Tiramisu- “pick me up”
Baking is therapeutic for many, a stress reliever. Those of us, who were not exposed to grannies and mothers baking at home, have grown up drooling over breads and cakes placed behind the glass panes in neighbourhood bakeries. Recreating them in our kitchen with the day to day ingredients is what gives that ‘high’ to people who eventually become addicted to baking.
When I baked my first cake which was very late in life, I was thrilled that a mundane ‘sugar-flour-oil-egg mixture’ could turn into such a fluffy thing. And when I started with yeasted breads, the excitement entered a whole new level. These are the milestones for any baker, newbie or professional; first cake, first bread, first decorated/ frosted cake, first cake for loved one’s birthday, first cake for a gathering etc. You have to experience it to know the madness in each one of them.
Tiramisu is a soft, coffee flavoured Italian desert, which means ‘pick-me-up’ or ‘lift-me-up’. This super tasty , soft pillowy, coffee flavoured, cocoa sprinkled, sinful desert, has also become a milestone for me, with the number of compliments it has gathered from a desert avoiding person- my hubby. Somebody who is completely and obsessively focused on acquiring six and eight packs, asking me to bake it second time in ten days, is actually a ‘big deal’ for me.
Before baking a tiramisu, I was always skeptical about using eggs in my cakes, for the sole reason that they may give out an unpleasant smell. No matter how much essence I used, it had to keep creeping into my olfactory senses. This fatless sponge served excellently well, not only can it hold an ‘ocean of coffee syrup’ and wouldn’t at all become soggy, but also the ‘eggy’ issue was also completely sorted out. Coffee completely neutralised the smell. So if you are like me, who avoid eggs for the sole reason of smell, and also think that I’am exaggerating (about the coffee ocean!) , then please make this tiramisu with fat-free sponge and prove yourself wrong. But, if you avoid eggs for other reasons, then this eggless vanilla base will be your next best alternative.
How to proceed:
Before starting the cake, you should have your sponge and mascarpone cheese ready and well refrigerated. Make it one day before, cover the cake and cheese bowl with cling film. You can assemble the cake in the morning, chill it in fridge for 24 hours (atleast) and serve for lunch or dinner the next day.
I adapted this from Nigella’s Simple Tiramisu recipe, modified by replacing milk with water for coffee syrup, and adding some sugar.
For Coffee syrup (to soak the fat free sponge):
- Water- 1 ½ cups
- Instant Coffee powder ( I used bru)- 2 tablespoons ( original recipe stated 1 tablespoon)
- Granulated sugar- 2 tablespoon
- Cocoa powder- 1 tablespoon
- Vanilla essence- 1 teaspoon
Boil water, add sugar, after it dissolves add coffee powder and mix till it dissolves. Switch off the flame, mix in cocoa powder, avoiding lumps. Add vanilla essence. This forms the coffee syrup to soak the sponges. Reserve 1-2 tablespoons of this syrup to flavour the mascarpone-whipped cream icing.
Cream for frosting the cake:
- Homemade/ready made Mascarpone cheese- 1 cup
- Icing sugar- ¼ cup+ additional if using non-sweetened whipping cream
- Whipping cream- ¾ cup
- Coffee syrup- 1-2 tablespoon
Whip the whipping cream till it gets stiff peaks, if you are using a diary cream, add sugar just after the cream shows beater marks and continue beating till peaks become stiff. If using a non diary one, which is already sweetened, I didn’t find the need to add more sugar. You can add 1-2 tablespoons of icing sugar, depending on your taste preference.
Take mascarpone in different bowl, add the coffee syrup reserved for the icing, icing sugar and mildly whip mascarpone ( do not over beat it). Fold half the amount of whipped cream into mascarpone, gradually folding without deflating it. Once mixed, add the remaining whipped cream and fold well until they get incorporated. Refrigerate the mixture if it becomes too runny in cocnsistency for half-n hour.
- Choco chips ( small size)- ¼ cup
- Cocoa powder- 1-2 tablespoon
Assembling the cake:
- Slice the sponge cake horizontally , into two halves, if you have doubled the recipe of fatless sponge and baked a bigger thicker cake, you can also slice it into three pieces horizontally.
- Place the top-most surface at the bottom of your serving dish, with the browned surface facing down and spongy surface facing upwards.
- Pour in the coffee syrup with a spoon, I emptied my almost half quantity of syrup (around ¾ cup) for this first layer and still found the cake not soggy with syrup on cutting. Our aim here is to dampen/moisten the cake with syrup.
- With a spatula, spread the whipping cream and cheese mixture over the soaked sponge, spreading it evenly.
- Sprinkle some choco chips over the cream.
- With a tea strainer, strain some cocoa powder over the surface.
- Place the other half over it, I prefer placing it with the sponged surface facing upwards again, this way the pores are open to take in coffee syrup.
- Repeat the whole process, soaking with syrup, spreading the cream, sprinkling choco chips and cocoa powder.
- If you wish to decorate the top surface , you can use the leftover cream like I have done.I added a bit more of cocoa powder in the left over icing to give a nice contrast to the light coloured cream.
- Now comes the difficult part, placing it in the refrigerator, allowing the icing to set and giving the flavours some time to mature, for a period of 24-48 hours.
- Decorating the cake with those striped pattern was an after-thought, a cover up for the finger depressions left by my two ‘icing-licking -monsters’ when the cake was resting! Can’t blame them, can I?