Sinfully Sinless Tiramisu

Please, Italian food purists, turn aside. This recipe is not for you. My brilliant brother, Nate, came up with a version of tiramisu that, while not authentic, uses cocoa powder as a substitute for espresso (and a few other variations) – creating a decadent chocolate tiramisu.

What you end up with is a remarkable dessert filled with layers of chocolate-infused ladyfinger cookies and creamy, rich mascarpone custard. I can honestly say I have never tasted anything so magically delicious in my life. I savored and sighed over every bite – and although the dessert dirties up slightly more bowls than is ethical in my kitchen, I have declared it our new Christmas Eve tradition. I will be waiting for this dessert all year long.

Sinfully Sinless Tiramisu

One Year Ago: Tutorial: Shaping Perfect Rolls
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake

Sinfully Sinless Tiramisu

Yield: Serves 6-8

Sinfully Sinless Tiramisu

Note: Let’s talk about this dessert a moment, shall we? Traditional tiramisu is made with espresso-and-rum-soaked ladyfingers. The mascarpone layer is also usually lightened with silky, fluffy beaten egg whites. The version below, created by my brother and further adapted by me, has subbed in hot cocoa and rum extract for the espresso and rum and I’ve employed the technique of cooking the egg yolks and making a custard of sorts instead of using egg whites, since I know many people are nervous about eating raw eggs. This makes my version a bit more dense than authentic tiramisu since the creamy layer is like a pudding or custard…but since I basically threw authenticity out the window to begin with, I went with the cooking-the-eggs method. The result is incredible, I promise.


  • 1 ½ cups good-quality hot chocolate, made with water and using 1 ½ times the hot chocolate powder
  • ½ teaspoon rum extract
  • ½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese (can sub cream cheese in a pinch)
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • About 36 crisp ladyfingers cookies/biscuits
  • 1 tablespoon natural cocoa powder


  1. Make the hot cocoa according to the instructions above – using water instead of milk and using 1 ½ the amount of hot chocolate powder you would normally use to make a cup for drinking. Allow the hot cocoa to cool while you are preparing the rest of the recipe. Once it is lukewarm, add the vanilla and imitation rum extract. Due to the high cocoa to water ratio, whisk the cocoa mixture frequently to keep the cocoa suspended.
  2. Set a medium saucepan over medium heat and fill with about 1-2 inches water. Let it come to a simmer while you proceed with the recipe. In a medium bowl (an appropriate size to be placed on the pan that is heating), beat the egg yolks at low speed with a mixer (hand or electric) until just combined. Add the ½ cup sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula once or twice. Add ¼ cup cream to the yolks and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20 to 30 seconds; scrape the bowl. Set the bowl with the yolks over the saucepan of water that has come to a simmer. Cook the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly and scraping along the bottom and sides of the bowl with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the egg yolk mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 4 to 7 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir vigorously to cool slightly, then set aside to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the mascarpone cheese to the cooled mixture and beat at medium speed until no lumps remain, about a minute. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside. In the now-empty bowl (no need to clean the bowl), beat the ½ cup heavy whipping cream at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set the mixture aside.
  4. Give the hot cocoa mixture a good whisk to combine. Pour it into a shallow baking dish like a pie plate. Dip 1 ladyfinger into the hot cocoa at a time, allowing it to soak up the hot cocoa for about 1-2 seconds per side. Transfer each ladyfinger immediately to an 8-inch square baking dish. Lay the cookies side-by-side to create one even layer. You may have to trim/break the soaked cookies to fit the pan. After finishing the first layer of ladyfinger cookies, spread half of the mascarpone cream mixture evenly over the ladyfingers, spreading to the edges of the pan. Using a small fine-mesh strainer, sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of the natural cocoa powder over the mascarpone layer.
  5. Repeat the soaking process with the ladyfingers, creating one more layer of ladyfinger cookies over the mascarpone/cocoa layer. Spread evenly with the remaining mascarpone mixture. Dust with the final 1/2 tablespoon of natural cocoa powder. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to chill and set. This can be made up to 1 day in advance. Cut into squares and serve.

Recipe Source: adapted and built upon from a recipe my brilliant brother, Nate, created (using some techniques from America’s Test Kitchen)

70 Responses to Chocolate Tiramisu

  1. fluwoebers says:

    This was good. Clever adaptation. I’ll make a few changes next time.
    Biggest change: less sugar. On the whole, it was just too sweet. In traditional tiramisu, the espresso provides a nice, bitterish contrast to the sweet. Next time I’ll make a sugarless cocoa and cut back on the sugar in the custard.
    I’ll also cut back on the rum a little bit. It was good, but a bit too much.
    It would have been nice if it set up just a little stiffer. Maybe cut back on the cream in the custard.
    Pro-tip: make sure your custard is fully cooled before you add to marscapone. It will develop a bit of a grainy texture otherwise.

  2. Breanna says:

    I love tiramisu but in an effort to be firm against coffee I felt that I would never be able to have it again. I have now made this COUNTLESS times and I’m in love. Thank you so much! Everything about this is perfection.

  3. Kira says:

    Hi, love the recipe method but didn’t quite understand the first step. 1 1/2 cups of the hot chocolate then use 1 1/2 times the amount. What exactly do u mean? Are you able to explain that a bit better? Please!

    • Mel says:

      Use 1 1/2 cups hot chocolate but when you make the hot chocolate, use 1 1/2 times the powder you’d normally use (so the hot chocolate is extra strong).

  4. Applets says:

    My husband and I made it recently for my birthday because I don’t like coffee in my tiramisu. Our first attempt at it doesn’t look as good but man, it tastes sooooo goood. We can’t stop eating it and now that it is finishing up, we are a little sad. Thank you for the amazing recipe.
    Loving it from Singapore. 😀

  5. izumi says:

    Hi Mel, how long we can store this tiramisu in regrigerator. And how long it can stay in room temperature, thanks in advance.

  6. Adrianna Hill says:

    This was amazing!!!! We doubled the marscapone-that was our only change. Thank you soooo much for posting this!

  7. Lindsey says:

    Have you ever thought about using pero or postum (the roasted barley drink that has a coffee-like taste) in place of the hot chocolate? I am making this this weekend and thought about doing pero as a substitute. What do you think?

  8. Jackie says:

    Hi Mel

    Where did you purchase your rum extract from.

  9. Barb says:

    coffee is not a sin! the problem is when we attach morality to food. food is just food/ it is not good or bad.

  10. Mary says:

    My son is going to make this for his home economics class.
    Just wanted to know if you make the hot cocoa unsweetened as I usually use the Dutch processed cocoa powder for my hot chocolate and add sugar.

    • Mel says:

      I recently made this again and used just straight Dutch process cocoa powder with a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar and it was delicious.

  11. A. Caroline says:

    I have been reading recipes all night long looking for the perfect substitute for alcohol in a tiramisu. So when I saw your recipe it made for a very awkward “dah” moment. Hot chocolate! What a fantastic idea! Thanks for such a great idea! So looking forward to trying this for a girls weekend!

  12. viktoriya says:

    What do you mean by 1 1/2 cups the cocoa powder? Is it just 1 1/2 cups hot chocolate?

    • Mel says:

      Viktoriya – It means 1 1/2 cups hot chocolate but you make that 1 1/2 cups hot chocolate with more than normal hot chocolate powder so it is stronger than normal hot chocolate.

  13. Heather says:

    Thanks for this recipe. We’ve made it twice and enjoyed it. I love the richness of the filling and the kids love dipping the ladyfingers. I live in Southern Minnesota and also avoid coffee, alcohol, and other “strong drinks.” I enjoyed running across your blog! Take care.

  14. Lauramarie says:

    OMG! this is out of this world!! Awesome!!

  15. Kari says:

    I just made this lovely dessert and waiting anxiously for the 4 hours to be over. I had 1/2-3/4 cup of hot choc left over. Should I have let the ladyfingers soak more?

    Thanks for all your great recipes! I’ve recommended you to many.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Kari – Maybe next time let the ladyfingers soak up a bit more of the hot chocolate mixture but I always have a bit leftover, too.

  16. […] Tiramisu by Mel’s Kitchen Cafe […]

  17. Shesten says:

    Thanks for the solution :o) I usually make a traditional version with sugar-free Kahlua-flavored syrup instead of espresso so that I’m not technically ingesting any coffee. I, too, am one of those alcohol and coffee teetotalers, but tiramisu is my downfall. I am tempted beyond temptation when it comes to this yummy piece of heaven, having fallen in love with the dessert ignorant of its ingredients. I’m totally excited to try it with hot cocoa! Thanks again and Merry Christmas! ♥

  18. Marilize says:

    I have done the tiramisu with the fingers roled in berry pulp….for those not liking the coffee flavour. It gives you a red tiramisu, but also very YUMMY and not so sweet.

  19. hol says:

    Girl, you really nailed this one!!! IT>IS>AMAZING!! I had some really amazing Tarimisu a few days before I made your recipe….so, I had high expectations as to how good Tarimisu could be. I was nervous that it wouldn’t even come close to comparison with the trendy restaurant downtown and my efforts would be in vain….
    This is a WINNER recipe, for sure!!! Thank you thank you thank you!!:) I will be making it again for company next weekend and can’t wait to show it off:)

  20. Tabitha N says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I must tell you that I was a bit worried about trying to make tiramisu (which happens to be my all time favorite dessert). While I did have a sort of mistep (I whipped the cream a bit too much and learned how to make butter!) this was by far much easier than I imagined and I received RAVE reviews. Even from those who didn’t think they would like it. Thanks so very very much for this coffee-less dessert. I am alittle partial to original but this was delish! My guests (including a very picky mother of mine) loved this dessert. I can’t wait to make it again, since my sister in law wasn’t able to try it, I will be making soon for Easter. Who knows maybe sooner than that. :0)

  21. Yippee! I found this on Pinterest and I’m so happy! What a great re-worked recipe *:)*

  22. Mel says:

    Annie and Mike – you could always make some royal icing out of the egg whites or google a recipe using egg whites. This recipe definitely has a lot of steps but it should come together once everything gets rolling. I believe the temperature of the egg mixture should be around 165 if you want to use a thermometer next time.

  23. Annie and Mike says:

    I thought the recipe was way too intricate and it wasted all my hot cocoa. The recipe, I felt was too long and it took me just under 30 min to understand and read through. Also, I never knew if the egg was cooked all the way or not. It stuck to the back of the spoon at all stages! And, do we just waste the egg whites? What am I supposed to do in this ever changing environmentally friendly world, put them in my hair? Other than that is was grrrrrreat!
    Please respond with solutions.
    Thanks. much love and peace on earth!

  24. ErinM says:

    You ARE my new favorite person!! I’ve been dying to try Tiramisu but I absolutely HATE coffee…and that’s what’s been keeping me from trying it….Amazing! I’m so trying this =D

  25. Shesten says:

    I, too, had those same rebellious days where I fell in love with tiramisu. But now, I use a coffee-less flavored syrup to soak the ladyfingers and I’m satisfied. The one I use is sugarless too, so even better :o) Thanks for the fun recipe!

    And yeah, ladyfingers are hard to find, so I usually make my own or Safeway has them in the bread department.

  26. Kim says:

    Okay, so I FINALLY found some ladyfingers at a WinCo store by me but they were freshly made in the bakery area. I had even asked and been told they didn’t have any. My mom also said she sees them occasionally at Walmart with the Mexican bakery items usually on a small display on the end of one of the freezers. I had no luck with that but thought I’d share in case anyone else is still looking. I have to say I LOVED the tiramisu and so did my girls (luckily for me AND my waistline!) =) Thanks so much!

  27. Jessica says:

    It was FABULOUS!!! I might just have to make it more than once a year though – such yumminess!

  28. Jessica says:

    I am making this tonight to take to our friend’s house for New Year’s – I can’t wait to eat this!!
    As for the ladyfingers…in my grocery store, we have an ‘international’ aisle, I found them with specialty spaghetti sauces, etc.
    Thank you again for sharing all your tried & true recipes!! I LOVE them (so does my family)!!

  29. nicole says:

    genius…. my Italian family serves this dish up so often….. I reluctantly indulge, how can it be so good but so bad at the same time…. I may see if I can make this one fly with my grandmother! Thanks Mel.

  30. Zoe says:

    Can I say.. “I love you” lol My favorite dessert Tiramisu!! I can’t wait to make them.

  31. Amanda says:

    I’m with Kim, Where are all the ladyfingers!?

    • Mel says:

      Amanda and Kim – for real, you can’t find the ladyfingers?? Bummer! Let’s see, I found them at a large grocery store in my area (Woodman’s) and I’ve also found them online (here are the ones I’ve bought several times – but beware you get a whole case of them, which isn’t a bad thing if you love this tiramisu as much as I do…but a case is a case). It might be worth asking your local grocery store if they will order them in for you. Many grocery stores will. Seriously, if worse comes to worse, email me and I’ll mail you a couple packages from my case so you can try it out.

  32. Mary says:

    This will be perfect for my “non-coffee drinking” husband.

  33. CaSaundra says:

    Your desserts always look so gourmet and delicious!! I am a huge fan of tiramisu..I’d love to try making a tiramisu cheesecake sometime.

  34. grace says:

    what a wonderful adaptation! although i don’t particularly care for coffee-flavored desserts, i’d be lost without my morning cuppa. you’re a strong woman. 🙂

  35. Kim says:

    I SOOOOO want to try this but I can’t seem to find ladyfingers. It could just be that I’m in Idaho. =) Any suggestions of where to look? Maybe I’m in the wrong section, are they by the cookies? HELP!

  36. More rum please! I mean…more tiramisu please 🙂 One of my absolute faves, I WILL be making this…with a few extra splashes of rum.

  37. ingrid says:

    Your brother is some kinda culinary genius! You got lucky with him! Mine are just good looking. 🙁 And always ate more than their share of dessert. Bums!

    Thanks for sharing. Happy Friday!

  38. Mel says:

    Katie – your ideas are great – with the hot chocolate, this does make for a pretty sweet dessert.

  39. I love this version! I haven’t had tiramisu in ages!

  40. briarrose says:

    Oh my…what a great recipe! I love the hot chocolate substitution.

  41. Katie says:

    I use a malted barley drink called Cafix instead of coffee. It retains some of the bitter flavor to offset the sweetness of everything else. The Mormon Italians I knew used what they call orzata . Cafix is a similar product. I love tiramisu, too!

  42. Katie C says:

    We are an alcohol and coffee-free household as well.. Do you have any suggestions for a flavoring other than rum?

  43. Deborah says:

    Oh Melanie – as if I didn’t love you enough already!! I love tiramisu, and the funny thing is that I don’t even normally like coffee flavored things! (But even funnier, I’ve been craving coffee flavored things with this pregnancy. Pregnancy cravings are strange…) I am definitely going to be trying this recipe!

  44. Shante says:

    I have a similar story to yours. I first tasted its deliciousness at The Cheesecake Factory-the tiramisu cheesecake-it’s to die for. At the time I didn’t realize exactly what was in it, the coffee flavor isn’t as strong in the cheesecake version and then I found out the ingredients…it was a sad day. A couple years later when I went to Italy I had to have some! The horror! I couldn’t help it, it was so delicious and I cannot even describe it, but those days are over and I am ECSTATIC to try this recipe. I will let you know how it turns out. I will be making it as soon as I can…first I have to finish the Christmas candies.

  45. Melody says:

    My husband doesn’t like coffee so maybe I can get him to try this now and it’s one more thing I can try for Christmas! Way to go Mel & Mel’s brother!

  46. Basically, you and your brother are my newest culinary heroes. Thank you!!

  47. Maria says:

    Looks incredibly delicious!

  48. Amanda says:

    Ha ha! I must try this “sinless” version.

    Back in the day when I was dating, a guy took me to an authentic Italian restaurant, run by real-life Italians. When the dessert cart came around, I chose a cute little dessert I knew nothing about. It was delicious and I ate every bit of it! During my date-ship of this guy, I had him take me to this restaurant several times so I could have that yummy dessert– Tiramisu.

    It wasn’t until much later, that I found out that it was full of rum and espresso! (A no-no for us Mormons, you know!) Oops, right?!

  49. Suppose one has a theoretical problem with raw eggs, but in practice eats raw eggs almost daily in the form of cookie dough, etc., and decides to go “original” and use egg whites… what then??? What is the egg white version?

    • Mel says:

      Smith Familia – your comment made me smile. Hypothetically speaking, of course, if you didn’t care about the raw egg factor, you could simply whip the egg yolks like the recipe suggests and instead of cooking them over the simmering water with the cream, you whip them into the mascarpone and cream. Another version has you do the above (whip the egg yolks, fold them into the mascarpone cream) and then separately whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and then gently fold the egg whites in the mascarpone/egg yolk mixture to lighten the whole thing up (see the recipe here).

  50. Si says:

    I absolutely LOVE Tiramisu. This will be on our table soon…

  51. Veronica says:

    Silly me, thinking “sinless” meant low-calorie! LOL–I wish! During a dinner party at an Italian restaurant, most guests ordered tiramisu but my friends kids got cannolis and whined the whole time b/c they wanted tiramisu too! I have to send this recipe to my friend so she can make it for her kids!

  52. This sounds great! Only you, Mel, could make serious changes to an authentic recipe and have it still be absolutely delicious!

    So, Giada (de Laurentiis) from Food Network has a recipe for Tiramisu in her new cookbook that is made with lemon and Frangelico. Maybe you could sub almond extract for the hazelnut liquor? It sounds right up your alley (if you love lemon!) 🙂

  53. Lisa says:

    I love Tiramisu, and so do my kids. I have to admit to having it any chance I get and then I go to my bishop. But….I found something that I like to make Tiramisu with. You know those Italian Creme Sodas? Well they make a Kahlua flavored syrup. Minus the alcohol or the expresso. Just the flavor. I dip my lady fingers in that and you still get the coffee flavor. Yum! But I think the hot chocolate dipped lady fingers sounds wonderful too! Thanks

  54. I love Americas Test Kitchen. My mom and dad constantly were telling me to watch the show and were always offering advice from Americas Test Kitchen, so I finally broke down at Thanksgiving and watched with my father a show on cooking Turkeys. I then cooked a Turkey just like they said and everyone said it was the best turkey they had ever eaten. Wow..Thanks mom and Dad. I am glad you thanked your brother. Have a great day

  55. Angela says:

    I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE Tiramisu. I currently live in Italy w/ the military and each time we go out to eat I order one. I’ve also learned how to make it here as well. I can’t wait to try this version, it’s my husband’s absolute favorite dessert. 🙂

    Thanks for posting!!

  56. Teresa says:

    Yes! We don’t have alcohol in the house and I’m not a fan of coffee, so this is absolutely perfect. In fact, I’ve been looking for a recipe for tiramisu that had no hint of coffee or alcohol. Perfect. Thanks again.

  57. yay!! I am so excited about this one! When I saw the picture I was like “Oh, tiramisu…I don’t like coffee, or have any sort of alcohol in the house, oh well.” Then I read your description and I can’t wait to make it!!! My husband will be so happy! yay! 🙂

  58. Nikie says:

    Hubby spent two years in Italy and ate a sinless version of it a few times but I’ve never come across a sinless recipe! There will be a tiramisu celebration at our house this week! Yum

  59. Kim in MD says:

    I love tiramisu! Your recipe looks amazing, Melanie! This goes into my “must try a.s.a.p.” folder! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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