Limoncello Tiramisu: A Recipe

I had my doubts about this one. I’m not normally a tiramisu sort of person.  Tiramisu is usually my first veto on any dessert menu.

But when you’ve promised a full court press Italian meal to friends you haven’t seen since your wedding, what’s really more fitting than tiramisu?

As something of a tiramisu-hater, I couldn’t bring myself to make the real thing.  I was about to start searching for a recipe more in my comfort zone (dark chocolate tort anyone?) when I found an intriguing recipe for Limoncello Tiramisu on epicurious that promised light, fluffy, heady, lemony goodness.

I should mention that it also seemed a very convenient recipe for someone who has 2 bottles of unopened limoncello in her pantry and wayyyy too many lemons sitting around.  There are a grand total of 6 ingredients for this dessert and I already had 4 of them at my disposal.  The whole thing seemed pre-ordained.

I should say, this dish was an epiphany for me.  Apparently I now like tiramisu and think its a fabulous do-ahead dessert to make for people you really like.

Once I got past those few anxiety-ridden moments that are inevitable whenever a recipe calls for a double-boiler and egg yolks, the rest was easy.  Despite my precariously-rigged double boiler system, my zabaglione turned out smooth and thick.  I folded it in with the marscarpone and eggwhites, and as if by magic, the the whole thing turned into a frothy, lemony, pillow of yum.

An aside: I’m now convinced that the angels in Michaelangelo’s frescos are actually reclining not in clouds but in giant pillows of tiramisu fluff.  That’s why they look so happy and angelic.  They’ve just filled their cute little pot-bellies with more tiramisu than any human being could eat in one sitting.

The best part of this dessert was that, after I layered my lemon fluffiness and syrup-soaked ladyfingers, there was nothing to do but put it in the fridge for 24 hours and then dump it into bowls during a lull in the post-dinner conversation.

It was that easy, I swear.  I checked the recipe at least 8 times, looking for some hidden step I had forgotten.  There was none.

It wasn’t a pretty dessert, it was too pudding and custard-like for that.  I believe slumpie might be the right word.  It sort of fell into the dessert bowls I served it in and then slumped there for the 25 seconds it lasted there before everyone had finished wolfing it down and started sneaking seconds straight from the source.

And its only gotten better the longer its sat in the fridge.  I finished the dish up at around 11pm on Friday night and as of 4pm on Sunday, I can attest first-hand to its continuing deliciousness and custardy-improvement.

I’m still not a card-carrying member of the tiramisu-lover’s club but I will say that this recipe has increased my appreciation for the dessert exponentially.  If you are looking for a light and sweet and bright end to a heavy or summery meal, this dessert is a good pick.  That you can make it up to 2 days in advance is just a bonus.

I used the recipe below but used a much smaller baking dish to assemble the tiramisu.  This meant I only used about 20 ladyfingers and that there was a LOT of fluff per layer.  That’s how I like it but if you prefer less fluff per mouthful, make the necessary adjustments.

The only other thing I would change with this dish would be to cut back on the sugar a bit to let the bright lemon flavors shine through a bit more.  I also added more lemon juice to the syrup than it called for and Chris and I treated the “zest from 2 lemons” direction suggestion as more of a starting point.  I’m pretty sure there are at least 4 skinless lemons in our fridge right now.

Limoncello Tiramisu

Epicurious  | February 2008

Lidia Bastianich

Lidia’s Italy


  • 5 large eggs
  • 5 or 6 lemons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups limoncello liqueur
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound (2 cups) Mascarpone, at room temperature
  • 40 ladyfingers (preferably imported Italian savoiardi), or more as needed: DC residents, you can buy these at The Italian Store out in near-suburbia (Ohhh the Italian Store, its gooood).  I only used 20 ladyfingers but they come in bags of 40 so if anyone has any non-Tiramisu ideas for what to do with the extra, I’m all ears.

Recommended Equipment:

  • A double boiler, with a large stainless-steel bowl and a wide saucepan to hold it; a large flexible wire whisk; a shallow-rimmed pan for moistening the savoiardi with syrup-aka anything that you can put syrup and ladyfingers in.  I used another baking dish.

For assembling the tiramisù:

  • For assembling the tiramisù: a shallow casserole or baking dish with 3-quart capacity, such as a 9-by-13-inch Pyrex pan-I used an 8×8 baking dish and it worked great

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Pour just enough water in the double-boiler pan so the water level is right below the bottom of the mixing bowl when it is sitting in the pan. Separate the eggs, putting yolks into the large bowl of the double boiler and the whites into another stainless-steel bowl for whipping by hand or with an electric mixer.

Remove the zest of two or more of the lemons, using a fine grater, to get 2 tablespoons of zest. Squeeze out and strain the juice of these and the other lemons to get 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.

To make the base for the tiramisù, heat the water in the double boiler to a steady simmer. Off the heat, beat the egg yolks with 1/4 cup of the sugar and 1/2 cup of the limoncello until well blended. Set the bowl over the simmering water, and whisk constantly, frequently scraping the whisk around the sides and bottom of the bowl, as the egg mixture expands and heats into a frothy sponge, 5 minutes or longer. When the sponge has thickened enough to form a ribbon when it drops on the surface, take the bowl off the double-boiler pan and let it cool.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining cup of limoncello, all of the lemon juice, 1 cup water, and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and cook for 5 minutes, evaporating the alcohol. Let the syrup cool completely.

In another large bowl, stir the mascarpone with a wooden spoon to soften it, then drop in the grated lemon zest and beat until light and creamy. Whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, by hand or by machine, until it holds moderately firm peaks.

When the cooked limoncello sponge (or zabaglione) is cooled, scrape about a third of it over the mascarpone, and fold it in with a large rubber spatula. Fold in the rest of the zabaglione in two or three additions. Now fold in the whipped egg whites in several additions, until the limoncello-mascarpone cream is light and evenly blended.

Pour some of the cooled syrup, no deeper than 1/4 inch, into the shallow-rimmed pan to moisten the ladyfingers (savoiardi). One at a time, roll a ladyfinger in the syrup and place it in the casserole or baking dish. Wet each cookie briefly—if it soaks up too much syrup, it will fall apart. Arrange the moistened ladyfingers in neat, tight rows, filling the bottom of the pan completely. You should be able to fit about twenty ladyfingers in a single layer.

Scoop half of the limoncello-mascarpone cream onto the ladyfingers, and smooth it to fill the pan and cover them. Dip and arrange a second layer of ladyfingers in the pan, and cover it completely with the remainder of the cream.

Smooth the cream with the spatula, and seal the tiramisù airtight in plastic wrap. Before serving, refrigerate for 6 hours (or up to 2 days), or put it in the freezer for 2 hours. To serve, cut portions of tiramisù in any size you like, and life each out of the pan and onto dessert plates.


5 thoughts on “Limoncello Tiramisu: A Recipe

  1. Pingback: Dinner with Friends « Hot Pot

  2. Pingback: Pears Poached in Red Wine Sauce: A Recipe « Hot Pot

  3. I’ve been trawling the internet to find a great Tiramisu recipe for a dinner party next week (I’m meeting the in-laws to be!). So far, I’ve found green tea, pancake and cookie Tiramisu recipes…I never knew so many versions existed! I have found a simple Tiramisu Recipe and when I’m a little more experienced I will definitely be trying this one!Wish me luck!!!!:) I’ll post back and let you know how they both turn out!:)

  4. Steve- Anyone who is going through such lengths to find the perfect dessert for their in-laws will be well-received I’m sure! Definitely try the Limoncello Tiramisu recipe sometime, I’m still amazed at how easy it was to put together in advance. Good luck with the in-laws and the dinner party!

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