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Zuppa Duppa – or – Tiramisu 3 Ways

Hmm, 3 ways…   Okay, so I’m guessing at this point that you get the notion I kind of like Tiramisu. What’s not to love? Its eggs, cream, cake, cheese, alcohol, coffee and cocoa – my personal 7 Pillars of Good Eating.

…really, I could bathe in it.

If you aren’t familiar with Tiramisu or Zuppa Inglais as it was originally known (before those wacky 80’s chefs got their hands on it) It is an Italian layered dessert from the Tuscany region. Originally made as a very loose trifle, over the years it has been adapted to include marscapone cheese and a thicker custard to tighten the soupiness up a bit and transformed into the richer, denser layered slice of heaven that most people are familiar with.

To give you a little background on this story….You may know by now that my mom was (um… is... sorry mom) an excellent cook. She went to a culinary school to become a caterer. Although she never worked as a caterer much, she stayed on top of what was going on by  buying the newest regional cookbooks that came out, (the library is somewhere around 3,000 books….and growing), subscribing to those culinary magazines, and for a period, she even taught classes out of our home. So, mom always knew her way around a kitchen and a recipe, and was never afraid to try anything new.

As kids, we were allowed to prowl through her collection of books at birthday time. And, we were allowed to pick anything we found that struck a tasty note as a birthday dinner. My oldest brother was the first to stumble across the Zuppa Inglais in a traditional Italian cookbook. Hordes of cream, custard, cake and just enough alcohol to make you feel like you were eating something you weren’t supposed to.

The kitchen was awash in pots, pans, blaring mixers, bowls of ingredients chilling the the fridge, sections of cake stacked around on the counters soaking up  brandy. It was terribly involved. But mom quietly went about the task, but later that evening, pulled a Magic Marker out of the drawer and placed a large red “X” across the recipe with the notation “Not for Birthdays”.

Ok… be prepared….its an involved recipe, and I’m sorry…but it really has to be in order to get it right.

Zuppa Inglais
Serves..oh, just a bunch of people

General Ingredients:
1/3 cup orange flavored liqueur
1/2 Cup Sweet Orange Marmalade
5 Tablespoons Creme de Cacao
1/3 Cup Dark Rum
3 Egg Whites
5 Tablespoons Creme de Cacao (yes, more)
1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Sugar

Sponge Cake Ingredients:
6 eggs
3/4 Cup Sugar
1-1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Pastry Custard Ingredients:
1-1/4 Cups Heavy Cream
6 Egg Yolks
1/3 Cup Sugar
3 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
Dash of Salt

Additional Ingredients:
1 Ounce Bittersweet Chocolate – Grated
4 Tablespoons creme de cacao (yeppers, even more!)
4 Tablespoons Dark Rum
3 Tablespoons Orange Liquor
2 – 9″ Spring Form pans
1 Stand Mixer
Assorted Medium Mixing Bowls (3)
1 Medium Sauce Pan
A Couple of whisks
1 long Serrated Bread Knife
1 Oven-Proof Serving Platter
1 Pastry Brush – or a “NEW” bristle paint brush

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For sponge cake layers:

  • Butter and flour two 9-inch round pans. Beat the eggs in large mixer bowl until foamy.
  • Beat in the sugar
  • Continue beating after all sugar is added for 3 minutes.
  • Remove Bowl from the mixer
  • Sift together the flour and salt
  • Add the flour mixture over egg mixture,a third at a time and fold it in.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans, divided evenly.
  • Bake at 350 until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean,or about 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Remove the cake layers from their pans and cool on wire racks.

For the Pastry Custard

  • Heat the cream in a medium sauce pan until its just hot.
  • Combine egg yolks, sugar, flour and salt in a large mixer bowl. Beat until it is pale yellow and fluffy.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low
  • Gradually beat in the hot cream and return the mixture to the heated cream sauce pan.
  • Cook on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or just until the mixture coasts the spoon. (Do not allow the mixture to boil)
  • Set out 3 Medium Mixing Bowls
  • Immediately transfer the mixture to the three bowls, divide the custard evenly.

1st Bowl

  • Stir the grated bittersweet Chocolate into the bowl of the custard until it is melted
  • Add the Creme de Cacao and stir to combine
  • Set Aside

2nd Bowl

  • Stir the rum into the second bowl of custard to combine
  • Set Aside

3rd Bowl

  • Stir the orange liqueur into the bowl of custard to combine
  • Set aside

Refrigerate the custards until cold, it will be at least 30 minutes.

Refrigeration Assembly:

  • Split the cakes in half horizontally with the long knife – you will now have 4 thin layers
  • Place one of the layers, cut side down, on an oven proof serving plate.
  • With the pastry brush, brush the remaining orange liqueur over the surface
  • Spread the marmalade over this layer
  • Spread all the orange pastry custard on top of the marmalade
  • Place the second layer on top of the first, cut side up.
  • Spread the remainder of the Creme de Cacao over the cake layer
  • Spread all the chocolate pastry custard over the cake layer
  • Place the third layer directly on top of the prepared 2nd layer
  • Brush the top with the rum
  • Spread all the rum pastry custard over the layer
  • Place the fourth layer, cut side down, on top of the prepared 3rd layer
  • Refrigerate the cake overnight
  • Cover it tightly with plastic wrap to keep it moist.

Final Assembly:
For the Topping:

  • Beat the egg whites, vanilla and Creme de Cacao in a mixer bowl until foamy
  • Beat in the sugar, slowly, until all sugar is added and dissolved.
  • Beat the mixture on medium until it is stiff and glossy but not dry.
  • Set Aside
  • Preheat your broiler.
  • Spread the meringue evenly  over the top and sides of the chilled cake with a knife or spatula.
  • Place the cake under the broiler, leaving the top of the cake about three inches below the broiler element.
  • Broil until the top of the meringue turns golden brown. (Keep an eye on it so that the meringue doesnt over-brown or burn) This will take aqbout 1 minute – tops
  • Let the cake stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Still with me?
Even though Zuppa Inglais is an excellent dessert in its own right, you can understand why Italian chefs began to look for an easier preparation. 2 days to make any kind of confection that is going to have a relatively short shelf-life is just a bit much for anyone.
Sooo… Enter Tiramisu…
With a thicker filling base, the once soupy dessert now has longer holding period, and the simplified preparation gives it a chance at a broader fan base.
Tiramisu, or “Pick Me Up” in Italian, is a coffee based, layered trifle that gained rampant popularity in the late 80’s and still one of my favorite desserts. If its on the menu…chances are, I’m ordering it.

Simple and sublime, the fine layers of coffee and mascapone cheese are a fitting end to any meal.


Serves 8

4 Large Egg Yolks
1/2 Cup Sweet Marsala Wine
16 Ounces Mascarpone Cheese (Better Grocer’s Dairy Case will have it)
2 Cups Brewed Espresso Coffee (+ 3 Tablespoons of sugar dissolved in it) If you do not have access to an espresso maker, then buy 3 cans of Starbucks(c) Double Shot
2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup Sugar
40 Lady Fingers (if you can’t find Lady Fingers – Substitute 1 store bought sponge cake cut into 40 – 1″ x 2″ x 4″ pieces)
1 Heat-proof Bowl
1 Medium Bowl
1 Large Saucepan
1 Whisk
A Couple of spatulas
Stand Mixer
1 – 9″ x 4″ Pyrex Loaf Pan

  • In the heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until light and fluffy
  • Add the sugar and whisk to combine
  • Set the large sauce pan on medium high heat with 4 cups of water – Bring to a boil
  • Lower the heat to medium
  • Set the egg bowl over the boiling water and lightly whisk until the custard begins to thicken
  • Remove from the heat and set aside
  • With the stand mixer, whip the cream until soft peaks form (Soft peak… the point where the cream just forms little peaks of foam that will stay up) – Be careful not to over-beat the cream or you’ll just end up with butter
  • In the medium bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese until smooth and creamy.
  • Pour the egg mixture over the cheese and beat until smooth and creamy
  • Fold in the whipped cream


  • Add the Marsala to the the espresso, and transfer to a shallow bowl so that its easy to work with
  • Divide the lady fingers in half – half for each layer
  • Quickly dip each of the lady fingers for the first layer into the espresso and arrange into a single layer across the bottom of the Pyrex dish – Work quickly, you don’t want the lady fingers to soak up too much of the espresso, or they will be impossible to work with.
  • With a spatula,spread half the cheese mixture over the layer of soaked cake
  • Repeat the soak and layering with the second half of the lady fingers
  • Spread the rest of the cream on the top of the layer
  • Sift cocoa powder over the top of the  assembled dish
  • Cover and Chill in the Fridge for at least one hour.
Simplified Tiramisu

Serves 8

1 Angelfood Cake – From the Bakery
1 Package Jello(c) Vanilla Pudding Mix
2 Cups of Milk
8 Ounces Cream Cheese – Cubed
2 Cans Starbuck’s(c) Double Shot
2 Ounces Brandy
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
1 – 9″ x 4″ x 4″ Pyrex Dish
1 Spatula
1 Whisk
1 Medium Sauce Pan

  • Place the sauce pan over medium heat
  • Heat the milk until scalded and whisk in the Pudding mix until combined
  • Remove the pan from the heat and add in the cubed cream cheese
  • Stir, off the heat until the cream cheese is melted and combined
  • Add the 2 Ounces of brandy and vanilla, stir top combine
  • Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill for 1 hour


  • Cut the Angelfood cake into 1″ x 4″ x 4″ squares
  • Place enough cake slices to cover the bottom of the dish
  • Pour 1 can of the Double Shot over the cake slices
  • Spoon 1/2 of the custard mixture over the soaked cake and spread out with the spatula
  • Place a second layer of the cake slices over the custard, and soak with the 2nd can of Double Shot
  • Top with the remainder of the custard and smooth out with the spatula
  • Dust the top with cocoa powder
  • Cover and chill for 1 hour


  1. Hi, Your second recipe (Tiramisu) lists Marsala wine as an ingredient but doesn't appear as how to useit for this dessert. Maybe it's for the cook?(lol:)

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