“Tira mi su” literally means “pick me up” in Italian. That’s what’s alleged to happen when you eat this espresso-doused cake, although I think the sugar contributes more to that effect than the espresso does. It’s a a creation of relatively recent vintage, but it has become universal in Italian restaurants around the world. There are two styles of making it, both authentic. This one uses lady finger cakes, and is served by scooping it out of the pan with a big spoon. It can also be made (using the same other ingredients and assembly method) with sheets of sponge cake, and served in slices.



  • Filling:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 pint whipping cream, chilled
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 3/4 cup espresso or very strong coffee
  • 1 oz. creme de cacao (or dark rum)
  • 12-18 lady fingers
  • 2 Tbs. cocoa powder
  • 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, shaved into slivers

1. With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and half of the sugar together until the sugar is no longer gritty. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat it until smooth and light.

2. Clean the beaters. In a chilled bowl, beat the whipping cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar, vanilla, and almond extract until it peaks. Don’t overbeat, or the cream might break.

3. Add the mascarpone mixture to the whipped cream and beat it until completely blended. The filling is complete; hold it in the refrigerator.

4. Dissolve the 2 Tbs. sugar into the espresso and creme de cacao plus , 2 Tbs. water to make a syrup.

5. Cover the bottom of a 7 x 9 x 3 inch cake pan with lady fingers. Brush athe cake with the syrup. Using a rubber spatula or a cake-icing knife, spread about a third of the mascarpone cheese mixture over the lady fingers and into the cracks between then. Make another layer of lady fingers, brush with the syrup, and cover with the filling. Then another layer.

6. Sift the cocoa powder over the top of the cake and top with chocolate shavings. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Leave it in the refrigerator until serving.

Serves eight.

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