The history of tiramisù

Tiramisù: the perfect pick-me-up

Gelato is good, but tiramisù is even better – one of the most delicious and decadent of Italian desserts. The recent history of tiramisù in Italy suggests that it’s becoming increasingly popular and well-known, not just among Italians but also among the tourists who flock to places such as Pompi – Rome’s “kingdom of tiramisu”.

The name of the dessert translates as “pick me up” or “cheer me up”, and the traditional ingredients are ladyfinger biscuits, coffee, sugar, egg yolks, marscapone cheese and cocoa powder. But before you indulge in a tiramisu – whether you want to make it at home or savour some of the best tiramisu in Rome– read on to find out the story of its origins.

A quick history of tiramisù

We can’t be sure of exactly when and where the tiramisù was invented, but its origins lie in the north of Italy, in Veneto,history of tiramisu Friuli-Venezia Giulia or Piedmont. One story can be found in Giuseppe Maffioli’s cookbook Il ghiottone Veneto (The Venetian Glutton), published in 1968. According to Maffioli, at the end of a wedding banquet, a group of friends gave the groom a present – a bottle of the sweet wine zabajon, supposed to guarantee “a successful and prolonged honeymoon”. Very cold whipped cream was added to the wine, which was served with thin Venetian biscuits known as baicoli. This combination of ingredients, along with the link between the energetic properties of zabajon/zabaglione and the name of tiramisù, suggest that this could have been the birth of the dessert.

Other food experts investigating the history of tiramisù are convinced that it is a relatively recent concoction, invented in Treviso in the Veneto region. A restaurant named Le Beccherie claims to have invented the dessert in the 1970s, and the former owners apparently regret not having patented their creation to avoid the confusion. In an interview with the writer Pietro Mascioni, former owner Alba Campeol recalls the moment it was invented:

“When my son was born, I was very weak, and my mother-in-law, to help me recuperate some energy, gave me zabaglione. You know, a simple one like the kind we make in Treviso, egg-yolk and sugar beaten together, with a bit of mascarpone cheese… That time, my mother-in-law also added a bit of coffee to it.Mangia,’ she told me, ‘It will lift you up.”

The true tiramisù?

history of tiramisu
Alba Campeol, supposedly the inventor of Tiramisù

According to Alba Campeol, a true tiramisu should not have alcohol, “because we give it to children and elderly people for energy”. But the best-known version of tiramisu – the version that conquered the world – is alcoholic. Most dessert lovers would agree that it’s the generous dose of Marsala that gives tiramisu its touch of decadence and sophistication.

A Baltimore baker, Carminantonio Iannaccone, claims to be the true inventor of the tiramisu – his version, described as “a sophisticated and boozy rendition” was cooked up in a restaurant in Treviso in 1969. Now running a bakery in Baltimore, Iannaccone says that his tiramisu is the original – claims regarded as “preposterous” by the owners of Le Beccherie.

So, what’s the true history of tiramisu? That depends on who you believe, and whether you prefer your tiramisu alcohol-free or soaked in Marsala. But whichever you prefer, there’s no doubting the energizing qualities of the dessert – the perfect pick-me-up when you’re craving something sweet. 

Read more: True tiramisu Baltimore baker has claims on dessert(Daily Camera)