Monday, May 13, 2013


I worked at Bella Italia, this cute Italian place downtown, all through high school and college.  A pastry chef named Pat worked there too and made all of our desserts in house; whenever she leveled off the layer cakes, she'd leave a huge platter of cake shards and whip up 3 or 4 flavors of frosting for us to dip it in.  She was amazing!  Before I left, Pat graciously wrote out her recipe for my mom's favorite dessert, a Tiramisu layer cake.  I make it every year for Mother's Day and again for my mom's birthday in July.  It's not at all a traditional Tiramisu, with the ladyfingers soaked in espresso; but I really like the traditional Tiramisu flavors in a layer cake format (I think the ladyfingers get soggy!).  

This cake is a process, a labor of love!  My favorite way to cook it is to assemble each component separately the week before I'm serving the cake, that way you're just left to whip the whipped cream and assemble the cake.
Components all ready to go!
  • 2 boxes Duncan Hines white cake mix
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • Powdered sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons Kahlua (depending of course upon how "spiked" you like your cake)
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup leftover coffee
  • Vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or 1 cup if you really dig ganache)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese

Step 1:  The cake layers.
You'll be making 4 round cake layers total.  I only have 2 9" round cake pans so these get made in 2 batches.  I grease the pans really well with Crisco and then flour them thoroughly; that combined with Calphalon coated pans makes my cake layers slide right out (for the most part).  

Once your 4 cake layers are baked and cooled, flip them over so they're right side up.  Even off the layer; shave it down so the top of the cake is a relatively even, flat surface.  At this point, I wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them;  they're sturdier to handle when frozen.

Step 2:  Ganache
I make 1/2 the ganache Pat's original recipe called for, as the cake is so rich as is.  If you are a big chocolate fan, then make the ganache using the full cup of chocolate chips.  Melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I use 1/4 cup milk chocolate and 1/4 cup dark chocolate, Ghiradelli chocolate chips) with a splash of heavy cream; 45 seconds in my microwave does it.  I make this and then keep it in the fridge until Cake Day.

Step 3:  Cream Cheese
Mix 8 oz. cream cheese (this goes easier if it's softened) with a couple of teaspoons of powdered sugar (or to taste).  Package and keep in the fridge until Cake Day.

Step 4:  Coffee Mixture
Mix 1 tablespoon corn syrup with 1/2 cup coffee and 1-2 tablespoons of Kahlua.  If you do this with hot coffee it all blends together nicely.  Package and keep in fridge until Cake Day.  (You can make all of the different components on one day if you really wanted to; I've done it before, but you will end up with a crippling amount of dishes.)

Cake Day:  Assembly Time
First you're going to whip the whipped cream.  Dump your pint of whipped cream (minus that splash you used for the ganache) into a stand mixer; add a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1 tablespoon of Kahlua.  Mix on medium until you get whipped cream(4-6 minutes in my mixer). Also heat up your cream cheese mixture (until it's softened and easy to spread) and your ganache (until is liquidy). 

Get out whatever plate you want to serve the cake on; or you can get real fancy and use one of those stiff cardboard rounds, whatever floats your boat.  For Mother's Day yesterday I used a milk glass dish we used at our wedding.  

Get your cake layers out of the freezer and place one on the bottom of the plate.  Drizzle a few spoonfuls of the coffee mixture onto the cake layer, letting it soak into the cake.  Spread a thin, even layer of cream cheese onto the cake.  Add about 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream and spread it thinly and evenly onto the cake.  Now drizzle some ganache, like so:  

Now add your next 2 cake layers, drizzling on coffee, then cream cheese, then whipped cream, then ganache on each layer.  For your final cake layer, crizzle on the coffee and cream cheese.  Then add a big "plop" of whipped cream to the top and start icing that bad boy!  I ice the top, then do a thin layer on the sides, then I go back and add to the sides as whipped cream allows. 

Don't go for perfection with the icing, you've made a gorgeous, delicious homemade cake!  After you get the whipped cream situated, drizzle ganache on the top.  Here's yesterday's finished product:  

Whew!  Now eat a piece, you've earned it :)

What are some of your traditional family desserts that got associated with you or a certain holiday over the years?


  1. this sounds quite wonderful! I'm Italian and never had tiramisu... Sad but true! Perhaps I should try this!

  2. Oh my gosh this looks divine! I really should have known better than to click on a cake recipe while I'm doing the Whole30 cleanse. I'll just eat my apple and pretend it's tiramisu :) Definitely making this next time I need a show-stopper dessert!


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