This Vietnamese Coffee Tiramisu Cake has everything you want in one cake-- robust Vietnamese coffee-flavored genoise sponge layered with creamy mascarpone custard and topped with a generous dusting of chocolate. This family favorite tiramisu recipe is my go-to for almost every birthday celebration.
For me, a birthday isn't really a birthday without a cake. My love language is making people cakes for their birthdays. I always ask my friends and family what their favorite cake or dessert is and about 9 times out of 10 I ALWAYS hear "tiramisu." I mean it makes sense. This dessert is so soft, creamy, luxurious, and bursting with rich and irresistible coffee and chocolate flavors. It is always served in fancy 5-star Italian restaurants and makes you feel expensive when you eat it. What's not to love?! So grab an apron and treat yourself and your loved ones to a fine dining luxury that you can make without breaking the bank! If you absolutely adore Tiramisu as much as I do, make sure to check out our popular Matcha Tiramisu.
Traditional Tiramisu v. Vietnamese Coffee Tiramisu Cake
Traditionally, Tiramisu is an Italian dessert made of savoiardi ladyfingers soaked in espresso coffee, arranged in layers, and filled with a cream made with mascarpone and eggs. It is the most famous Italian dessert.
In this recipe, I opted to not use savoiardi ladyfingers and decided to use a soft genoise sponge cake instead so that the cake will hold its structure. However, if you want to go down the more traditional route you can buy savoiardi ladyfingers at your local grocery store and sub out the cake layer for the ladyfingers! I also decided to use Vietnamese coffee instead of regular espresso coffee because I wanted a less intense coffee flavor from espresso without compromising the richness of the cake. Vietnamese coffee has a strong intensity but is less bitter and acidic than espresso.
Kitchen Tools For This Recipe
- 2 6-inch cake pans: I used Wilton's 6x2 inch cake pans. Or alternatively you can use 1 tall 6 inch cake pan. If you want to make an 8-inch cake simply double the recipe.
- Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer: this recipe requires an extensive amount of whisking to get the cake light and airy. I recommend using a stand mixer or a hand mixer.
- Heat Proof Bowls: You will need heat proof mixing bowls over a double boiler to warm the eggs without fully cooking them. I used my Duralex glass nesting mixing bowls for this.
- Kitchen Scale: if you want to never mess up on a recipe ever again, I highly recommend investing in a kitchen scale. A scale will ensure you will have the precise measurements unlike measuring cups which vary slightly by manufacturer.
- Vietnamese Coffee Phin filter: Vietnamese coffee is brewed using a phin filter. A phin filter consists of a round, perforated plate, a brewing chamber, a perforated insert, and a cap to keep the heat of the water inside of the phin. Using a phin takes a few minutes, as the coffee requires time to and drip slowly through the perforated plate into the cup below.
Ingredients for Genoise Sponge Cake
This Vietnamese coffee tiramisu cake uses a genoise sponge cake as its base. You can alternatively use the traditional savoiardi ladyfingers instead. However, the ladyfingers are not structurally strong enough to hold the cake in place and you will need to use a baking pan to hold the cake.
- Eggs: The eggs are the key ingredient for this cake. Since the cake has no chemical leaveners (baking powder/baking soda) the air in the eggs create that beautiful rise in the cake. Make sure your eggs are at room temperature for an even rise.
- Granulated Sugar: the sugar helps activate the eggs to reach its lightest and fluffiest potential.
- Cake Flour: the cake flour yields a softer crumb than all purpose flour. This is a personal choice you can always substitute with all-purpose flour by removing 2 tbsp of flour and adding 2 tbsp of cornstarch.
- Milk: the milk asists in the moisture of the crumb.
- Vegetable oil: the vegetable oil makes the cake moist and prevents it from drying
- Vanilla Extract: the vanilla extract adds a subtle vanilla flavoring to the sponge.
Ingredients for Tiramisu Layers
The tiramisu layers include a Vietnamese coffee syrup that is brushed onto the cake layers and a beautiful, rich, and creamy mascarpone layer that everyone loves.
Vietnamese Coffee Syrup
- Vietnamese Coffee: Vietnamese coffee has a more robust taste than regular coffee with little acidity because of the dark roast. I love using the Nguyen Company Vietnamese coffee she always produces quality coffee with a deep rich flavor.
- Kahlua: coffee liquor adds that extra umph to the cream and the coffee mixture. This is my favorite liquor to use in tiramisu because it is subtle enough where you won't be able to feel overpowered by the alcohol.
- Mascarpone: is a very thick, rich Italian cream that has a consistency like cream cheese. It has a super spreadable, silky consistency and is slightly sweet with a hint of acidity. Cream cheese has a firmer consistency than mascarpone. You could substitute cream cheese for mascarpone cheese but the taste and consistency will be different.
- Kahlua: adding a little kahlua to the mascarpone layer blends the coffee and liqueur flavor together evenly into the cake.
- Egg yolks: normally tiramisu is made using raw eggs but in this recipe the eggs are tempered by using a double boiler. The egg yolks will allow the mascarpone layer to set without using any gelatin or cornstarch.
- Granulated Sugar: the granulated sugar thickens the eggs and creates a light custard.
- Heavy whipping cream: the heavy whipping cream fluffs and lightens the mascarpone layer.
- Vanilla Extract: the vanilla extract adds a subtle vanilla flavoring to the mascarpone layer
How To Make This Recipe
This Vietnamese coffee tiramisu cake recipe may seem ULTRA complicated but it really is pretty simple as long as you read carefully and follow each step. All you need to do is 1) bake the genoise sponge, 2) make the Vietnamese coffee syrup, 3) make the mascarpone layer, and then assemble!
Genoise Sponge Cake
Prepare the oven to 350°F or 176°C and line the 6-inch cake pans.
Prepare the ingredients. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the milk, oil, and vanilla extract. Set aside. In a second mixing bowl, sift the cake flour and set it aside.
Heat the eggs to 104°F or 40°C. In a heat-proof large mixing bowl or your stand mixer bowl, add the eggs and sugar and mix together with a whisk. Place the bowl over hot boiling water and continue whisking by hand until the egg mixture reaches about 104°F or 40°C.
Beat the eggs until fluffy and pale. Whisk the eggs on your stand mixer or hand mixer on high until the eggs are fluffy and pale yellow. You will know when the eggs are whipped up enough when you lift up the whisk and draw a figure 8 and it holds its shape and does not sink inward.
Remove the air bubbles. Lower the mixer speed to low and continue whisking for about 5 more minutes to remove all the large air bubbles. The texture should be smooth and silky and the ribbons should hold its shape.
Add the cake flour. Using a spatula, sift in the flour ⅓ at a time and gently fold until the flour is incorporated.
Add the oil mixture. Once you do not see any more flour, add the oil mixture and continue mixing until thoroughly combined.
Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes. Divide the cake batter evenly into your cake pans. Gently tap the cake pans to your workspace to release any more air bubbles. Bake cakes for 20-25 minutes when the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool the cakes completely. If you want 4 cake layers slice your cake layers in half using a knife or cake slicer.
Vietnamese Coffee Mixture
- Make the Vietnamese coffee mixture. Place the phin filter plate and chamber on top of a mug. Add the ground coffee into the phin cup, drop the filter press on top of the coffee, pour in about 2 ounces of 195-200°F hot water and let the coffee brew for 45 seconds. Then pour the remaining water into the filter and cover with the lid until the coffee has brewed about 5 minutes.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the Vietnamese coffee and ½ cup of coffee liquor in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Mix the mascarpone with dark rum. Transfer the mascarpone to a large bowl then pour in ¼ cup of dark rum and whisk together until well combined.
- Whisk the eggs over a double boiler until pale and 170°F or 76°C. Using a whisk, mix together the egg yolks and sugar to a double boiler or heat proof glass bowl. Continue whisking over the heat until sugar has dissolved and the mixture is pale yellow in color and thickened a bit. The eggs should reach about 170°-175°F or 76°C-179°C.
- Mix the mascarpone with the eggs. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the mascarpone and whisk until combined.
- Whip the heavy cream into a whipped cream. Add the cold heavy cream and vanilla extract to a mixing bowl and mix on low for about 30 seconds then slowly increase speed to high. Beat until the whipped cream has stiffer peaks.
- Fold the mascarpone with the whipped cream. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture until combined, smooth and creamy.
- Brush the Vietnamese coffee mixture on top of the cake layers. Brush the Vietnamese coffee mixture across the surface of the cake until the top is saturated.
- Layer on the mascarpone mixture. Add a generous amount of the mascarpone mixture on top of the cake layer and use an offset spatula and to evenly smooth.
- Decorate the cake and dust with cocoa powder.
Tips for The Genoise
- Bring the temperature of the egg mixture to 104°F or 40°C this allows the air to be incorporated and the sugar to melt completely.
- Make sure to whisk the egg mixture until pale yellow/ivory. Take the time to test whether the mixture is whipped enough by placing a toothpick in the mixture. If it holds then it is ready.
- Tighten the bubbles in the batter. By whisking the mixture on low speed for at least 5 minutes AFTER it has reached peak fluffiness, it removes the unwanted large air bubbles in the mixture.
- Make sure to fold the flour until JUST combined. Over mixing will reduce in lower cake volume whereas under mixing will result in a dense cake bottom.
- Shock the cake before and after it comes of the oven. Shock the cake by dropping it onto your workspace from about 5-6 inches above your workspace. Do this once before you place the cake into the oven to remove any remaining large air bubbles. Repeat again right after you remove the cake from the oven to prevent your cake from sinking as it cools.
- Cool your cake completely before adding the mascarpone. Cooling the cakes will prevent the mascarpone custard from melting when you are layering the cake.
Tips for the Mascarpone Layer
- Substituting the alcohol. You can substitute the Kahlua for marsala, brandy, rum or some other dark liquor. You can also omit the alcohol entirely and add some vanilla and simple syrup to the coffee to soak the cake.
- Use fresh mascarpone cheese. The mascarpone will lose its creamy texture and begin to curdle when it reaches the end of its expiration date.
- The egg yolks will take a bit of time. The egg yolks are the foundation of the tiramisu recipe and will need to be thick and creamy before you remove the heat. Don't stop mixing over the double boiler! You want to prevent the eggs from over cooking and turning into scrambled eggs.
This Vietnamese Coffee Tiramisu Cake can be made 2-3 days in advance. It is best served the day after so that the coffee flavors have time to absorb into the cream. You can store this cake in a cake box in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Alternatively, you can store the cake in the freezer for up to 1 month.