I made this for my dad’s 97th birthday. We celebrated it at his place on the weekend as it was too cold to bring him out to ours. I took the cake with us – he loved this cake!!  I actually think what he really loved was the booze in the cake – hey, when I’m 97 I’ll keep you guessing to! 🙂 I love baking, and I hope that’s evident from my blog. Not frilly little things but you know, the manly kind of big boy baking without the finicky frills. My Pastry Chef at George Brown would shudder every time she saw me try to do something finicky – like “trying” to make petit fours with hot fondant – lol, now that was a video worth watching! I’m just not wired that way. So when I find a recipe with a wow effect, without the frills, I have to try it.

While almost any Tiramisu is probably one of the easiest (tastiest) desserts you can make, I really like this version of it because it uses a cake instead of the biscuits. It is a classic sponge that is typically baked in a jelly roll pan and then cut into equal rectangles and layered. I wanted a round cake for my dad’s birthday, so I made mine in a 9” round spring form pan. I made 2 layers by cutting the cake in half horizontally. I’m also always learning (in some cases re-learning as in this case) things when I cook/bake.  Like there is a reason you don’t cut cakes horizontally when they are warm – especially sponge cakes – they don’t cut well! Mine was at room temperature so rather than getting a smooth horizontal cut, it did some compressing and tearing. It would have been easier had I kept it in the freezer for an hour after it cooled and then sliced it. But that would be what I call a finicky frilly thing to do, so I opted for being impatient instead – I have a Masters in impatience.  I probably would have gotten more than 2 layers had I waited.  But it’s all good, it really doesn’t matter as the boozy-mascarpone-coffee-chocolate flavors make you forget everything when you taste it.

I also used instant espresso powder and brandy (notice I didn’t say “good” because if I wouldn’t drink it – espresso or brandy, I certainly wouldn’t cook/bake with it!). If you don’t want to use the brandy that’s okay, you can just use the espresso. But I did find that when I tasted the coffee/brandy mixture it was too bitter for my liking (that is a lot of brandy, almost half a cup) so while the coffee/brandy mixture was still warm I added a tablespoon of sugar – much nicer. So just a reminder to make sure you always taste the components before assembly. At dad’s place they have a piano in the lobby and one of the songs we sang (while my wife played) was one of dad’s favorite songs “Que Sera, Sera”.  We were all singing – even dad, when right in the middle of singing he stopped to have a bite of cake. So I know he liked it – boozy-mascarpone-coffee-chocolate flavor!

I did use a processor for grinding the chocolate for the layers, but used a knife to get the shavings for the top of the cake. Be careful if you are going to use a processor to make crumbs. I suggest you break the chocolate into small pieces first then whiz it around. Make sure you pulse and please stop if the blade isn’t turning. This is an effortless cake and will become a replacement for your regular Tiramisu! As always – enjoy!

For the sponge
4 large eggs
100g sugar
100g self-rising flour (if you don’t have self-rising flour, add 6g of baking powder to 100g of all-purpose flour – sift well to combine.  Yes, I know that makes 106g, really, it’s okay.)

For the filling
1 tbsp instant espresso coffee granules (I used 2)
150ml boiling water
100ml brandy
750g full-fat mascarpone cheese
300ml 35% whipping cream
3 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
65g dark chocolate, grated or chopped and then pulsed in a processor to a crumb like texture – plus more for shaving

Heat the oven to 350f
Spray and line the bottom of a 9” spring form pan – set aside
Make the sponge by beating the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment on medium-high – whisk for about 3 – 4 minutes until pale and thick
Sift the flour over the mixture and fold in gently until mixed
Pour the mixture into the spring form pan and level the surface with a spatula
Bake for 20 minutes – test with a toothpick, it should come clean
Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then run a knife around the edge and release from the pan – let cool completely
Make the filling while the cake is cooling
Dissolve the coffee in boiling water, then add the brandy – taste the mixture – adjust with a bit of sugar if needed – set aside to cool
When the sponge is cool, use a serrated knife to cut the cake in half and separate the layers – try freezing it and then cutting it so you get more layers. This will mean changing how much filling you put in between each layer i.e. it has to do 4 instead of 2 layers
Place the mascarpone in a large bowl and beat with a whisk (or hand mixer) until smooth
Gradually beat in the cream and icing sugar
Place one layer of sponge in the base of the spring form tin and place the form around the cake – this will help the layers of cream stay within the cake and not ooze out
Paint with half the coffee and brandy mixture
Spread half of the mascarpone frosting over the soaked sponge and half of the chocolate crumbs
Place the second sponge on top and repeat – you may not use all the coffee mixture – add it to your regular cup of coffee and really enjoy it! but most definitely use all the chocolate!!
For the chocolate shavings, you need a big bar of chocolate (I used the 300g Lindt dark chocolate bar) and a large knife (with the blade no wider than the width of the tray below)
Line a 11×17” rimmed baking tray (or something similar) with parchment
Place the chocolate bar – squares on the bottom, smooth surface up – on top of the parchment so you have a long strip ahead of you – like a road, with one end of the chocolate bar touching the end of the rim closest to you on the baking tray
Place the sharp end of the knife at the furthest end and holding the knife with both hands on either end of the long blade, scrape/drag towards you
Repeat until you have enough chocolate to sprinkle on top – this can be done in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. It just takes a little practice but so worth it! Okay some may consider this a finicky frill, I don’t.