This tiramisu cake offers the same bold coffee flavor and whipped mascarpone as the classic dessert, but with a light vanilla cake replacing the ladyfingers.
Decadent Tiramisu-Inspired Poke Cake
Tiramisu is a menu staple at most Italian restaurants. Even if you’ve filled up on eggplant parmesan and thick slabs of lasagna, it’s hard to say no to coffee-soaked ladyfingers nestled between layers of creamy mascarpone. And it’s also hard to say no to this homemade tiramisu cake.
I like to think of tiramisu cake as changing the tiramisu equation—instead of the mascarpone being the dominant ingredient, coffee-infused vanilla cake creates the base of this dessert. Then, a layer of light, fluffy mascarpone frosting is slathered over the top, followed by a dusting of cocoa powder.
The result is a cake that has all the flavors of tiramisu, without as much heaviness. And don’t let the length of the recipe fool you—it’s actually quite easy to make, too!
What You’ll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and recipe instructions for this tiramisu cake recipe. Here are some notes about the ingredients you’ll need.
- Cake flour – Cake flour produces a lighter cake than all-purpose flour. Learn more about cake flour: A Baker’s Guide to Wheat Flours
- Granulated sugar
- Baking powder
- Unsalted butter – Learn more: Unsalted or Salted Butter: Which is Better for Baking?
- Milk – I recommend using whole milk when baking, as the extra fat yields a tender crumb.
- Vanilla extract – Use store-bought or homemade vanilla.
- Eggs – Let these come to room temperature, along with the butter.
- Hot water – Alternatively, you can use 1/2 cup of strongly brewed coffee and omit the espresso powder.
- Granulated sugar
- Espresso powder
- Coffee-flavored liqueur – Like Kahlua.
- Mascarpone cheese – Mascarpone is similar to cream cheese, but it’s made with heavy cream instead of milk, so it’s richer and creamier.
- Confectioners’ sugar – This is also called powdered sugar, icing sugar, or 10X sugar.
- Vanilla extract – Or use a tablespoon of coffee-flavored liqueur.
- Heavy cream
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
Is Espresso Powder the Same as Ground Coffee?
No, espresso powder is not the same as ground coffee beans, and the two are not interchangeable when baking. Espresso powder is made with ground espresso beans that were brewed, dried, and ground again into a fine powder.
How to Make Tiramisu Cake
If you don’t have a large block of time for baking, consider breaking up the recipe into different parts. The cake, frosting, and coffee mixture can all be made separately and assembled later.
Make the cake:
Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a 9″ x 13″ x 2″ baking pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour the paper and any exposed areas of the pan, or use a cooking spray with flour in it.
Mix the dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Add the butter. Place the butter in the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer on medium-low speed until the mixture appears sandy.
Finish the batter. Measure the milk in a liquid measuring cup; add the vanilla to the cup and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the batter and mix on low speed until combined. Add one egg and mix on low speed, then increase to medium speed after a few seconds. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
Pour the batter into the pan. Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Gently tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles.
Bake. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool. Set the cake pan on a wire rack to cool. (Learn more: Why Every Baker Needs Wire Cooling Racks)
Make the coffee mixture. Whisk the water, sugar, and espresso powder until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the coffee liqueur, then set aside to cool.
Make the frosting:
Beat the first three ingredients. Use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla or liqueur in a large bowl.
Whip the cream. In another bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until it forms stiff peaks.
Finish the frosting. Fold about a quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Once incorporated, gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the frosting.
Prepare the cake. After the cake has cooled a bit (but not completely), you can use the parchment paper to lift it from the pan and transfer it to a serving tray. Alternatively, you can leave the cake in the pan. Poke holes over the top of the cake with a fork or toothpick.
Add the coffee mixture. Use a pastry brush to generously brush the top of the cake with the coffee mixture. Do this a few times; leave a few minutes in between each pass to let the cake soak up the liquid.
Frost. When the cake has cooled completely, spread the frosting over the top and dust with cocoa powder.
How Do You Frost a Rectangular Cake?
If you set your tiramisu cake on a serving platter, you can opt to frost the top only for a more minimalist look, or frost the sides as well. If you’re leaving the cake in the pan, an offset spatula works quite well for frosting because it allows you to get right up to the edges of the pan.
Tips for Success
If you’re a new baker, I recommend starting with my baking tips for beginners. Here are some additional tips to help with this tiramisu cake, too:
- Use a cake pan. Because casserole dishes are often 9×13, it may be tempting to use one of those instead of a metal baking pan, but you’ll get the best results—and more even baking—with a baking pan.
- Don’t skimp on the coffee. This is a good rule for life, and a good rule for this tiramisu cake! Let the mixture soak in, then brush more onto the cake; you should be able to use it all, but if you notice that the cake is no longer soaking up more liquid, then you can stop.
- Sift the cocoa powder, if needed. If you notice lumps in your cocoa powder, sift it onto the cake. Cocoa powder is bitter, so a big, powdery clump of it in the frosting won’t taste very good!
If you love my chocolate chip tiramisu, you can use that as inspiration for this tiramisu cake and add mini chocolate chips to the frosting. Another option is to swap the homemade cake for your favorite boxed vanilla cake mix.
How to Store
With the whipped mascarpone frosting, you’ll need to refrigerate this tiramisu cake. It’s best eaten within a day or two, but you can keep it tightly covered for up to 5 days. Let it come to room temperature before serving.
Can This Cake Be Frozen?
I don’t recommend freezing this tiramisu cake; I haven’t tried freezing it personally, but I think the texture would suffer from freezing and thawing.