Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com

Fresh Berry Tiramisu

Servings: Makes 1 (9-inch) cake or 16 (2-inch) squares
No other dessert combines such apparent opposites as light-textured sponge cake with the rich creaminess of mascarpone cheese as tiramisu. Literally translated as “pick me up”, the traditional flavors of this dessert are coffee and chocolate. With the advent of summer, we decided to try a version that uses a touch of citrus for zing, and plenty of cheerful fresh berries to put a smile on our faces. We’ve put together a sponge cake instead of the traditional ladyfingers, but if you want to save some time, store-bought ladyfingers can stand in.

Sponge cake
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
6 large eggs
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Citrus Syrup
Zest of 2 lemons, peeled in strips with a peeler
Juice of 2 lemons (1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice)
2 whole cloves
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (6 ounces) water
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) Grand Marnier or orange juice

1 pound mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 cup (8 ounces) whipping cream
1/2 cup (2 ounces) confectioners' sugar
2 quarts berries: raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or any combination you like

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and lightly grease, or line with parchment, a 10 x18-inch half-sheet pan or two 9-inch square pans. Using two 9-inch squares will give you slightly thicker cake layers and one more pan to wash; using a half sheet pan has some trim waste, but there’s less dishwashing involved.

To Make the Cake:
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Combine the eggs, sugar and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and lemon-colored, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle one third of the dry ingredients over the egg mixture, and fold them in with a whisk, taking care not to deflate the batter. Repeat twice more with the remaining dry ingredients, then pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). If you’re using two 9-inch square pans, divide the batter evenly between them. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly touched with a finger. Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the edge of the pan while still warm. Place the cake on a rack to cool completely before taking it out of the pan.

To Make the Syrup:
Combine all the syrup ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Once the mixture is clear, remove the syrup from the heat, strain it, and allow it to cool to room temperature.

To Make the Filling:
Place the mascarpone in a mixing bowl, and stir in the orange zest. Add the whipping cream a third at a time, stirring between additions until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the confectioners' sugar.

To Assemble:
Flip the cooled cake out of its baking pan or pans onto a piece of parchment paper. If you’ve baked on parchment, peel the parchment off the back. Pull the paper straight back, keeping it parallel to the surface of the cake; this will discourage any bits of cake from coming off with the paper. Slice the cake in half down the middle, to make two roughly 9 by 13-inch rectangles. Trim the rectangles to make 9-inch squares, and set aside the excess to use for another purpose. If you’ve used two 9-inch square pans, flip the cooled cakes out of their pans and peel the parchment off the bottoms. Place one of the 9-inch squares in the bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch square pan. Using a pastry brush, generously soak the cake with 1/2 cup of citrus syrup. You’ll need to dab the syrup on, let it soak in for a few minutes, then repeat the process. After the cake has been soaked, place a single layer of berries over the cake. Spread half the mascarpone filling over the berries, then place the second square of cake on top. Soak this layer of cake with syrup as you did the first. Spread the remaining filling over the cake layer, then place the rest of the berries in an attractive design on the top. Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour before serving.

Makes one 9-inch cake or 16 (2-inch) squares.

Date: April 28, 2004