Tiramisu Cake – vanilla bean cake layers with a coffee and rum soak, creamy mascarpone custard and coffee buttercream.
How to Make Tiramisu
When I think of Tiramisu dessert, I think of New York and Broadway. The first time I went to New York was with my mom when I was 16 years old. I immediately fell in love with the city, especially Broadway. We were able to see a couple shows while in town and after both nights at Broadway, we went out for dessert. One night was Serendipity for Frozen Hot Chocolate and the next was a dessert spot (that I can’t remember the name of), where we had the best dessert – Tiramisu. It was then and there I fell in love and had to learn the recipe!
While I don’t drink coffee, I have always loved coffee flavored ice creams and desserts. Tiramisu was no exception.
Tiramisu is a coffee flavored Italian dessert made of ladyfingers dipped in coffee (sometimes with a rum element to it), layered with a creamy mixture of eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese. Best part? It’s a no bake dessert! Aside from cooking the egg yolks and sugar over the stove, you don’t have to actually bake anything.
How to Make the Best Tiramisu Cake
To turn this Italian dessert into a Tiramisu Cake, we’ll be using my Classic Vanilla Cake, with a coffee and rum soak, creamy mascarpone custard and a coffee buttercream.
This vanilla cake has a delicious flavor and texture. It’s slightly more dense than a white cake or yellow cake, which helps to absorb the soak without falling apart.
Once you’ve baked the cake layers, let them cool completely and then trim the tops a bit – just enough that you expose the cake crumb. This will help the soak to seep into the cake really well.
The coffee and rum soak is super simple! It’s coffee and rum extract. That’s it!
There are a ton of options/substitutes for making this soak:
- You don’t have to use rum. Coffee alone will be delicious. (or, you can add a bit of coffee liquor instead of rum, too!)
- You don’t have to use rum extract. If you want to use the real deal, go for it.
- You don’t have to use coffee. A great sub to coffee is Pero and is a non-coffee, coffee flavored drink. There’s also plenty of coffee syrups to choose from, too.
TIP: apply the soak TWICE on your cake layers. I only did the soak once and wish I would have done more. Use all of that soak!
What do you need to know about this mascarpone cream custard? It’s HEAVEN! That’s all!
Also, it’s really easy to make! You’ll just cook your raw egg yolks and sugar over a double boiler, add them to the mascarpone in a large bowl, and then using your stand mixer fold that entire mixture into the whipped cream you’ve whipped. Ta da! Mascarpone frosting.
This is a great step to make ahead of time.
The Best Buttercream
For the Tiramisu Cake buttercream, we’ll be using a coffee emulsion to obtain our coffee flavor without changing the texture of the buttercream (which can happen by just adding coffee). I like using the Lorann Bakery Emulsions. They make a great coffee flavored emulsion, but you can also use a coffee extract.
How to Assemble the Cake
For assembly, you’ll want the following tools (but of course, can do it with just a knife and plate too):
- Cake boards
- Offset icing spatula
- Straight icing spatula
- Straight scraper
- Acrylic disks
- Piping bag
- Place the first cake layer, top side up, on your cake board or cake stand.
- Pipe a rim of buttercream around the edge of the cake.
- Fill the open area with 1 cup of custard filling and evenly spread.
- Repeat with second layer of cake.
- Apply a thin layer of buttercream around the cake.
- Freeze for 10 minutes
- Apply the remaining buttercream for the final coat of buttercream.
- Sift and dust with cocoa powder on top.
How to Make Tiramisu Cupcakes
To turn this creamy coffee cake into cupcakes:
- Plan for 22-24 cupcakes
- Bake cupcakes for 20 to 23 minutes at 325 F.
- When the cupcakes are cooled, use a knife or spoon to cut a little hole in the center.
- Brush the soak on top of the cupcakes, as well as the cutout area.
- Fill the center with creamy custard.
- Pipe buttercream on top.
Cake Making Tips
Don’t forget to follow my go-to tips for getting your cakes to rise and bake well:
- First preheat your oven for 30 minutes prior to baking.
- Next, beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy.
- Use good quality pans like Fat Daddio.
- Be sure to spray your pans with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper.
- Don’t overmix your cake batter once you add the dry ingredients.
- Use room temperature wet ingredients.
- Use fresh baking powder.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs on it.
Bake Ahead Tips
To lighten the work load of this cake, you can make several elements ahead of time.
- Cake layers: bake and then cool the cake layers to room temperature. Once the cake layers are cooled, trim the tops, and then wrap in plastic wrap.
- Soak: combine the ingredients and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. You can also apply the coffee soak onto the cake layers once they are cooled and before you freeze them.
- Creamy Custard: I actually recommend making the custard ahead of time. At minimum, make the custard filling a day before you want to assemble the cake. At most, you can make it up to a week in advance. Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate.
Tender and flavorful vanilla bean cake layers with a coffee, rum soak, mascarpone custard and coffee buttercream.
FOR THE CAKE
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
- 6 large egg whites room temperature
- 1 tbsp. (13 g) vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream room temperature
- 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
- 1 tbsp. (10 g) baking powder
- 1 tsp. (5 g) salt
- 1 cup (240 g) buttermilk room temperature
FOR THE SOAK
- 1/2 cup (4 oz.) coffee See above notes in post about substitutes
- 1/2-1 tsp (4 g) rum extract See above notes in post about alternatives – how much rum flavoring or actual rum you add can be based on your personal taste
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM
- 2 cups (452 g) unsalted butter slighly cold
- 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
- 5 tsp. (20 g) coffee emulsion I use THIS brand
- 1/4 cup (57 g) heavy cream cold
- pinch of salt
- *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping, you’ll want to make an extra 1/2 batch.
FOR THE CUSTARD
- 1 cup (231 g) heavy cream
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup (66.7 g) granulated sugar
- 8 oz mascarpone cheese
- 1 tsp (4.2 g) vanilla extract
FOR THE CAKE
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch or four 6-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray and then line with parchment. Spray again. Set aside.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed. The mixture should be light and fluffy.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg whites on medium speed, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between addition.
Add the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.
With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 cup of the buttermilk. Repeat the additions, 1/3 cup flour mixture, 1/2 cup buttermilk and the final 1/3 cup flour mixture. Only mix until the flour mixture is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again for another 20 to 30 seconds on low. Fold in the sour cream.
Pour about 16 ounces of cake batter into each of the three 8-inch cake pans or 12 ounces in each of the 6-inch pans and bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs on it. Let cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. (Tip: spray your wire cooling racks with nonstick spray).
FOR THE SOAK
Combine the coffee and rum extract and stir.
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy and pale in color.
With the mixer on slow, gradually add the powdered sugar, followed by the heavy cream, coffee emulsion, and pinch of salt.
Once all of the ingredients are combined, turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for about 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for a couple minutes more.
Before using the buttercream, make sure to beat it by hand with a wooden spoon or large spatula to help push out the air pockets.
FOR THE CUSTARD
In a stainless steal bowl (preferrably chilled in thre freezer for 10 minutes), beat the cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
In a double boiler, with about an inch of water in the bottom pot, combine the sugar and egg yolks. Stir constantly while the water boils underneath, until the mixture is light yellow in color, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Once the egg mixture is cooked, add it to the mascarpone cheese in a mixing bowl, and beat together until combined. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
Fold the mascarpone mixture into the whipped cream. Cover and chilled until ready to use.
Trim the tops of the cake layers slightly, so the crumb is exposed and can soak up the coffee soak.
With a pastry brush, cover the cake layers with the coffee soak. I recommend going over each layer twice with the soak.
After you've done the soak, place the first cake layer top side up, in the center of the cake board. Pipe a rim of buttercream around the edge of the cake to create a barrier for the custard.
Spread about 1 cup of the custard across the cake layer.
Place the second cake layer on top of the buttercream and repeat the two previous steps.
Place the final cake layer top side down on the filling.
Apply a thin layer of buttercream around the entire cake. Freeze the cake for 10 minutes. This is your crumb coat.
Once the crumb coat is set, continue frosting the cake with the remaining buttercream.