How to make tiramisu

Mike Colombo
Mike Colombo

Mike Colombo and wife Harlene Hayne came to Dunedin in 1992 to positions in the psychology department at the University of Otago.

It was difficult to find two jobs in the same department, and they thought they'd stay for three years. Now, 20 years later, they love Dunedin and the lifestyle, relishing the opportunities to get outdoors.

Prof Colombo's parents were Italian. He grew up in the United States, but lived in Italy for a while. He does most of the cooking at home and loves making things that are not often seen in restaurants.

Tiramisu is a popular Italian dessert. There are probably as many recipes for tiramisu as people who make it, but Prof Colombo's version is very quick and delicious, making it ideal for Christmas or a special occasion.


Serves 4-6

Mike's tiramisu. Photos by Gregor Richardson.
Mike's tiramisu. Photos by Gregor Richardson.


1 cup strong black coffee (Mike makes espresso)
½ cup brown sugar (or to taste)
2-3 Tbsp liqueur such as brandy, Frangelico or Kahlua (optional)
200g mascarpone
1-2 Tbsp brown sugar (second amount)
1 packet (about 12-14) sponge finger biscuits
chocolate for grating


Mix the sugar with the coffee, then add the liqueur. The liquid should be cool enough so you can dip your fingers in it.

Mix the mascarpone and second measure of brown sugar together.

Dip half the sponge fingers briefly in the coffee. They will disintegrate if left too long. Lay them on a serving dish, then spread with half the mascarpone mix.

Repeat with another layer of coffee-soaked sponge fingers and the rest of the mascarpone.

Top with grated chocolate.



  • If you use a beater to mix the mascarpone and sugar, it will develop a velvety texture, but it is fine just stirred together well so the sugar dissolves.
  • Mascarpone, an Italian cream cheese, can be found in most supermarkets, but you can substitute cream cheese. This can be a bit thicker, so you might need to blend it so it's spreadable.
  • This dessert can be served almost immediately, or it can be left in the fridge for several hours.

Thanks to Afife Harris and Centre City New World.

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