I like to make people birthday meals, or at the very least, birthday desserts. I ask people what their favorite dessert is, and then offer to make it. Twice I've even been challenged to make up a whole new dessert for the occasion. I'm surprised how little I'm asked for old standbys like chocolate cake. I've even been asked for Tres Leches cake by two different people. This was the first time I was asked to make Tiramisu, although I've asked for it for my birthday before. It's been a long time since I'd made one, and I had forgotten how simple it was. It doesn't even require any baking. Honestly, the hardest part is tracking down the ingredients, so I thought I'd give a few tips for where to start hunting.
Marsala wine isn't going to be in your supermarket wine aisle; you'll have to go to Total Wine or World Market or someplace similar that has more wine to choose from. Sponge fingers or lady fingers can be found at Harris Teeter or other nice grocery stores, and often in the bakery section even though they are a prepacked cookie. The first time I made tiramisu because it called for espresso I actually went and bought several espresso shots at a coffeehouse. I didn't drink coffee at the time and was sort of stymied what do at home. You really just need to brew a strong pot of coffee, and you'll be fine. Marscapone cheese is usually in that fancy deli cheese refrigerator case, and I've found it at several stores, but be prepared to pay at least $4 for a tub of it. In a pinch, you can substitute cream cheese. Once you've assembled the ingredients, it's pretty fast.
2 cups strong black coffee1/2 cup marsala
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup sugar
8oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup cream, lightly whipped
1 large packet of sponge fingers (savoiardi)
unsweetened cocoa, for dusting
Pour coffee and marsala into a shallow dish. Set aside.
Beat egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl with electric beaters until pale and thick. Add the mascarpone and whipped cream, mixing gently until just combined.
Beat egg whites in a medium bowl with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold egg whites into the mascarpone mixture.
Dip enough sponge fingers into the coffee mixture to cover the base of a 8 inch square ceramic dish. Cover the biscuits with one-third of the mascarpone mixture. Repeat layers 2 times, ending with the cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Dust generously with cocoa and serve.