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Everyone has a favorite dessert; mine happens to be tiramisu. AND, although I’ve made dozens of low carb, sugar-free desserts over the years, I have a few favorites. This is my ultimate decadent dessert since the first time I tried it.

Unfortunately, many American restaurants serve a version that is a wet soggy over-sweetened mess with little to no flavor. I know many people that go their entire lives not realizing that a “real” tiramisu has layers of slightly crunchy cookies or a moist dense cake drenched in a rich mascarpone cream with a strong hit of espresso and, depending on the chef, some Marsala wine, rum, liquor extract or other alcohol.

My goal in our test kitchen at the Anti-Inflammatory Cooking Institute, was to take the classic dessert that is usually tasteless and just dusted lightly with cocoa powder and give it a makeover…SO…I added cocoa to the mascarpone and bourbon with the espresso—the result is a wonderfully light and tender gluten-free dessert that is utterly irresistible.

I’ve served this for all occasions, including Easter and Passover, and my guests raved about it and still do every time we’re together or the subject arises in conversations.

Spoiler Alert: This dessert can be habit-forming!

What is Tiramisu?
It’s a layered dessert made with lady fingers or a dense moist pound cake, espresso, and spiked mascarpone cheese.

Tiramisu means “pick me up” in Italian and the addition of espresso will certainly do that. Whether you pronounce it tihruh-mih-SOO in true Italian style or tih-ruh-mee-soo like I do, it’s a delicious and memorable way to end a meal...or serve on its own with your favorite coffee or tea!

Some Historical Perspective
Traditional Italian cuisine evolved from their amazingly talented home cooks, honed by years at the stove watching as older generations handed down treasured recipes. That said, the modern version of Tiramisu was created by pastry chefs in the town of Treviso, above Venice in the Veneto region of Italy as recently as the 1960s or 70s. There is some debate about exactly who was the first to think of putting the combination of ingredients together, but we are certainly grateful they did!

Mascarpone on its own is luscious and rich, but I wanted something lighter—a combination of egg whites and whipped cream added to the mascarpone gives you a dessert that you can indulge in even after a heavy meal. I also love that you can assemble it up to a day in advance, giving you more freedom to focus on the rest of the menu on the day of your presentation.

Use gluten-free ladyfingers easily found in better health stores and online; just insure they don’t include potato starch if you’re avoiding inflammation-causing nightshades. OR, you can use the recipe for my delicious moist pound cake posted previously in TotalHealth, see link below.

If you have trouble with dark alcohols, it is likely the caramel coloring added after distillation to make them more attractive. For those with strong reactions, use a good rum or bourbon extract.

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream – well-chilled
  • 2 large eggs (use pasteurized eggs to avoid issues with consuming raw eggs), separated
  • 1/4 cup + 2 TB granulated natural sugar sweetener, divided (I used Lakanto™ original)
  • 1 cup (8 oz) mascarpone cheese – room temperature
  • 3 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 TB bourbon, Marsala wine, rum, coffee liqueur, espresso, or heavy cream (my favorite is rum)
  • Pinch cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
  • 1 (5 to 7 oz) package of crunchy ladyfinger cookies (use gluten-free) OR my pound cake recipe cut into long strips

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder—sifted
Grated semisweet chocolate, optional

Preparing the Cream Layers:

  • In a well-chilled bowl, using the whisk attachment of your standing mixer, whip the cream until you reach firm peaks. Set aside. Wash the whisk attachment in hot soapy water and dry.
  • In another bowl, using the paddle attachment of your standing mixer, beat the egg yolks with ¼ cup of the natural sugar substitute until light and fluffy and the sweetener has dissolved. Pinch a little of the mixture between your fingers to see if you can still feel the granules. If you can, keep beating.
  • Add the mascarpone, 3 TB of cocoa powder, and bourbon or choice of liqueur. Beat until light and smooth.
  • Using a large flexible spatula, fold half of the whipped cream into the beaten egg yolk mixture, lightening it. Add remaining whipped cream and fold-in until completely integrated and no streaks remain. Set aside.
  • In a clean bowl, using the whisk attachment of your standing mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high until foamy and peaks are just starting to develop. Add the pinch of cream of tartar, pinch of salt, and remaining 2 TB of granulated sugar substitute. Continue beating on high speed until you reach firm peaks—whites will stand up when the beaters are lifted and the tips of the peaks will bend over.
  • Using a flexible spatula, fold half of the beaten egg whites into the mascarpone-cream mixture until combined but a few streaks still remain. Fold in remaining egg whites and keep folding until fully incorporated and there are no streaks remaining.

Assembling the Tiramisu:

  • Lightly butter a 9-inch square glass, ceramic baking dish or individual ramekins. Set aside.
  • Pour the espresso into a shallow bowl. Dip half of the cookies into the espresso on both sides and arrange in prepared baking dish, covering the bottom.
  • Spread half of the mascarpone-cream mixture over the top, smoothing into an even layer with an offset spatula.
  • Dip the remaining cookies in the espresso on both sides and arrange them over the top of the mascarpone-cream mixture. Spread the remaining cream over the top and smooth.
  • Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Just before serving remove and discard the plastic wrap.
  • Sift the remaining ¼ cup of cocoa powder evenly over the top of the dish. Add a sprinkling of grated chocolate if desired. Take the extra few seconds to sift the amount of cocoa powder called for in the recipe with a sifter or a fine mesh strainer. You can sift it onto a piece of wax or parchment paper before adding it to the other ingredients or you can even sift it right into the bowl and/or on top of the dessert.
  • Cut into squares and serve immediately. Store any leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Dr. Gloria’s Kitchen Notes:
The Tiramisu can be held in the refrigerator, covered, up to 2 days ahead. It is best when it has been chilled overnight.

When I can’t find store-bought gluten-free ladyfingers I use my own recipe for my gluten-free pound cake, previously featured in TotalHealth, CLICK Coconut Flour Bread French Toast Recipes for the recipe.

Gloria Gilbere, DAHom, PhD

Dr. Gloria Gilbère (CDP, DA Hom, ND, PhD, DSC, EcoErgonomist, Wholistic Rejuvenist, Certified HTMA Practitioner) is Founder/CEO of the Institute for Wholistic Rejuvenation – after 22 years of owning/operating two health clinics in Idaho she relocated her Health Sciences/Research/Cooking Institute division to Cotacachi, Ecuador, S.A.

Her worldwide consulting via phone and Skype continues as does the Institute for Wholistic Rejuvenation in Idaho. Visit her website at or call (888.352.8175) to schedule a consultation or register for her post-graduate courses.

NEWS FLASH: Ready to learn more about simple recipes that can give you what I call the Anti-Inflammation Advantage? Download your free 40+ page cookbook The Anti-Inflammation Recipe Sampler at