The dog days of summer can be rough on a baker: farmers markets are brimming with produce and potential but cranking up an oven during a hot August afternoon feels like a fool’s errand. What’s a sweet tooth to do? Luckily, tiramisu is here to help.

Tiramisu is a creamy Italian dessert cake built with four basic ingredients: egg yolks, mascarpone, lady fingers and espresso. Homemade tiramisu can be created with store-bought lady fingers which means you won’t need to bake anything. The only thing heating up your kitchen will be your electric mixer and coffee machine. As an added bonus, this dish is heavy on assembly and light on cutting: it’s a great cooking activity with kids.

I recently made tiramisu for Mike’s Old Italian Man birthday party, featuring bocce and Italian subs from A. Litteri’s. This recipe is a tried and true adaptation from Ms. Lollipop Head herself, Giada De Laurentiis. I doubled the recipe from the Food Network site to ensure we had enough for the party (because running out of food at a party? Sooo anti-Italian) but the portions below are based on the original recommendations. 

You can find lady fingers in just about any grocery store. I’m not particularly brand loyal but I have found that some are spongier than others. It’s wise to keep extra espresso cooled and on hand in case your lady fingers soak in more than their fair share. Mascarpone is also widely available but a little pricey. You may want to shop around for the best deal. We find the best prices are at Trader Joe’s, which sells the Belgioioso brand.

The de Laurentiis recipe calls for chocolate shavings which gilds the lily, in my opinion. Instead, I toss a few spoonfuls of espresso powder through a sifter to dust the top of the cake.

6 egg yolks
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 pound marscarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups strong espresso, cooled
2 teaspoons of dark rum (I usually cheat and add a little extra)
24 lady fingers (for peace of mind, buy an extra package as back up)
2-3 tablespoons of espresso powder for garnish

Beat egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl with whisk attachment for about 5 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of espresso and mix.

Prepare a serving dish. Since this is a no-bake dessert, you don’t really need to grease it. By “prepare” I really mean think about what dish you want to use and pull it out so you don’t have to run around your kitchen like a crazy person when you are ready to assemble the cake. The recipe suggests a
13 x9″ pan. I use a Pyrex. You’ll want something with high walls since this is a layered confection.

Pour remaining espresso and rum into a separate, shallow bowl. Briefly dip each ladyfinger into bowl (and I mean briefly! No more than 2 full seconds or it you risk breaking the soggy lady finger) and place at the bottom of your serving dish. Break the lady fingers to fit into any bare spaces. This first layer is your “crust” so you’ll want to fit them snugly in there.

Spread half of mascarpone mixture on top of your first layer of lady fingers. For the second layer, repeat lady finger dipping and placing. Spread remaining mascarpone mixture on that layer. Dust with espresso. Cover cake with saran wrap (that’s cling film, for you UK visitors) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Lick bowl. Deny licking the bowl and blame children and/or pets for licking bowl when spouse mocks you for it. Make sure there is no mascarpone mixture on your nose when this happens. I’m told it’s a dead giveaway.