Irmi’s fabulous Tira Mi Su

I’ve made this Tira Mi Su after a recipe from my friend Irmi in Germany countless times by now, and I guess it’s time to translate the recipe from German to English (and add some bits of wisdom that I gathered making it;-) since I’ve been asked for it repeatedly.

Tira Mi Su

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: easy
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I’d like to start with mentioning that it can be a bit challenging to get the ingredients right the first time (I didn’t) because it depends a whole lot on how big the dish is in which you make the Tira Mi Su. Since it is a quite popular dessert, I usually make a lot 🙂 and found that the big, 3-quart 9 x 13 inch (22 x 33 cm) Pyrex dish works well for 8-12 persons*. The ingredients below should work well for that dish size. Adjust the amounts below if you’re using a smaller dish (for my smaller Pyrex dish, ~half of the amounts below work). Here we go.

  • 2 pounds Mascarpone (rich Italian cream cheese) at room temperature. I prefer the one from Galbani because it’s very creamy. Whatever you do, don’t read the nutrition facts! 😀
  • 6-8 egg yolks (depends on the size of the eggs) at room temperature – there’s no cooking involved here so make sure you’re using only the freshest eggs!
  • 4-6 tablespoons of sugar (depending on how sweet you want it – we prefer it less sweet)
  • 4 shots Espresso (or really strong, black coffee) – prepare it in advance. Needs to be cold otherwise the Ladyfingers will soak up way too much liquid.
  • 2-4 shots of Brandy (I often substitute with Whisky or Bourbon, actually – I made Tira Mi Su for friends who requested to use XO Cognac for a special anniversary – it tastes great too of course;-)
  • 2 packs (200 grams each) of “hard” Ladyfingers – I’m using the (imported) “Danesita” brand from World Market.
  • grated zest of 1-2 fresh organic lemons (one is enough it’s a really large lemon) – wash thoroughly.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder (finishing touch)


I never took the time, but I’d say that the whole preparation takes about 40-50 minutes.

  1. mix the egg yolks and the sugar with an electric hand mixer until the mixture is nice and foamy
  2. slowly add about half of the Mascarpone, one or two tablespoons at a time, and thoroughly blend it into the yolk/sugar mixture, using a low speed setting of the mixer
  3. add the grated lemon zest
  4. again slowly, add the rest of the Mascarpone, blending the mixture carefully each time. Aim for a smooth consistency that is not too fluid and runny, but not too stiff either. You want to spread that stuff onto the Ladyfingers after they’ve been soaked in espresso and brandy – if it is too stiff and won’t spread smoothly you’re in trouble! It is possible and may be necessary to “adjust” the mixture with another egg yolk if it’s too stiff. If it’s a bit too runny don’t worry, just let it sit longer, the Ladyfingers will usually take care of it (see below). 🙂
  5. mix the Espresso and Brandy in a flat dish.
  6. have a shot of the Brandy yourself 😉
  7. dip each Ladyfinger in the mixture briefly on both sides, and put them into your dish as the bottom layer. The Ladyfingers soak up a lot of liquid so the coffee needs to be cold – when the coffee is hot they soak up way too much of it, too quickly. Guess how I learned that! For the 3-quart 9 x 13 inch Pyrex dish, one 200 gram pack of the Danesita Ladyfingers is about one layer. Tip: to fill the edges and corners, dip the lady fingers, then trim them with a sharp, short knife.
  8. The ladyfingers become softer as they absorb the moisture. You’ll notice that it’s easier to fit/adjust them nice and snug into the dish after a minute or so. 🙂
  9. Spread the mascarpone mixture sparingly over the first layer of lady fingers, but cover them entirely and fill the corners and borders with it. It’s better to have a thin layer of the mascarpone cream between the two layers of lady fingers than running out of the mixture for the top layer – and a thicker top layer is great, anyway. 🙂 I’m using a flexible silicon spatula and spread it all the way out into every corner so that the Ladyfingers are completely covered.
  10. add the second layer of Ladyfingers (repeat steps 7 & 8). If it’s not too much, I add the rest of the coffee/brandy mixture to that layer with a tablespoon. Again, the Ladyfingers will soak up quite a lot of liquid so it’s probably fine to just add whatever is left of the coffee/brandy.
  11. add the second layer of the Mascarpone mixture (repeat step 9). Just use it all up.
  12. I recommend to cover and seal the dish with stretch/cling wrap – the Pyrex lid still lets some air in, causing the top layer of the mascarpone cream to dry and crack and you don’t want that.

The Tira Mi Su will be nice if it sits for a minimum of 8 hours in my experience, but longer is better (after 18-24 hours it’s perfect IMHO, so I make it a day in advance). Take it out of the fridge half an hour before serving. Cut into slices with a very sharp knife (the longer you let it sit in the fridge, the easier it will be to cut it, because the Ladyfingers soak up more liquid and become soft).

Thinly sprinkle with the unsweetened cocoa powder and serve. You’ll find out if you added too much cocoa powder when your guests start coughing. 😉 And you’ll know that you succeeded when everyone goes quiet and/or utters things like “oh my god”, “hmmmm”, “wow”, “ahhhhh”- and ask for the recipe.


*) if you really only cut that amount into 8 pieces, they’re going to be huge – if you cut smaller pieces you may be able to serve up to 18 people with it in my experience. Also, people somehow never reject it when asked if they want to take a piece or two home… 😉

Homemade Tira Mi Su
Homemade Tira Mi Su

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