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CHEF ILONA DANIEL: Try the latest COVID cooking trend – spirit-filled desserts – with this tiramisu with a twist

Chef Ilona Daniel's version of the Italian classic dessert, tiramisu, has a few unique twists.
Chef Ilona Daniel's version of the Italian classic dessert, tiramisu, has a few unique twists.

Tiramisu, the legendary Italian dessert as we know it today, is said to have found its origins in the 1960s in the Veneto region, with many rustic or simple versions have been recorded since the 1800s.

The original version is made with egg yolks which a tempered into a custard called, zabaglione. This custard is mixed with an ultra-rich version of a fresh cream cheese called mascarpone. This mixture is layered with a boozy and espresso dunked lady finger biscuits.

This dessert took North America by storm in the 1980s and was seen on menus in restaurants and on many tables in home kitchens. This dessert is so easy to love as it echoes the familiar creaminess of cheesecake with our coffee-obsessed continent. Tiramisu is also really easy to make, which made it a popular and trendy dessert to serve at home.

My version takes out the challenge of making a zabaglione, which is a definite departure from the traditional version, and I opt instead to incorporate cream cheese instead. The cream cheese has stabilizers in the ingredients list which will allow the dessert to last longer in the fridge without and liquid weeping out of the works. I whip together the mascarpone and cream cheese, which then has stiffly whipped heavy cream folded into it.

For the alcohol in the espresso dunk, I have opted to go with Amaretto. Amaretto is Italian for "a little bitter." Amaretto is a liqueur with an almond flavor, but interestingly enough, it may or may not contain almonds. The standard base of the liqueur is made with either apricot pits, almonds, or both. The original version was made in Saronno, Italy. It is believed that the Lazzaroni family of Saronno are the ones who invented this popular liqueur. It pairs quite well in coffee and is often found in after-dinner specialty coffees. If Amaretto doesn’t tickle your fancy, rum or coffee liqueur will also do quite well.

While traditionally tiramisu is made in a large pan and is often served family style, you can take a page out of the 1980s trend book and build them individually into martini glasses. You will have to break up the cookies, and I even recommend crumbling some of them up to fill in the gaps; just be sure to sprinkle some additional espresso dunk as needed to avoid any undesired dryness.

Amaretto-Spiked Tiramisu

Created By Chef Ilona Daniel

Makes enough for up to six – or, if you love tiramisu as much as me, one generous portion!

  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbs amaretto
  • 1 cup strong cold coffee
  • 1 package lady fingers (Savoirdi biscuits)
  • Cocoa, for dusting


Whip whipping cream, sugar and vanilla, and in a separate bowl whip mascarpone cheese, cream cheese and amaretto. Combine the two together

Pour coffee into a shallow dish. Dip enough ladyfingers in coffee to cover the base of a 6×9 inch (15×24 cm; four cups volume) square dish. Add a part of the cream mixture and level out. Repeat layers one or two times, ending with the cream.

Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Dust with cocoa before serving.

lona Daniel welcomes comments from readers by email at [email protected] or on Twitter:


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