Make ¾ cup of espresso using your preferred method - fresh or instant espresso. Mix in instant coffee powder to get an intense and strong coffee flavor. If using alcohol, mix in as well.
In a large mixing bowl, add heavy whipping cream and sugar, and whip using a hand mixer until soft peaks form. If using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment.
Using a small whisk, whip the mascarpone in the container, to incorporate some air in it and make it lighter. Add the mascarpone cheese and vanilla to the whipped cream, and whip until the mixture is smooth and fluffy and no lumps remain. Taste the cream mix at this point to check for sweetness and adjust accordingly.
Dip and flip each ladyfinger in the coffee mix for 3-4 seconds and layer it in the bottom of any 8" x 5" x 3" baking dish.
Assemble the Layers & Chill
Spread half the cream mixture evenly on top of the ladyfingers. Make sure to cover the corners as well. Use a spatula to even out the surface.
Add cocoa powder into a small thin sieve and using a spoon, tap it to dust the tiramisu generously with cocoa powder, covering the top.
Add another layer of coffee dipped ladyfingers, followed by the remaining cream mixture and smooth the top.
Dust another layer of cocoa powder, covering the top. For a clean presentation, wipe the excess cocoa powder around the edges using a damp kitchen towel. Cover the tiramisu with plastic food storage wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours to overnight.
How to Cut Tiramisu
Using a clean sharp knife, cut a desired portion into the tiramisu dish. Wipe your knife clean between cuts. Using a pie spoon, gently lift it out of the pan.
Use espresso, home brew or cold brew. Keep it traditional with instant or freshly brewed espresso. For an espresso-free option, use an equal amount of regular drip coffee or cold brew coffee instead.
Instant coffee powder is optional. This is only meat to intensify the coffee flavor. Omit it, if desired.
Use your preferred liqueur of choice. I love brandy for it's slightly sweet flavor, but dark rum or bourbon are great options. If you want to be truly authentic, amaretto or marsala wine can also be used. Feel free to skip it to make it alcohol-free.
Chill the beaters/whisks in the freezer while you gather the ingredients. Chilled beaters make a fluffier whipped cream.
Adjust the sweetness level to your liking. This results in a semi-sweet dessert as the bitter coffee and chocolate compliments the sweet cream. Whip the cream and mascarpone mix as instructed, then taste before assembling. Add more sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until your sweetness level is reached.
Make at least 6 hours ahead and up to overnight. Tiramisu tastes better the longer it sits, so you can make it the night before instead. An overnight rest in the fridge means softer coffee-soaked ladyfingers. I like to serve it within one day of making, but the tiramisu will keep, covered in the fridge, for up to 3 days.
Freeze for longer storage. Assemble as instructed, but omit the final dusting of cocoa powder. Double-wrap in plastic wrap, then cover with foil. Label, date and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, finish with cocoa powder and serve as desired.
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates. If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.