Homemade Tiramisu {without lady fingers}

Whenever I hear the words “tiramisu,” I think of the scene in Sleepless in Seattle when Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner are walking through Pike Place Market discussing dating.

“What is Tiramisu?”
“You’ll find out.”
“Well, what is it?”
“You’ll see.”
“Some woman is going to want me to do it to her, and I’m not gonna know what it is!”
“You’ll love it.”

You will love Tiramisu. It is a rum and vanilla custard layered (traditionally) with espresso and dark rum soaked lady fingers and topped with cocoa. And it is SO good.

Lady fingers can be hard to find. I knew they had them at World Market, but when I went there, they were out. Trader Joe’s used to sell them, but when I looked and asked they told me they weren’t coming back for 2020. They can be hard to find in the grocery store. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a recipe for them without lady fingers. But then it came to me. Madeleines. Just slightly thicker lady fingers in a shell shape and super easy to find.

Happy to report I made my tiramisu with madeleines and it was absolutely delicious. You can, of course, make this exact recipe and sub them for lady fingers. As Rob says, “You’ll love it.”


  • 1 1/2 cups espresso, room temperature
  • 6 Tbsp dark rum divided
  • 40 madeleines cookies or lady fingers
  • 6 egg yolks (large)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 16 oz mascarpone cold
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream cold
  • 2-3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder to dust the top


  1. In a bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups espresso and 3 Tbsp rum. Quickly dip half of the madeleines, one at a time and arrange in a single layer in the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish. Dip once on each side so they are moist but do not soak them, or the cake will collapse.
  2. Whisk together yolks and sugar. Place in a heat proof bowl over a double boiler ( saucepan with simmering water) and whisk 9-10 minutes on low heat until the mixture is lighter in color and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and let cool slightly while doing step 3.
  3. Beat together 16 oz mascarpone and 3 Tbsp rum. Use a mixer to beat in the warm yolk mixture until well incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat cold heavy whipping cream until medium peaks form (about 3-4 minutes). Use a spatula to fold half of the whipped cream into mascarpone cream then blend in remaining whipped cream, just until incorporated. Do not overfold or it will become grainy.
  5. Spread half of the cream over the first layer of madeleines. Dip and arrange remaining ladyfingers. Spread remaining cream. Refrigerate overnight. Dust with cocoa powder before serving. It is ok to dust with cocoa ahead of time – it will just darken it in color from the moisture.

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