ribbons when the whisk is raised. Place bowl on stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high until cool, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large clean bowl and refrigerate.

In the mixer bowl (no need to clean), combine mascarpone and whipping cream and whip on high until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

Remove the egg yolk mixture from the refrigerator and stir a tablespoon into the Kahlua with dissolved agar-agar. Stir until uniform, then pour back into the egg yolk mixture and stir in.

Fold the cream-mascarpone mixture into the egg yolk mixture in three additions.

For assembly

Run a sharp knife around the edge of the baking sheet to loosen the ladyfingers. Invert and remove parchment. Trim away browned edges. Slice into 3 equal-sized rectangles.

Place one rectangle on a serving plate and brush top with Kahlua. Spread one-third of the filling mixture on top, then dust with cocoa powder until covered. Place a second ladyfinger rectangle on top, brush with Kahlua, then freeze 15 minutes to firm.

Coat with another third of filling mixture, dust with cocoa powder until covered, and place the remaining ladyfinger layer on top. Brush with remaining Kahlua and freeze for 15 minutes to firm.

Top with remaining filling and dust with remaining cocoa.

Ingredient discussion:

First up, let’s cover eggs. The best eggs are from the healthiest hens (makes sense, right?), and the healthiest hens are those that get to do “hen things,” namely, scratch and peck, peck and scratch, eat grass and bugs, and bugs and grass. It’s free-range all the way. For the Kahlua, we guess you could buy some, but we went with some homemade coffee liqueur that we’d received as a gift. Mascarpone: well, we scratched up our own yesterday, and it’s easy enough that we recommend it for everyone. If you don’t have 2 drops of lemon juice, use a pinch of cream of tartar, instead; if you don’t have cream of tartar, just omit (the lemon juice is there to help the egg white whip, not for flavoring, and the salt will help with that, anyway). Note that the cocoa is Dutch-processed, meaning darker and less bitter, because the acid in the cocoa has been neutralized. Use the best cocoa you can find and afford. We use Valrhona, which we feel is one of the best. Finally, maple syrup. Many people think that the grade of maple syrup refers to the quality. It does not. It refers to the color, nothing more. In fact, the darker (grade B) syrups often have more flavor and are less costly than the fancy grade A syrups.

Procedure in detail:

There are three parts: make the ladyfinger cake, make the filling, and assemble. Of the three, making the filling is the most involved, but it’s not too difficult and probably the most resilient; just follow along step-by-step, and you’ll be fine.

Make the ladyfinger cake:

mise en place
It helps to get everything out and measured. We do it for most of our baking, as it makes everything flow smoothly.

Mise en place. You’ll want to separate the eggs cold and let them warm (less likely to break a yolk), and, when you’re whipping the egg whites, you don’t want to stop and measure sugar, so just get everything for the cake ready. It’ll go much more smoothly.

buttered parchment
Just a light buttering of the parchment will do it.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a half-sheet baking pan with parchment, then butter it lightly. You’ll definitely want to use parchment here, as these ladyfingers do not have any butter in them, so they’ll be prone to sticking.

foamy egg whites
Once the egg whites are foamy, increase the speed to high and start adding sugar.

Beat egg whites. Place the egg whites, lemon juice, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium until the whites are foamy, about a minute.

adding sugar
Add the sugar slowly so it dissolves into the whites; otherwise, it’ll get grainy.

Add sugar. Increase the speed of the mixer to high and slowly add the sugar to the egg whites. Keep beating until the whites form stiff, glossy peaks, about 2-3 minutes. In case you’re wondering, you’ve just made a French meringue.

It’s French meringue, made from sugar and egg whites.

Transfer.  Scrape the egg whites into a clean bowl and set aside.

thick egg yolks
Beat the yolks, Kahlua, and maple syrup until pale and thick, about 5 minutes.

Beat yolks and syrup. Place the egg yolks and maple syrup in the bowl of the mixer (no need to wash — sweet!), and beat on high until pale and thick, about 5 minutes.

adding flour and cornstarch
Sift the flour and corn starch on top, then gently fold into the yolk mixture.

Add dry ingredients. Sift the flour and cornstarch over the egg yolk mixture, and, using a wide spatula, gently fold until mixed. (Our photo uses half the correct amount of eggs, because we didn’t know about the errata sheet.)

folding in egg whites
Now fold in the meringue (the fluffy egg whites). Do this in thirds to prevent the whites from collapsing.

Fold in whites. This always seems trickier than it is. The secret is to add the egg white mixture in thirds, folding them in after each addition. The first addition might deflate significantly, the second addition, not so much, and the third will make sure the mixture is light and fluffy.

Fill pan. You’ll note that our batter didn’t come anywhere near filling the pan, but that should be corrected in the recipe above. Add the batter to the pan and smooth evenly.

lady finger cake
Our ladyfinger cake was made from an incorrect recipe, but we forged ahead without fear, anyway.

Bake. Bake the ladyfinger layers for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Then remove and cool completely in the pan.

Wash up. Once the cake goes into the oven, it’s a good time to wash up the various bowls and other implements and prep yourself for the next stage.

Make the filling:

agar-agar and Kahlua
The agar-agar mostly dissolves in a few minutes, but it won’t hurt to heat it in the microwave a few times to make sure.

Gel Kahlua. Place half of the Kahlua in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle with the agar-agar. Let stand for about 3 minutes so much of the agar-agar can dissolve.

Microwave. Place the Kahlua in the microwave, set to 50% power, and microwave in 10-second intervals. Swirl the mixture in between, and stop once all the agar-agar is dissolved. Set aside.

simple double boiler
Set up a simple double boiler by placing the mixing bowl on a pan of simmering water.

Make base filling. Combine the egg yolks, maple syrup, and remaining Kahlua in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place over a pan of simmering water and whisk. Keep whisking while heating until the mixture thickens and forms thick strands when you lift the whisk, about 5 minutes.

whisking egg yolks
Whisk until hot and thickened — the yolks are the thickener, just like in custard and puddings.

Beat until cool. Attach the mixer bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high until room temperature, about 5 minutes.

maple yolk mixture
After whipping until cool, transfer to another bowl so you can whip the cream and cheese.

Transfer. Transfer the egg yolk mixture to a large bowl (all the filling will end up in here) and refrigerate.

creem and mascarpone
Start the mixer on low, and in a few seconds, the cream and mascarpone will blend nicely. Note that we didn’t clean the bowl — no need!

Whip mascarpone and cream. Place the mascarpone cheese and the heavy cream in the mixing bowl (no need to clean, yay!) and beat on high until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

It’ll whip up fast, so don’t walk away.
adding egg-yolk maple to Kahlua
Add some of the egg-yolk mixture to the Kahlua with agar-agar and mix until smooth.

Mix in gelled Kahlua. We’re going to mix the Kahlua with the agar-agar into the egg-yolk mixture in two steps. Remove the egg-yolk mixture from the refrigerator and stir a tablespoon of it into the Kahlua and agar-agar mixture. Stir until smooth. Now, pour the Kahlua and agar-agar into the egg-yolk mixture, and, using a wide spatula, fold until smooth. (This step is akin to tempering egg yolks when making custard).

adding Kahlua
Once smooth, mix the Kahlua with agar-agar back into the egg-yolk mixture.
folding in whipped cream and cheese
Finally, fold the whipped cream and cheese into the yolk mixture and your filling is complete.

Fold in whipped cream cheese. Add the whipped cream/mascarpone mixture to the egg-yolk mixture in thirds, folding gently with a wide spatula between each addition. Once you’ve folded in the last of the whipped cream and mascarpone, the filling mixture is finished.


The assembly is basically making three layers of ladyfinger cake, filling, and cocoa powder, with each layer of ladyfinger cake brushed with Kahlua. The only difficultly is that the filling is very soft, so we need to pop the cake into the freezer to firm as we assemble.

Release cake. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the ladyfinger cake and invert over a cutting board. Pull away the parchment from the bottom and trim away any browned edges. (Remember, your cake will look better because you’ll be using the correct recipe above, instead of the incorrect version in the book).

Slice into thirds. Use a tape measure and slice the ladyfinger cake into three equal-size rectangles.

brushing on Kahlua
A pastry brush really comes in handy here, although, in a pinch, we’ve used pieces of paper towels.

Layer. Place one of the layers on a serving plate and brush lightly with Kahlua. Don’t soak the cake; just a light brushing will do. Top with a third of the filling and dust with cocoa powder until it’s well coated. Place the second ladyfinger rectangle on top and brush with Kahlua.

dusting on cocoa
A good dusting of a great cocoa between layers is perfect.
layering tiramisu
As you add layers, take the time to freeze everything for 15 minutes. It’ll make it easier to assemble.

Freeze. You probably noticed how soft the filling was when you brushed the second layer with Kahlua. Very soft and squishy. Let’s fix that by placing the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Layer. Add another third of the filling on top, dust with more cocoa, and place the final layer of ladyfinger cake on top.  Brush with the remaining Kahlua.

Freeze. Again, the filling is soft, so pop the cake into the freezer for 15 minutes to firm.

Layer. Finally, top with the remaining filling, spreading it evenly, and dust with the remaining cocoa.

Serve. It’s recommended that you serve this immediately, but we refrigerated ours for a bit and it was fine.

The filling for this cake is fantastic. Light, with a slight coffee-maple flavor. It would be perfect with a chocolate cake, too, so keep that in mind; we are. We can’t fairly rate the ladyfinger cake part because we used an incorrect recipe (One of the advantages of eBook versions is that they’re easily correctable, right? Apparently not.), but we will say that this recipe is pretty involved, so we’d have to give it four stars in the worth-the-effort category; well, maybe five using the correct version.

Worth the trouble?

One Reply to “Maple-Kahlua Tiramisu”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *