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Tiramisu Cake

This tiramisu cake recipe features the same bold coffee flavor and whipped mascarpone as the classic dessert, but with a light vanilla cake replacing the ladyfingers. 

Square of tiramisu cake on a plate.

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!

Why You’ll Love This Tiramisu Cake Recipe

  • Lighter than the classic dessert. Instead of mascarpone being the dominant ingredient, coffee-infused vanilla cake creates the base of this dessert. Then, a layer of light and fluffy mascarpone frosting is slathered over the top, followed by a dusting of cocoa powder.
  • Easy to make. The list of ingredients for this tiramisu cake recipe may be a little long, but most of them are baking basics that you probably already have on hand. Really, mascarpone cheese and espresso powder are the only oddballs.
  • Elegant but simple. You could enjoy this cake as a casual dessert after your favorite Italian meal, or make it for a birthday celebration. Whatever feels right!
Overhead view of ingredients for tiramisu cake.

What You’ll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and instructions for this tiramisu cake recipe. Here are some notes about the ingredients you’ll need.

Vanilla Cake:

  • Cake flour – Cake flour produces a lighter cake than all-purpose flour. Learn more about cake flour by reading this baker’s guide to wheat flours.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter – Learn more by consulting 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.

Coffee Mixture:

  • 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 – I like to use Kahlua for this recipe.

Mascarpone Frosting:

  • 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. 

Overhead view of espresso powder and sugar in a bowl.

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:

  • Mix the dry ingredients. Preheat your oven to 350°F, line a baking pan with parchment paper, and grease it. Then, 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 on medium-low speed until the mixture appears sandy.
  • Finish the batter. First, measure the milk in a liquid measuring cup, add the vanilla, and stir to combine. Next, pour the mixture into the batter and mix on low speed until combined. Add one egg, mix again 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.
  • 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. Finally, set the cake pan on a wire rack to cool.
  • Make the coffee mixture. Whisk the water, sugar, and espresso powder until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the coffee liqueur, then set the bowl 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.

Assemble the Cake:

  • 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. 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. 
Spreading frosting onto a cake with holes in it.

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.

Overhead view of tiramisu cake with 4 pieces cut.

Tips & Recipe Variations

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 recipe:

  • 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!
  • Add chocolate chips. 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.
Overhead view of tiramisu cake on plates.

Proper Storage

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 I Freeze This Tiramisu Cake Recipe?

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.

Serving tiramisu cake slices from parchment paper.

More One-Layer Cake Recipes

Slices of tiramisu cake on plates; one has a forkful of cake set on the plate.

Tiramisu Cake

Yield 12-16
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

This tiramisu cake is made with a coffee-infused vanilla cake, whipped mascarone frosting, and cocoa powder. It's lighter than the original dessert, but still perfectly rich and creamy.

Slices of tiramisu cake on white plates


For the cake:

  • 3 & 1/4 cups (390g) cake flour
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 1 & 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 & 1/4 cups (296ml) milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs

For the coffee mixture:

  • 1/2 cup hot water (or use 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee and omit the espresso powder)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup (226g) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (55g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 tablespoon coffee-flavored liqueur)
  • 1 cup (236ml) heavy cream
  • unsweetened cocoa powder, for garnish


To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9" x 13" x 2" baking pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour the paper and any exposed parts of the inside of the pan. (You can instead use a cooking spray with flour, like Baker's Joy or Pam for Baking.)
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the butter, and mix with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until combined. The mixture will appear sandy.
  4. Combine the milk and vanilla. Add to the batter, and mix on low speed until combined (about a minute).
  5. Add one egg and mix, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium speed after a few seconds. Mix just until combined (about 30 seconds). Repeat with the remaining eggs.
  6. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Gently tap the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of any large air pockets.
  7. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Place the cake pan on a wire rack to begin cooling.

To make the coffee mixture:

  1. Stir together the water, sugar, and espresso powder, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the liqueur. Set aside to cool.

To make the frosting:

  1. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the mascarpone, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla (or liqueur) until combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Fold about a quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream.

To assemble:

  1. After the cake has cooled but is still warm, either leave it in the pan or remove it from the pan onto a serving tray. Use a fork or a toothpick to poke holes over the top of the cake.
  2. Brush the top of the cake with the coffee mixture. Make a few passes brushing it onto the cake, giving it a couple of minutes in between to let it soak up the mixture if needed. Try to use it all, but it's fine if you can't.
  3. After the cake has finished cooling, spread the frosting over the top. Dust with cocoa powder.


To store: Keep the cake tightly covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. It should keep in the refrigerator up to 5 days, although it will be at its best within a day or two.

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    10 Comments on “Tiramisu Cake”

  1. my first time here. tiramisu is my favourite. it is yum……yum.yummy.

  2. I’m glad you are back! (And the cake is gorgeous!)

  3. Tiramisu is one of my most loved desserts, that and creme brulee, I still have not as yet made it in a cake form, this looks very interesting and your version is just beautiful!

  4. It looks lovely. You take such nice pictures.

  5. Wow…not only do I love tiramisu, but this one has my other favorite, chocolate! mmm, and even though you seemed to have a hard time, the picture looks wonderful!

  6. I bet this is a great cake…after all tiramisu is a great dessert.

  7. it looks so wonderful. your photograph completely lures me in!

  8. I can’t believe I’ve never tried tiramisu yet. This looks so good. I think you did a wonderful job.

  9. Hey Jennifer!

    This cake is beautiful! I’ve made an easy Tiramisu cake before from the book ‘The Cake Mix Doctor’ and although it’s nowhere near as beautiful as yours, it tasted really good! Since I’m not much of a cake baker, I love recipes that start from a mix 😉

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