This is the OG Tiramisu Cake with perfectly fluffy ombre sponge cake layers and wrapped in a beautiful ombre mascarpone frosting. It's the ultimate way to impress your loved ones for their special celebrations.
THIS CAKE. This is the OG Tiramisu Cake with ombre mascarpone frosting, it went viral back in 2016 when it first got posted and has been made by many, many people since.
Our tiramisu cake is super special and perfect for birthdays, or any special occasion! Made up of four 6-inch layers individually flavoured with chocolate, coffee and vanilla, soaked with coffee syrup and all sandwiched together with an insanely delicious mascarpone frosting, it literally is TO DIE FOR. It's that good!
You may see many copies out there, but this is the ORIGINAL ombre style multi layered tiramisu cake. We promise you light and airy sponge packed with serious flavour! Even Molly Yeh raved about it back in the day and created her own version. Be sure to check out our Passionfruit Layer Cake or Strawberry and Elderflower Cake if you're in the mood for more layer cakes.
Trust us, everyone needs this Italian tiramisu cake in their lives. We love hearing from you, so why not drop us a comment and rating in the recipe card below! This is a straight forward recipe but can seem overwhelming as it contains several steps, use the links below to get to exactly where you want in this post. We've got all the tips and tricks you need!
Why this recipe works
These are the reasons you need this tiramisu cake recipe in your life:
True, tried and tested - this tiramisu cake has recently been tested thoroughly to ensure you will get the results you see. Check out the pinch points and expert tips below to help you.
Ombre frosting - the frosting for this tiramisu cake is insane, it's what brings this whole cake together and makes it taste of tiramisu without any doubt! The creamy mascarpone is literally the perfect finish and looks stunning too.
Easier than you think - this Italian tiramisu cake looks impressive, which can seem overwhelming, but with all the step by step photos we have for you, this is actually a very simple cake to make.
Celebratory centrepiece - you will be everyone's favourite when you show up with this Italian tiramisu cake to your loved ones' birthday or any celebration!
Modern twist - this cake is a lovely modern twist on the traditional Italian tiramisu using sponge cake rather than ladyfingers/savoiardi. Impress with your new found baking skills.
You only need simple ingredients for this Tiramisu Cake, all should be readily available at most supermarkets, this is what you'll need:
Baking essentials - you'll need standard baking essentials; all purpose flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla bean/extract and salt.
Espresso powder - Tiramisu is famously flavoured with coffee, you'll need the fine espresso coffee powder, NOT large granules. If you don't drink or consume coffee, you can definitely use a coffee alternative powder. Both work extremely well, but it HAS to be fine powder.
Cocoa powder - we recommend using dutch processed cocoa powder for the chocolate layer, it is washed with an alkaline solution which neutralises the acid in the powder giving it a deep rich colour. It also has a milder earthy flavour.
Raising agent - we use baking powder in this tiramisu cake, in the UK the standard supermarket baking powder is double action baking powder, meaning it will work in two phases, one with addition of liquid and then secondly with application of heat.
Mascarpone - the tiramisu cake frosting is made with mascarpone, a soft Italian cheese spread. This is not the same as standard cream cheese, it's light and creamy and super smooth. It is the classic ingredient and flavour profile in Tiramisu. Get the highest quality mascarpone you can find. It's also important for it to be room temperature for this recipe.
We all love to make twists in our recipes to meet different needs, here are some customisation suggestions for this tiramisu cake:
Gluten free - if you have a dietary requirement for this cake to be gluten free, you can directly substitute the all purpose flour for gluten free all purpose flour. You may need to add a little extra liquid (milk) to get the right batter consistency. We have not tested this option but if you give it a go, let us know how it goes in the comments.
Simplify - this tiramisu cake recipe can be simplified further by making all the layers either vanilla, coffee or chocolate, instead of multicoloured layers. Simply omit the coffee powder or cocoa powder for vanilla, or add 3 tablespoons espresso powder or ⅓ cup of cocoa powder to the whole cake batter mix for just coffee or just chocolate respectively.
Alcohol - we don't use alcohol in this recipe. If you wish to use alcohol you can make this cake with the coffee liqueur kahlua. Make a 50/50 mix of espresso and kahlua to make a final volume of 1 cup/240ml.
Without coffee - for those who can't or don't want coffee in their cake, you can substitute for a coffee alternative powder instead of normal coffee powder. We tested it with this and it works perfectly.
How to make Tiramisu Cake
Follow this step by step cake to make your new favourite Italian tiramisu cake:
Cake batter - food processor method
- Place the room temperature butter, sugar, all purpose flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of the food processor.
- Pulse a few times to combine the ingredients into a fine crumb. Add the eggs one-by one and pulse 2-4 times after each one.
- It should create a sticky batter then add the milk and vanilla extract or seeds.
- Process until just combined. Be careful not to over blend it and introduce too many air bubbles to your tiramisu cake batter.
Cake batter - food mixer method
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together the room temperature butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes until smooth and light in colour.
- Beat in the eggs one-by-one with a spoon of flour after each egg.
- Beat in the milk and vanilla.
- Slowly mix in the flour, baking powder and salt mixture until smooth, beat for no longer than 30 seconds.
Making the coloured layers
- Weigh the entire batter mix. Separate it into three portions: half into one bowl and two quarters in smaller bowls. Add the espresso powder into the large portion and cocoa powder into one of the smaller portions.
- Fold the powders into each of those portions to create the chocolate and coffee layers, this provides you with one vanilla, one chocolate and two coffee cakes.
Baking the cakes
- Split the coffee cake batter between two lightly greased and parchment lined (bottom only) 6-inch cake tins and the chocolate and vanilla layers into another 2 tins.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for 25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean from each cake and they have a slight bounce to the touch. Leave in the cake tins for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack until cold.
Make the coffee syrup
- Whilst the cakes are baking, place the the espresso powder, sugar and water into a small saucepan.
- Bring to the boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved and take off the heat and leave to cool.
Make the mascarpone frosting
- Place the mascarpone into a large bowl with the sifted icing sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk and vanilla seeds.
- Gently fold the ingredients together (don't beat or overmix) until smooth, adding another tablespoon of milk if needed.
- Measure two portions of 125 grams into smaller bowls and leave the rest in the large bowl. Add the melted chocolate and espresso powder into the smaller portions to make the chocolate and coffee frosting.
- Gently fold the coffee and chocolate portions together until smooth and uniform in colour.
Assembling the Tiramisu Cake
- Level the tops of the cakes using a bread knife to ensure the cake is easy to assemble.
- Pour the coffee syrup evenly between all four layers and allow the syrup to absorb into each layer, there should be about a quarter cup for each layer.
- Place the chocolate layer onto a cake board or plate. Using ⅓ cup of the vanilla frosting, spread it onto the chocolate cake layer.
- Place one coffee layer onto the frosting and repeat with ⅓ cup of frosting. Repeat with the second coffee layer and finally with the vanilla layer to create your tiramisu cake stack.
How to decorate
Follow these simple steps for decorating this tiramisu cake or simply roughly apply the frosting and enjoy the rustic look.
- Finish the tiramisu cake stack with a thin crumb layer of the vanilla frosting and smooth with a spatula. Place in the fridge to set for 15 minutes.
- Starting with the chocolate frosting, pipe or roughly spread it onto the bottom third of the cake, follow with the coffee frosting on the next third and then the remaining third with vanilla frosting.
- Start to spread with a spatula to create the ombre layers
- Smooth the whole cake over. Using a cake turntable is a great way to do this. Finally top the tiramisu cake with a classic thick dusting of cocoa powder.
Here are some expert tips to ensure complete success in making this tiramisu cake:
Tempering the eggs - if you are using the food/hand mixer method to make the tiramisu cake batter, adding a spoon of the flour mix after each egg tempers the eggs and keeps the mixture whole, otherwise it will start to split and maybe curdle. It will come back together on addition of flour regardless but this will avoid that all together.
Mascarpone - it is VERY important that the mascarpone is at room temperature. This is in order to create the chocolate frosting portion. If you add warm melted chocolate to fridge cold mascarpone it will become grainy or even create a stracciatella effect (bits of chocolate throughout) and won't be smooth. If your frosting becomes too soft, simply return it to the fridge to firm up for a bit.
Baking - if you only have two cake tins, the remaining two portions of tiramisu cake batter will be fine sitting on the side whilst you wait for the others to bake and be removed from the tin. Just clean and prepare the tins again for the next batch.
Quality chocolate - for the chocolate frosting, make sure you use quality dark chocolate at least 74% cocoa or above. Cheap chocolate will likely have additives that will affect the texture of the frosting. Also, once the chocolate has melted, leave to cool for only 1 minute before adding to the frosting and stirring in.
Raising agents - make sure to use baking powder and not baking soda. Ensure that it is fresh and hasn't been sitting in your cupboard for months or years on end.
Storage and Freezing
Follow these steps for storing your tiramisu cake to enjoy it at it's best:
Refrigerator - store your tiramisu cake in the fridge for up to 3 days. We recommend carefully wrapping the cake without disturbing the frosting with clingfilm to protect it whilst in the fridge. The cake is best consumed freshly made but will keep well in the fridge. It will however start to dry out if the sponge is open to the air.
How to freeze it
Sliced assembled cake - if you have sliced the tiramisu cake, lay the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and place into the freezer until the slices are solid, this will take about 1-2 hours depending on how thick you slice it. Take these slices and wrap them in a clingfilm and then place them into a freezer bag and store for up to 3 months. Defrost before consuming. The longer you leave it in the freezer the more likely the frosting texture may suffer.
Cake layers pre-assembly - If you wish to create this tiramisu cake ahead of time, bake the layers and allow to cool. Double wrap with cling film and then freeze. These layers will store in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can then defrost the layers, drizzle with coffee syrup and assemble with the mascarpone frosting. As above, the longer they are in the freezer, the more likely the texture may suffer.
Yes, absolutely! To make a two layer 8-inch cake you will just need to split the mixture between two prepared 8-inch cake tins. They will likely need to be baked for 25-30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. If you wish to make a 4-layer 8-inch cake, you will need to double the whole cake batter and coffee syrup recipe and will likely need to 1.5x the frosting.
If your tiramisu cake layers sink, there are a couple of reasons. You've used too much raising agent. OR you've opened the oven mid baking and the cake structure has been disturbed before it was able to set, this can often lead to a sunken cake. The final reason is underbaking the cake - make sure a cake tester or tooth pick comes out clean or with just a couple of crumbs.
In this recipe you've been instructed to lightly grease and line your cake tins. If you use too much oil or fat (preferably use butter) your cake can turn out greasy. You only need a very light coating of grease to aid rise and help you remove the cake from the tin after baking.
Traditional tiramisu mascarpone layers include raw egg yolks, this cake does not. It does however contain coffee and caffeine or alcohol if you so choose to use in making this cake. However, you can recreate this cake with a caffeine free coffee alternative and not use alcohol at all as the original recipe is written. We do this as we don't drink alcohol or coffee.
Our cake does not contain alcohol as we don't drink. This makes it perfect for younger people to enjoy too. However, if you wish you can use alcohol in the coffee syrup to soak the sponge cake layers as shown in the customisations section of the post.
More Cake Recipes
Love this tiramisu cake? Well, if you want to bake up a storm check out our baking recipes. Here are some extra cakes for you to whet your appetite:
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- 280 g unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 ¼ cups, 2 ½ sticks
- 280 g golden caster sugar, 1 ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons, superfine sugar
- 280 g all purpose flour, 2 ¼ cups + 1 tablespoon
- 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 5 eggs, US large, UK medium
- 60 ml milk, ¼ cup
- ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped or 2 teaspoons extract
- 1 ½ tablespoon espresso powder
- 1 ½ tablespoon cocoa powder
For the coffee syrup
- 2 tablespoons espresso powder
- 100 g golden caster sugar, ½ cup
- 120 ml water, ½ cup
For the mascarpone frosting
- 750 g mascarpone, 26 ounces
- 125 g icing sugar, 1 cup, sifted
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped or 1 teaspoon extract
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- 25 g 70% dark chocolate, 1 ounce
- cocoa powder, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/350°F. Lightly grease and line 2 (or 4 if you have them and the oven space!) 6" loose bottomed cake tins.
Cake batter - Food Processor Method
- To prepare the cake mixture in the food processor: place the room temperature butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse a few times until the ingredients are combined. Add the eggs one by one, and pulse 1-3 times after each egg. Finish by adding the milk and vanilla seeds and process until just combined. Take care not to overmix the batter.280 g unsalted butter, 280 g golden caster sugar, 280 g all purpose flour, 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder, 5 eggs, 60 ml milk, ½ vanilla pod, ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Cake batter - Hand/Stand Mixer Method
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together the room temperature butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes until smooth and light in colour. Beat in the eggs one by one, with a spoon of the flour mix after each egg. Beat in the milk and vanilla and then slowly mix in the remaining flour mixture until smooth. Beat it for no longer than 30 seconds.280 g unsalted butter, 280 g golden caster sugar, 280 g all purpose flour, 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder, 5 eggs, 60 ml milk, ½ vanilla pod, ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Making the Coloured Layers
- Weigh the entire batter mix. Then separate the batter into 3 portions - half and two quarters. Our full batter measured as follows - 1150g. Half = 575g, Quarter = 287g. Roughly measured is just fine.
- Into the largest portion, carefully fold in the espresso powder. Into one of the smaller portions, fold in the cocoa powder. Leave the remaining smaller portion as it is. Omit this step if you aren’t going to do coloured layers and just split the mixture between four 6 inch cake tins.1 ½ tablespoon espresso powder, 1 ½ tablespoon cocoa powder
Baking the Cakes
- Split the coffee mixture between the two tins and level the tops. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before removing and transferring to a cooling rack. Clean the tins, grease and line again and pour the vanilla and chocolate portions of the batter into each one. Bake as above.
For the Coffee Syrup
- Place the espresso powder, sugar and water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved, Remove from the heat and cool.2 tablespoons espresso powder, 100 g golden caster sugar, 120 ml water
For the Mascarpone Frosting
- Place the mascarpone into a large bowl. Add the icing sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and the vanilla seeds. Using a spatula, gently stir together until the mixture is smooth, adding up to another tablespoon of milk if needed. Separate off two portions of 125g of frosting into two smaller bowls, leave the rest in the original mixing bowl.750 g mascarpone, 125 g icing sugar, 1-2 tablespoons milk, ½ vanilla pod
- Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave in 30 second bursts. Leave to cool for one minute. After this time, stir the chocolate into one of the smaller portions of mascarpone frosting. Stir the espresso powder into the other smaller portion of mascarpone. Leave the biggest portion as it is.1 teaspoon espresso powder, 25 g 70% dark chocolate
Assembling the Tiramisu Cake
- Level the tops of the cakes using a bread knife if necessary. Pour the coffee syrup evenly over the tops of the cakes and allow to soak in. The cake will be easiest to assemble if you have a cake turntable in order to achieve a smooth frosting. If not, don't worry, you can go for a more rustic look!
- Place the chocolate cake onto a cake board/stand or plate (use a turntable if you have one). Evenly spread ⅓ cup of vanilla frosting on top, place a coffee cake on top followed by ⅓ cup of frosting, then the next coffee cake layer and ⅓ cup frosting and finally the vanilla cake layer. Using ⅓ cup of vanilla frosting lightly coat the outside of the cake all over (crumb coat). Place in the fridge to set for 15 minutes.
Creating the Ombre Frosting
- Starting with the chocolate frosting, pipe or roughly apply the frosting to the bottom quarter of the cake. Follow by applying the coffee frosting to the next quarter of the cake. If the two layers overlap, that's good! It adds to the ombre effect. Cover the rest of the cake roughly with vanilla frosting. You will have leftover frosting which is helpful if you need to do any touch ups!
- Smooth out the frosting to achieve a clean finish as in the photos above, or roughly spread the frosting for a more rustic look if you prefer! Finish with a thick dusting of cocoa powder on top.cocoa powder