Tiramisu Cake

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Tiramisu Cake by Jessica Hughes
Story and Photos by Travis Bowles

Jessica Hughes, a senior at St. Mary’s University, shares a sweet tiramisu cake recipe that holds special memories of her mother.

Hughes is an Entrepreneurial Studies major, with aspirations of both painting and working in marketing or business consulting.

She is a work-study employee for The Rattler, a position she’s held for over a year. Previously she worked in the A.A.C.C., and also worked at the Prague Zaragoza Recreation Center for an internship last summer.

She enjoys St. Mary’s because of the small class sizes, saying “I get distracted easily in larger classes, so this is a better learning environment for me.”

Ideally, Hughes wants to dedicate herself to her painting after graduating, but she’s also exploring marketing, marketing research, or business consulting as a career.

While not busy with her studies, internship, and multiple clubs, she enjoys baking for herself, friends and family.

She says the thing that draws her to baking is that “it’s sort of the same concept that draws me into my artwork: the idea of creating and sharing something.”

Hughes started baking when she was a senior in high school.

“I started with cookies because they were simple,” she says.

This particular recipe was originally made for her mom on Mother’s Day a couple years ago.

“I’ve always tried to make some kind of cake for my mom for Mother’s Day,” she says.

The tiramisu cake was chosen because of her mom’s affinity for chocolate and because it wasn’t too sweet.

The cake was a huge success, and her mother loved it. “She liked it a lot, even though I didn’t make it right the first time, and has asked me to bake one for her again,” she says.

After making it a few times, Jessica recommends making sure the butter is room temperature and being very careful with the baking powder and baking soda.

“They’re very easy to accidentally switch around and then the cake could come out funny,” she says.


For the cake layers:

• 2 cups cake flour

• 2 teaspoons baking powder

• 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

• 1 cup sugar

• 3 large eggs

• 1 large egg yolk

• 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

• 3/4 cup buttermilk

For the espresso extract:

• 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

• 2 tablespoons boiling water

For the espresso syrup:

• 1/2 cup water

• 1/3 cup sugar

• 1 tablespoon amaretto or brandy

For the filling and frosting:

• 1 8-ounce container mascarpone

• 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

• 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

• 1 tablespoon amaretto or brandy

• 1 cup cold heavy cream

• 2 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1/2 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For decoration (optional):

• Cocoa powder, for dusting

Cooking Directions:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9×2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess, and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To make the cake:

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Working with a hand mixer, in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla (don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled). Reduce the mixer speed to low and add 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Then mix in ½ of the buttermilk. Repeat this process until all dry ingredients and buttermilk are mixed into the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean.

Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, un-mold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right-side up.

To make the extract: Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.

To make the syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy. Set aside.

To make the filling and frosting:

Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.

Working with the hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.

To assemble the cake:

If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Place one layer right-side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer –about 1 1/4 cups – and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.

For the frosting, whisk 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the frosting as you go to decide how much extract you want to add. If the frosting looks as if it might be a little too soft to spread over the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate it for about 15 minutes. Refrigerate the cake, too.

With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top. If you want to decorate the cake with chocolate-covered espresso beans, press them into the filling, making concentric circles of beans or just putting some beans in the center of the cake.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day) before serving – the elements need time to meld.

Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa. Stencils can be made out of wax paper to add various designs to a cake. After cutting out the stencil, place it on the cake then sprinkle on the cocoa.

Makes: 1 cake, 8-10 servings depending on thickness of slices

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