The Origin of Tiramisu

Tiramisu is one of the most popular Italian desserts. But just where did this delicious confection come from? There are many different possibilities if you go investigating Italian cookbooks and history.

Giuseppe Maffioli


One of the first mentions of anything similar to tiramisu comes from the famous epicure Giuseppe Maffioli. In his book published in 1968, The Venetian Glutton (known in Italian as Il Ghiottone Veneto), he talks about Zabaglione custard. This custard was prepared with sweet wine from Cyprus, and earned its name from Zabaja. It was first made in the Illiria region, which was once a Venetian territory.

In his book Maffioli discusses a wedding. At the end of the ceremonies, the friends of the groom, still single themselves; give the newlyweds a large bottle of zabajon. The purpose of the gift was so that the two of them would enjoy their honeymoon that much more. According to the book, sometimes whipped cream was added and the custard was severed very cold. Also included were baicoli, a popular thin cookie that also originated in Venice. If you consider the tiramisu that is served today, these ingredients are very similar, hinting at its origins. Tiramisu means "pull me up" which is an apt description of the properties of Zabaglione custard.

Giovanni Capnist

One of the oldest recipes for tiramisu can be found in the book written by Giovanni Capnist, The Desserts of Veneto (known as I Dolci del Veneto in Italian). It was originally published in 1983 and includes one of the classic tiramisu recipes. It notes that the recipe comes from the town of Treviso and was started in restaurants instead of being passed from one family to another like other recipes.


This means that looking at the town of Treviso will give you a better idea of where tiramisu was invented. Fernando and Tina Raris wrote a book devoted to the cuisine of the town, known as "La Marca Gastronomica." According to the book, a restaurant known as Le Beccherie was responsible for the invention of tiramisu. The dessert became extremely popular, and soon Italian restaurants around the world started to copy the recipe and the name. If you stop at Le Beccherie today you can still enjoy the classical tiramisu recipe. It features ladyfingers soaked in strong espresso coffee accompanied by mascarpone and zabaglione cream and topped in bitter cocoa powder.

Tiramisu variations

Today's tiramisu comes in numerous variations. While the original is still one of the most popular, many people have come up with different variations. There are plenty of lower carb and lower fat versions. Versions that swap out the lady fingers for sponge cake or even pound cake, and other versions that include almonds, chocolate, and other sweets. And then there are variations that seem to have nothing to do with the original recipe, such as tiramisus that include fruit, such as blueberries, raspberries, or even lemon. There are even some versions out there that will substitute the coffee or leave it out entirely if you do not enjoy the taste of espresso.

The Origin of Tiramisu

Anna Fiori writes Italian food related articles for the Good British Food website at