Does Tiramisu Have Coffee In It?

Layers of soft sponge enrobed in sweet, creamy deliciousness, Tiramisu is light with a delicate flavor, making it the perfect end to a heavy meal. Being the coffee lover I am, I appreciate the subtle notes of coffee I get in every spoonful of Tiramisu. This got me wondering, does Tiramisu have to have coffee in it?

The key ingredient in Tiramisu is coffee. Tiramisu is traditionally made by soaking ladyfingers in instant coffee or espresso and then layering these ladyfingers in a creamy mixture. The Italian dessert dates back to the 1800s, and there are many variations of Tiramisu.  

While coffee is what gives Tiramisu its signature flavor, and it cannot (and should not) be left out, other components can be added to create this masterpiece of a dessert.

How Much Coffee Is In Tiramisu?

Including coffee in Tiramisu is non-negotiable. Leaving out coffee from Tiramisu would be like leaving out apples in an apple crumble or dropping lemons from a lemon meringue pie.

However, you can choose how strong the flavor profile of the coffee is. You may like to get a subtle hint of coffee surrounded by lush cream. Or If you are a coffee lover and cannot get enough of that luxurious, robust taste, then you may want the coffee to stand out as the main flavor profile.

The intensity of the coffee flavor really depends on personal preference. For an intense coffee flavor, make a strong and concentrated espresso to soak the ladyfingers in. You could even add a dash of coffee liqueur to give your dessert an added coffee kick!

If you are making a Tiramisu to serve guests, including children, after a late evening dinner, it would be better to soak the ladyfingers in a coffee brew that is not so strong. This way, your guests won’t be on a caffeine buzz at bedtime.

A few Tiramisu recipes omit coffee entirely, substituting it with cocoa as a replacement. But this would make it a chocolatey-creamy dessert and not Tiramisu. If you and your guests cannot have caffeine, use decaf coffee. If you don’t like the flavor of coffee, then Tiramisu is not for you.

What Is The Best Coffee To Use In Tiramisu?

Since coffee is a key ingredient in Tiramisu, choosing the right type of coffee to use in your dessert is essential.

Coffee-soaked ladyfingers are sandwiched between layers of smooth and velvety mascarpone, heavy cream, or egg whites. To balance out the richness of this creamy mixture, your coffee has to be just right.

If you are in a hurry, or for ease and convenience, you could use instant coffee. Simply mix up some black coffee, cool to room temperature, and soak your ladyfingers in this brew.

A light roast coffee would result in a very weak and diluted coffee profile in Tiramisu. If you want just a whisper of coffee, choose a light roast to soak the ladyfingers in.

For a truly remarkable Tiramisu, I would brew a pot of medium to dark-roast coffee beans to soak the ladyfingers in. This will result in a bold coffee flavor and offset the richness of the creamy mixture perfectly. Because of the strong brew, the coffee flavor profile will shine through the layers of cream. 

Is There A Lot Of Caffeine In Tiramisu?

Tiramisu does contain caffeine since a critical ingredient is coffee. The amount of caffeine in Tiramisu depends on the type of coffee that you use to soak the ladyfingers in.

To make a Tiramisu with a lower caffeine content, use drip coffee instead of espresso. You could also soak the ladyfingers in the coffee brew for a shorter time. Another option is to use decaf coffee.

Does Tiramisu Contain Alcohol?

Authentic and traditional Tiramisu recipes call for Marsala wine. The wine is added to the coffee brew, which the ladyfingers get soaked into. Or added to the creamy mixture. Sometimes alcohol is added to both the coffee and the cream.

Liquors, particularly coffee liquors or liquors with a chocolate or caramel tone, are often used to enhance the flavor of Tiramisu.

Other boozy options include brandy, cognac, and whiskey.

Adding alcohol balances out the strong coffee flavor and evens out the richness of the cream. It also adds a punch of flavor to the Tiramisu. Alcohol also helps soften and moisten ladyfingers.

However, unlike coffee, you can easily leave alcohol out of your Tiramisu. You don’t have to substitute the alcohol with anything else; simply leave it out.

What Other Ingredients Are In Tiramisu?

Ladyfingers and coffee work with other key ingredients to make Tiramisu the light, fluffy, flavorful dessert it is.

Mascarpone is another crucial ingredient in Tiramisu. The sweet, rich, creamy cheese is folded into either egg whites or heavy cream and layered between the coffee-drenched ladyfingers. You could use cream cheese instead of mascarpone if you prefer a less rich option.

Some Tiramisu recipes call for heavy cream, while others opt for egg whites. If you use egg whites, your Tiramisu will be super light and fluffy. Using heavy cream will give you a silky, rich taste.

Chocolate and coffee are a match made in heaven, so finish the Tiramisu with a gentle dusting of cocoa. You could even sprinkle grated chocolate between the cream layers for some chocolatey deliciousness.

Is Tiramisu Baked?

Tiramisu is a no bake dessert. After soaking ladyfingers in coffee, layer them between dollops of velvety mascarpone and cream, and then place the dessert in the fridge to chill. Tiramisu can be enjoyed cold or at room temperature.


Coffee is a key ingredient in Tiramisu and cannot be left out. To make a truly magnificent and memorable Tiramisu, make a strong brew of coffee using medium to dark roast beans. This will ensure that the rich coffee profile evens out the richness of the mascarpone and cream mixture while not losing that delicious, signature coffee taste.


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