Pumpkin Caramel Tiramisu

Tiramisu is Italian for “Hey you, pick me up!”  Traditionally it’s a layered dessert of tiny cakes called ladyfingers soaked in espresso, and mascarpone (an Italian cream cheese pronounced “MOSS-car-PONE-eh” and NO OTHER WAY).  You know me, and I find a way to put pumpkin in everything, so this is my VERY special version of tiramisu.  I’m not sure what Joe Bastianich would think of it, but I like to think that, if no cameras were on him, he’d eat a whole tray.


4 egg whites, at room temp

1/2 cup sugar

Beat the egg whites and sugar at high speed until they begin to turn glossy white and thick…slow mixer speed and continue to beat until the whites reach stiff peaks.  Then manually and gently fold in:

2 egg yolks, beaten

Into the whites, sift:

3/4 cup flour

It’s important to sift the flour when you add it so that it’s aerated.  Then add:

pinch salt

2 egg yolks, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

Gently fold it all together until you don’t see any more streaks of egg white.  Scoop the batter gently into a large ziploc bag, and cut off the corner of it so that you have a 3/8″ opening.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or wax paper that has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray, and dusted lightly with flour.  Gently pipe the batter out into finger-shaped cakes, leaving some space between each cake for expansion.  Once the batter is piped out, take:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Dust the sugar generously onto the tops of the ladyfingers using a sieve or strainer.  Immediately place the ladyfingers onto the middle rack of a preheated 400F oven and bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and immediately but gently pull the parchment sheet from the hot baking pan and onto a cooling rack, so that the ladyfingers don’t continue cooking from the residual heat of the pan.  Let them cool fully, at least 20 minutes, before gently peeling them off the parchment.


Preheat a small pan over medium heat.  In a small bowl, combine:

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice

When the pan is hot, add the spices and toss them constantly to toast them and make their aroma come out.  After 30 seconds (or sooner if the smell begins to change to a deeper, more acrid smell) pour the spices back into the bowl so they don’t burn.  In a large bowl, combine:

2 cups pumpkin puree (homemade, or use 1 can of pumpkin)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

Add the spices to the bowl and beat until smooth.


In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine:

16 ounces of mascarpone cheese (if you can’t find it, or it’s too expensive, use 16 ounces of cream cheese whipped with 1/4 cup heavy cream)

1/2 cup espresso

1/4 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons Mexican vanilla (see note below, or use Frangelico, Amaretto, or your favorite liqueur)

1/2 cup heavy cream

Beat slowly to bring it together, then beat on high until light and fluffy.  You may wish to add additional sugar, but I don’t like my tiramisu too sweet.


In a shallow skillet, combine:

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pinch salt (omit if using salted butter)

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)

1/2 cup pure maple syrup (don’t use fake pancake syrup, omit if you don’t have it)

1/4 cup heavy cream

Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring gently but constantly, for about 8 minutes until the mixture is syrupy.  Remove from the heat.  This caramel should be poured over the ladyfingers within 10 minutes or it will get too thick to pour, so move quickly to the next step:


Take a 9×13 pan and lightly butter it.  Arrange a layer of ladyfingers on the bottom of the pan.  You may have to cut ladyfingers to fit around the edges…you want a fairly uniform layer.  Pour the maple caramel evenly over the ladyfingers and allow them to sit for 10 minutes to absorb the caramel, occasionally flipping them over to ensure they get soaked on all sides.  Gently spread the pumpkin mousse on top of the caramel-coated ladyfingers.

In a bowl, combine:

1/2 cup espresso

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup Mexican vanilla (Mexican vanilla is becoming more popular and you can find it in most grocery stores, but if you have trouble, head to a Mexican or Latin American market and you’ll find it there.  It’s a liqueur that is made with both real vanilla and vanillin (an artificial flavoring), and costs about $8 for a liter.  I use natural vanilla extract in my recipes, as well, but I love Mexican vanilla because of its cost, superior flavor, and the fact that I can use it LIBERALLY without having to take out a second mortgage.  If you can’t find it, just add half a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the espresso.)

Spread another layer of ladyfingers on top of the pumpkin mousse.  Then gently drizzle the espresso mixture onto the ladyfingers.  You don’t want them to get so saturated they become mush.  So exercise restraint.  It’s good to still see a few spots of un-saturated ladyfinger here and there.

Top with the mascarpone mixture, then optionally dust cocoa powder on top.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours.  Remove from the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour before serving…tiramisu should never be served cold.

3 responses to “Pumpkin Caramel Tiramisu