Robi’s Tiramisu’ Cake

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***Unlike traditional tiramisu, this is effectively a cake that can be sliced and served on a plate showing neat layers; also, I use Pan di Spagna instead of sponge fingers and the cream is firmed up with the addition of a small quantity of gelatine***

Basic Techniques needed:
Italian Meringue
Creme Anglaise (Light Pouring Custard)
Pan di Spagna (Italian sponge base)

Tiramisu’ is a very popular Italian pudding, made out of layers of Savoiardi (Italian sponge fingers) dipped in Espresso coffee and a cream of eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese.It is delicious although very indulgent, and probably the first dessert I learnt to make, partly due to its simplicity and partly to the fact that is one of the few desserts that I have always really enjoyed. However, I have not made a normal Tiramisu’ for years, for a very simple reason: the original recipe requires raw eggs, which happen to be a highly hazardous food.

I did not know it until I started making some research on food hygiene, and discovering that came  as a bit of shock, because it made my beloved pudding something potentially dangerous.
This is the reason why I started to think about ways to make Tiramisu’ safe but keeping its character and flavour intact, and the result is the recipe that you are about to read.

I won’t give you a detailed description of traditional Tiramisu’ as it is something you can find everywhere and writing it will not give any added value in my opinion. It is enough to know that the cream is made by separating the whites and the yolks, the yolks are beaten with the mascarpone whilst the whites are beaten with the sugar to make a basic meringue; the two are then mixed together. Raw like I said, so a potential vehicle for dangerous bacteria.
Fortunately I did not have to reinvent the wheel because there are some existing techniques the allow us to cook the yolks and the whites still keeping the original character of the cream. So, after a bit of thinking, trial and error, I found my way round: I replaced the normal meringue with an Italian Meringue , and instead of beating the raw yolks with the mascarpone, I made a Creme Anglaise (Light Pouring Custard), to which I add some gelatine so that the cake can hold its shape.
Furthermore, I gave my personal twist by using a chocolate & coffee Pan di Spagna (Italian sponge base) instead of sponge fingers.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 8 people)
For the sponge:
4 eggs
10 g instant coffee
120 g white sugar
40 g plain flour
40 g cornstarch
20 g cocoa powder
400 ml freshly brewed Espresso coffee

For the cream:
500 g mascarpone
4 eggs
250 g white sugar
200 ml whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
2 gelatine leaves

100 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa mass), finely grated
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SPONGE BASE (see Pan di Spagna (Italian sponge base) for details)

Preheat the oven to 180 C
Sift the flour, cornstarch and cocoa powder and mix them well together
Whisk the eggs, instant coffee and sugar to ribbon stage
Gently fold the flour into the egg mixture
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes

ITALIAN MERINGUE (see Italian Meringue for details)

Put the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan
Attach the sugar thermometer to the pan and bring it to the boil, brushing the sides
When the caramel reaches 110 C, start whisking the egg whites, and whisk until stiff
When the caramel reaches 121 C, slowly pour it on the eggs whites, whisking on high speed until it is incorporated
Whisk on low speed to bring the meringue to room temperature

CREME ANGLAISE (see Creme Anglaise (Light Pouring Custard) for details)

Before starting, soak the gelatine leaves in a little cold water until soft (warm water will make it dissolve).
Heat the milk and add the vanilla extract if using it
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until white and fluffy
Slowly pour the hot milk on the yolks, whisking
Put the mixture back in the pan and gently heat until thick (the cream should coat a wooden spoon)
Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, then add them to the pan and take off the heat. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved
Let it cool down before using it

Now that all the components are ready, you can assemble the cake:

For the cream:

  • Beat the mascarpone until soft, then add the custard and keep beating until incorporated. You can use a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment if using a planetary mixer
  • Add 1/3 of the meringue and beat vigorously to incorporate
  • Gently fold the cream obtained into the remaining 2/3 of meringue

For the sponge layers:

  • Slice the Pan di Spagna quite thin (between 5mm and 1 cm)
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  • Arrange the layers on the bottom of the tray:
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  • Pour the coffee over the sponge. I use a squeeze bottle for speed and consistency:
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  • Pour the cream over the sponge base and spread to make a uniform layer:
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  • Repeat the operation to make another layer

To finish it off, sprinkle the top with the grated dark chocolate