What You Should Know About Tiramisu, Italy's Most Popular Dessert

When you know a list of the 10 most popular desserts in the world exists, and you haven't eaten every dessert on that list, the least you can do is prepare yourself with as many facts as possible about these 10 holy foods — one of which happens to come from Italy. We're here today to give you the low-down on one of these delicacies: the one, the only, Italian tiramisu. (In first place, according to Taste Atlas – whose mission, explains Food & Wine, is to map out and document local food favorites across the globe — is mochi. In case you were wondering. Yep!)

Back to tiramisu: This delicate, fluffy manna from the Italian grandma gods is somewhere between a cake and a mousse, and arguably better than either. It's made from ladyfingers — spongy, cake-like vanilla cookies that have been soaked in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of mascarpone, eggs, cream and sugar, and then topped with chocolate powder or shavings (via Allrecipes). Tiramisu is served after being chilled, and some versions use rum or liqueur for soaking, too, or incorporate one part of the egg over another, but the result is magnificent any which way.

The recent origins of tiramisu

Tiramisu, which literally means "pick me up," is a relatively recent addition to the dessert canon, reports Taste Atlas. Nevertheless, according to Eater, the origins of tiramisu are still under dispute. It became popular in the US after the restaurant Felida opened in the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 1981, but according to Felida's owner, one of her friends' mentors was the true inventor of the delicacy. At almost the same time in the early 1960s, the mentor's friend started serving a version at their restaurant, and the credit usually goes to this restaurant, Le Beccherie, which called the dessert "tiramisu."

Since then, tiramisu has cemented a permanent place in dessert history. Taste Atlas says the best places to get it are in Italy (go figure), but you can definitely create an airy, indulgent version yourself with some good store-bought cookies (or from scratch!), some liqueur, and good quality cocoa powder. Serious Eats' version opts for whole eggs rather than just yolks and swaps in chocolate liqueur and an amaro rather than marsala for the perfect mellow kick of alcohol. Sounds molto bene, no?