Tiramisu History

Tiramisu (tih-ruh-mee-SOO) – The Italian translation for tiramisu is “carry me up.”  Also known as Tuscan Trifle.  Tradition tiramisu is a pudding-like dessert that usually consists of sponge cake or ladyfingers dipped in a liqueur, then layered with grated chocolate and rich custard.  Tramisu was originally made as a loose custard.  It is only in recent years that using mascarpone cheese has come into fashion.

Legend or Myth:

17th century – A dessert similar to tiramisu was was created in Siena, in the northwestern Italian province of Tuscany.  The occasion was a visit by Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici III (1642-1723), in whose honor the concoction was dubbed zuppa del duca (the “duke’s soup”).  He brought the recipe back with him to Florence.  In the 19th century, tiramisu became extremely popular among the English intellectuals and artists who lived in Florence.  The dessert made its way to England, where its popularity grew.


1970s – According to the article, The Trail of Tiramisu, by Jane Black, Washington Post newspaper, July 11, 2007, the present day version of tiramisu was said to have been created in a restaurant in Treviso, located northwest of Venice on Italy’s northern Adriatic coast, called Le Beccherie. Carminantonio Iannaccone:

“Lannaccone’s story is simple.  He trained as a pastry chef in the southern city of Avellino, then migrated to Milan to find work at the age of 12.  In 1969 he married his wife, Bruna, and opened a restaurant also called Piedigrotta in Treviso, where he cooked up a dessert based on the “everyday flavors of the region”:  strong coffee, creamy mascarpone, eggs, Marsala and ladyfinger cookies.  He says it took him two years to perfect the recipe, which was originally served as an elegant, freestanding cake.”

“Tiramisu, which means “pick me up” – a reference to its shot of espresso — was an instant hit.  Chefs, Iannaccone says, came to taste it, and soon they were either making their own versions or he was supplying them with his.  By the early ’80s, tiramisu had become ubiquitous throughout Italy and beyond.”

The Timeless Art of Italian Cuisine – Centuries of Scrumptious Dining by Anna Maria Volpi, states the following from her research on the history of tiramisu:

“Later in my research the oldest recipe I could find was in the book by Giovanni Capnist I Dolci del Veneto (The Desserts of Veneto).  The first edition was published in 1983 and has a classic recipe for Tiramisu. Recent recipe with infinite variations from the town of Treviso, says Capnist, discovery of restaurants more then family tradition.

But the final word on the origin of Tiramisu is from the book by Fernando e Tina Raris La Marca Gastronomica 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:  Tiramisu 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 Italy.  Still today the restaurant Le Beccherie 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 did not 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 Tiramisu.”