Dicembre Dolce: Pandoro Tiramisu

pandoro tiramisu

I’ve always felt that the problem with tiramisu is that it contains lady fingers, those weightless batons of dried sponge cake that hold little flavor and even less appeal. Is it any wonder that you have to submerge them in a sea of pastry cream and mascarpone to make them palatable? Savoiardi, the Italian version of lady fingers, are larger and softer in texture and certainly a step up as the sponge for this indulgent spoon dessert.

sliced pandoro

But better still is Pandoro, the tall, buttery, star-shaped cake that appears like magic in the weeks before Christmas and *poof* vanishes after January 6. If you’ve followed this blog for awhile, you know I am always looking for ways to showcase Pandoro during the holidays, like this and this.

mascarpone cream

Pandoro’s airy texture is perfect for soaking up the liquor-spiked espresso and  the pastry cream-mascarpone mixture in tiramisu. It used to be a challenge to find Pandoro outside of Italian specialty stores or gourmet shops, but every year I see more and more festive displays of the pretty, tall boxes with their fancy labels, stacked one atop another in pyramids. Do yourself a favor: grab one and make this Pandoro tiramisu for Christmas or New Year’s Eve.

tiramisu assembly

Wishing you all a delicious holiday and a healthy and prosperous 2014. Let’s keep sharing our love of la cucina Italiana in the New Year. Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo!


Makes 12 or more servings

Pandoro Tiramisu

Tiramisu made with Pandoro is even better than the original lady finger version. Make this one day before you plan to serve it, to give the cake time to soften in the pastry cream-mascarpone mixture. The first time I made this I used a Pandoro that was studded with bits of bittersweet chocolate. I couldn't find the same kind this year so I just chopped up some good bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled it in the tiramisu.
(Copyright 2013 Domenica Cooks.)


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 pound mascarpone (two 8-ounce containers)
  • About 1/2 Pandoro cake
  • About 1/2 cup freshly brewed strong espresso
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or brandy
  • About 1/4 cup finely chopped or shaved bittersweet chocolate
  • Cocoa for dusting


Make the pastry cream: Place the milk in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Split open the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk. Toss in the pod and heat the milk just until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat, and remove and discard the vanilla bean.

Combine the egg yolks and 2/3 cup sugar in a bowl and whisk together until pale yellow. Whisk in the flour. Dribble a little of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking as you go to prevent the eggs from cooking. Continue to slowly whisk milk into the eggs until you have added about half the milk. Slowly pour this mixture back into the remaining hot milk, stirring as you pour. Return the pot to medium heat and cook, stirring continuously with a whisk or spatula, until it has thickened and is just about to boil. Immediately turn the heat to low and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring continuously to avoid scorching.

Remove the pastry cream from the heat and pour it into a bowl. Cover the top with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap right onto the surface of the cream. Let the pastry cream come to room temperature and then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Whip 1 cup heavy cream with 8 ounces mascarpone and 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff. Gently fold the whipped cream and mascarpone into the chilled pastry cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Assemble the tiramisu: Cut the Pandoro into 3/4-inch-thick slices (either lengthwise or crosswise). Arrange some of the slices in the bottom of a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish (I use a lasagne dish). Press the slices together so that they fit snugly in one layer. (You can tear the slices and fill gaps with small pieces of cake.)

Mix together the espresso and Grand Marnier. Using a pastry brush, brush half the espresso mixture over the Pandoro slices in the baking dish. Sprinkle half the chopped bittersweet chocolate on top. Spread half the pastry cream-mascarpone mixture evenly over the Pandoro slices. Arrange a second layer of Pandoro slices over the pastry cream mixture and brush with the remaining spiked espresso. Sprinkle the remaining chopped chocolate over the slices and spread the rest of the pastry cream mixture evenly over the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Whip the remaining 1 cup heavy cream, 8 ounces mascarpone and 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff. Spread the whipped cream-mascarpone mixture over the top of the tiramisu. Dust liberally with cocoa powder. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and preferably overnight. Serve chilled.

20 Responses to Dicembre Dolce: Pandoro Tiramisu

  1. jamielifesafeast December 22, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    I adore Tiramisu and I do beg to differ. We love it with ladyfingers. Now I am willing to try it with Pandoro (yes, oddly enough it is available in our supermarket here in Nantes) and will let you know what I think. But as I do consider Tiramisu one of the best desserts that exists, I imagine yours won’t be better or worse but simply another spectacular version of Tiramisu.

    Wishing you and yours a marvelously joyous and festive holiday season. Love and peace.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 22, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

      Knowing the baker that you are, I totally respect your view. And, in fact, I do like tiramisu with lady fingers. But I LOVE it with Pandoro. I’m not surprised Pandoro is available in Nante ~ it seems to be becoming more popular (with good reason) each year. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Let’s catch up soon on Skype. xo

      • Anne Keating January 8, 2017 at 7:50 am #

        Made the most beautiful tiramisu, didnt have Grand Marnier so used Frangelica, worked brilliantly. Thankyou.

        • Domenica Marchetti January 8, 2017 at 9:33 am #

          Hi Anne, I’m glad you enjoyed it and I’ll bet it was delicious with Frangelico. I’ll give it a try next year (all out of pandoro now!). Cheers, Domenica

  2. Adri December 22, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    I am with Jamie on the Ladyfingers. I do love them, but they have to be good. So much of what one can purchase in packages is pretty dreadful, so your Pandoro scheme is a stroke of brilliance. I have always been struck by how much desserts like this benefit from 18 to 24 hours of alone time, those hours in the fridge affording the ingredients time to soak, meld and make merry. In our home the only hard part of making Tiramisu is getting Bart to leave it “home alone” in the fridge overnight.

    This really is one sumptuous version! Mascarpone and heavy cream whipped together make an extraordinarily rich and remarkably stable mixture, don’t you think? When I got to the step where you added the mixture to your egg-rich pastry cream I knew for certain this was going to be wonderful. I have always been a fan of Diplomat Cream, but the addition of the Mascarpone leaves that classic cream in the dust. I can just imagine that silky richness layered with soaked Pandoro. And the pure cream and Mascarpone on top provides a bit of sweet lightness to contrast to the egg-rich filling. This Tiramisu would be a spectacular end to any holiday feast. Now, of course, I am thinking of adding a little nutmeg to the pastry cream and substituting Punch Abruzzo for the Gran Marnier. You know me. I just can’t help myself….

    Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas to you and yours, and thank you for a year of kitchen camaraderie and friendship.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Adri, I like the idea of adding nutmeg to the pastry cream. I’ll try that next time. I did make this once with Punch instead of Grand Marnier, but I felt that the Punch clashed a little with the espresso so I went back to the Grand Marnier. I don’t know ~ give it a try, I say.

      Buone feste, e grazie a te per l’amicizia e per la conversazione. Un abbraccio 🙂

  3. Rosa Mayland December 22, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    That is such a great idea! I’m sure it tastes heavenly.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!



    • Domenica Marchetti December 22, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      Rosa ~ thanks for stopping by. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, too. xo

  4. elisa December 22, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    What a great idea, I love pandoro and tiramisu’, it is a wonderful combination for a wonderful Xmas day. Grazie Domenica e di nuovo Buon Natale!!!!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 22, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

      Buon Natale anche a te Elisa. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments, which always add to the conversation. I look forward to more in 2014. 🙂

  5. ciaochowlinda December 23, 2013 at 12:58 am #

    Domenica – I make tiramisu only about once a year using those savoiardi and I do love it with those. But I’m going out to get a pandoro tomorrow and will try this version, based on your recommendation. I know I’ll love it. I just also bought a bottle of Solerno (blood orange liqueur) based on Adri’s recommendation and it’s just great. I’ll substitute that for the Grand Marnier – my old standby. Buone feste.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 23, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      Solerno is new to me, Linda. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’ll bet it would be great in this tiramisu. Buone feste anche a te, cars. xo

  6. Laney (Ortensia Blu) December 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    So…..use only 1/2 the Pandoro cake…this means you get to eat the other 1/2 while you’re making the Tiramisu, right? Buon Natale:)

    • Domenica Marchetti December 25, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

      You got that right, Laney. Love pandoro in the morning with my coffee. Buon Natale and thanks for reading!

  7. Chiara December 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    Sono passata per augurarti un felice Natale Domenica, un po’ di Tiramisù lo mangio molto volentieri !un abbraccio

    • Domenica Marchetti December 25, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

      Cara Chiara, ti ringrazio, e ti auguro un buon Natale ed un felice anno nuovo. Un abbraccio 🙂

  8. Frank Fariello December 27, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    I actually don’t mind ladyfingers, but they are really hard to find around me, at least as hard as finding pandoro! The idea of pandoro (or spongecake?) is appealing—lends an even softer texture to the tiramisù I imagine. And I have to agree, more taste as well.

  9. helenatvine January 2, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Quick note to say that I enjoyed making this. Using up a pandoro that I otherwise would have eaten every day for a week, made me happy. I served it on January 1st to 7 guests who went nuts over it. The gluten intolerant fellow was delighted with his little bowl of cream(s) atop a tablespoon of coffee and GM. This will be a holiday staple from now on. Much obliged.


  1. Fav Reads On Italy This Week: Dec 27 - BrowsingItaly - December 27, 2013

    […] Dicembre Dolce: Pandoro Tiramisu by Domenica Cooks – This is taking tiramisu to another level. I love pandoro (yes, more so than panettone) and during the holidays, we always have an abundance of pandoro in the house. I will be trying out this recipe! […]

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