Tiramisu means “pick-me-up” in Italian. I have taken the idea of sponge, liqueur, mascarpone, coffee and cocoa beans and created a delicious, rich (strictly for adults) cake perfect for a birthday celebration. Make the cake and filling ahead (even the day before), assembling the cake a couple of hours before it is served. Please make sure you use very strong coffee for this recipe; brew it twice as strong as usual.
For the cake
225g unsalted butter, really soft, diced, plus more for the tins
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
225g golden caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp very strong black coffee (espresso or instant), cooled
For the tiramisu filling
200ml double cream, very lightly whipped
50g light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp very strong black coffee (espresso or instant), cooled
3 tbsp Tia Maria, dark rum or Kahlua
2 tbsp cocoa powder
30g 70% cocoa solids chocolate, finely grated
15-20 chocolate-covered coffee beans
Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 170°C/gas mark 4. Butter two 20cm round sandwich tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
You can use an electric mixer with a beater attachment, a food processor, or a bowl and an electric whisk. First, sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, add the butter, sugar, eggs and coffee.
Beat together until well blended but be very careful not to over-mix, as you want a light cake. Divide the batter evenly between the tins and level the tops.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a skewer emerges clean. Remove from the oven and leave for a couple of minutes. Run a knife around the rims to loosen the cakes from the tins and turn out on to a wire rack. Remove the papers and leave to cool completely.
To make the filling, tip the mascarpone into a bowl and lightly beat.
Fold in the double cream, sugar and vanilla. Chill until you are ready to assemble the cake.
Split the two cakes in half horizontally, to make four layers. In a little bowl, mix together the coffee and Tia Maria. Assemble the mascarpone filling, the cocoa powder and coffee/liqueur mixture.
To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a plate. Sprinkle the coffee/Tia Maria mixture over all four cakes.
Take about a quarter of the mascarpone filling and spread it over the base cake, dust with cocoa powder and place the second tier on top.
Repeat until you have a four-tiered cake, topped with the mascarpone filling. Sprinkle the grated chocolate over the top and decorate with the chocolate-covered coffee beans. Chill for an hour or two until ready to serve.
Extracted from Celebration Cakes by Fiona Cairns (Quadrille, approx €15). Photography © Laura Edwards.