Open an old Italian cookbook, browse through the index and a surprise! No TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™ cake recipe. My first encounter with TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™ was in 1985. I was in Italy at that time: A friend of mine told me about this new cake recipe she got. She was so enthusiastic about it that I felt compelled to try it immediately. The taste was unbelievably good, as never I had tasted before. Since then I fell in love with this dessert.
Everybody knows by now that TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™ means â€œpick-me-upâ€ in Italian, for the high energetic content (eggs and sugar) and the caffeine of the strong espresso coffee. There are many different stories about the origin of TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™. It is a layered cake; therefore some people place its origin in Tuscany, where another famous layered Italian dessert is very popular. It is called â€œZuppa Ingleseâ€ (English Soup). It is not English and it is not a soup. Instead is a simple cake of ladyfingers or sponge cake, soaked in â€œalkermesâ€ liquor, and alternated layers of chocolate and egg custard.
Layered cakes have been around for long time. The brilliant idea in TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™ is not in the technique of layering, but in the components. The great invention of combining together coffee, zabaglione cream, and chocolate: This is the true innovation in TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™.
I love to study history of food. In my book â€œThe Timeless Art of Italian Cuisine Ã¢Â€Â“ Centuries of Scrumptious Diningâ€, there is extensive information about culinary history of the various regions of Italy. I tried to trace the origin of TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™ investigating many Italian cookbooks.
The first clue is by the famous Italian gastronome Giuseppe Maffioli. In his book â€œIl ghiottone Venetoâ€, (The Venetian Glutton) first published in 1968, he talks extensively about Zabaglione custard. The name of this cream originates from Zabaja, a sweet dessert popular in the Illiria region. It is the coastal area across the Adriatic Sea that was Venetian territory for long time during the golden age of the â€œRepubblica Serenissimaâ€ (The Most Serene Republic) of Venice. Zabaglione was prepared in those times with sweet Cyprus wine.
â€œThe groomÃ¢Â€Â™s bachelor friendsâ€, says Maffioli, â€œat the end of the long wedding banquet, maliciously teasing, gave to him before the couple retired a big bottle of zabajon, to guarantee a successful and prolonged honeymoonâ€. â€œThe zabajonâ€, Maffioli continues, â€œwas sometimes added of whipped cream, but in this case was served very cold, almost frozen, and accompanied by the baicoli, small thin Venetian cookies invented in the 1700Ã¢Â€Â™s by a baker in the Santa Margherita suburb of Veniceâ€. The addition of whipped cream, the serving temperature, the cookies, all these elements are close to the modern TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™ recipe. And even the allusion to the energetic properties of the Zabaglione, seem to refer to the TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™ name.
Later in my research the oldest recipe I could find was in the book by Giovanni Capnist â€œI Dolci del Venetoâ€ (The Desserts of Veneto). The first edition was published in 1983 and has a classic recipe for TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™. â€œRecent recipe with infinite variations from the town of Trevisoâ€, says Capnist, â€œdiscovery of restaurants more then family traditionâ€.
But the final word on the origin of TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™ is from the book by Fernando e Tina Raris â€œLa Marca Gastronomicaâ€ published in 1998, a book entirely dedicated to the cuisine from the town of Treviso. The authors remember what Giuseppe Maffioli wrote in an article in 1981: â€œTiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™ was born recently, just 10 years ago in the town of Treviso. It was proposed for the first time in the restaurant Le Beccherie. The dessert and its name became immediately extremely popular, and this cake and the name where copied by many restaurants first in Treviso then all around Italyâ€.
Still today the restaurant â€œLe Beccherieâ€ makes the dessert with the classical recipe: ladyfingers soaked in bitter strong espresso coffee, mascarpone-zabaglione cream, and bitter cocoa powder. Alba and Ado Campeol, owners of the restaurant regret they didnÃ¢Â€Â™t patent the name and the recipe, especially to avoid all the speculation and guesses on the origin of this cake, and the diffusion of so many recipes that have nothing to do with the original TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™.
I tried countless different recipes form the infinite variations of TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™, but the classic one, (the recipe I show on my website), the recipe from the â€œLe Beccherieâ€ restaurant, is still the one I prepare today and the one I prefer.
As an example of one of the many delicious variation of TiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™ I am showing on my website a step-by-step recipe for the â€œTiramisuÃ¢Â€Â™ with Mixed Berriesâ€ that is quickly becoming a new classic.