Tiramisu is a gorgeous decadent Italian dessert. I am not gonna lie – this raw tiramisu isn’t the easiest of desserts you can whip up, but it’s so worth it. With almond-coffee lady-fingers, rich cashew cream layered in between, and a light dusting of cacao, this vegan tiramisu will impress everyone.
I have always loved the aroma of freshly brewed coffee – rich, full, and luxuriant. Coffee smells like chocolate tastes. Unfortunately for me the taste of coffee has none of the depth, the subtleties, or the scope that the smell has. I only taste one flavor. Bitter.
It’s not that I’ve only tried ‘cheap’ coffee. I’ve had really good coffee. I’ve had light roast, medium roast, dark roast. Fine ground, coarse ground. I’ve had instant coffee, coffee machine coffee, k-cup coffee, percolator coffee, espresso, mocha, latte, cappuccino … you name it. Until recently, I also avoided coffee-flavored anything because I always thought that coffee-flavored desserts would taste, well, like coffee. Bitter.
That was before I had a bite of raw tiramisu at our local raw food restaurant and got hooked. The coffee flavor was rich without being overwhelming. Its bitter edge elevated the tiramisu from one-dimensional sweetness to refined sophistication. The delicate layer of sweet vanilla cream contrasted with the dark, robust presence of espresso and sharpness of cacao powder… So good!
Tips for Making Raw Tiramisu
There are so many ways you can add coffee to desserts.
- Whole beans pack the most flavor since coffee loses its flavor and aroma exponentially after being ground. For the most intense coffee flavor, I recommend roasting the coffee beans in the oven first (to encourage their flavorful oils to emerge) and then grind them in a coffee grinder right before use.
- Instant coffee and instant espresso add flavor quickly. Since I don’t drink coffee, I always keep a jar of this instant espresso powder in the fridge for making coffee-infused desserts, like this raw tiramisu.
- Brewed coffee works best when you don’t want an overpowering coffee flavor (because brewed coffee as the only coffee flavoring in a recipe doesn’t pack enough coffee flavor). To get the most flavor out of brewed coffee, I recommend using espresso because it has a strong, dark flavor.
The great thing about coffee is that it pairs well with many dessert flavors. Coffee and cacao, for instance, is a very common pairing. In fact, coffee-chocolate combination has its own name – mocha. Cinnamon is also delicious with coffee; cappuccino often comes sprinkled with it. I also like to pair coffee and caramel-y Medjool dates because they’re both strong flavors that play well off each other.
Besides these traditional coffee combinations, a few others stand out. Rich nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, almonds, or cashews round out the sharply intense flavor of coffee. The coffee flavor is less pronounced, but the addition of nuts creates a new and delicious flavor altogether. Adding vanilla to coffee desserts produces a similar result.
Just like classic tiramisu, this raw tiramisu is made of a few layers – coffee-flavored crust, vanilla-infused cream, ladyfingers with hints of both chocolate and coffee, and a light dusting of cacao.
Crust & Ladyfingers
All you need for the crust and the ladyfingers is a food processor and a few pulses. The most important thing is to process the nuts until they are just broken down and incorporated with the dates. If you over-process the nuts, they will release their natural oils, making the crust and ladyfingers oily and too hard to work with. At the same time, the nut-date mixture does have to hold together when you press it in between your fingers.
Since the original shape of tiramisu is round, I like to use a 6″/15 cm springform pan to shape both the crust and the ladyfingers. However, feel free to shape the ladyfinger mixture into whatever shape you like. You can even get a baking mold for ladyfingers.
What’s more important than the shape is the texture. I like to process the ladyfinger layer just a tad bit longer than the crust. This results in a slightly crumbly crust and sponge-like ladyfingers. Classic ladyfingers can be either soft and cakey or dry and crispy, but they always have a sponge-like texture.
The key to a smooth cream is to soak the cashews for at least 8 hours. Re-hydrated cashews blend into a beautiful smooth, cheesecake-like consistency. I’ve tried blending unsoaked nuts into creams and never achieved a completely smooth consistency (not even with my Vitamix!). If you don’t have a high-speed blender, you can whip up the cream in a food processor. However, a high-speed blender makes the cream much smoother.
To even out the layers, use a spatula and tap the springform gently on the counter. Tapping the springform not only evens the layers out, but it also helps to get rid of any air bubbles that might have formed when blending the ingredients.
Finally, I would recommend having the crust and the ladyfingers ready before making the cream. Just like fruit can turn darker when exposed to light and air, so can this cream. So, I always make the cream layer last and dust it lightly with cacao powder right after I pour it into the springform pan.
*I made several versions of raw tiramisu and took photos of all of them. Unfortunately, my husband accidentally formatted my SD card before transferring my last set of tiramisu photos (which happened to be the photos of this very recipe). So, I included tiramisu photos that are very similar to the ones I lost. The only thing that is different in these photos is the ladyfinger layer.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Food Processor (Breville Sous Chef) | 2. Blender (Vitamix Pro 750) | 3. Spring-Loaded Pan (6 Inches. Wilton, Coated Steel) | 4. Measuring Cup (4 Cups, Pyrex, Glass) | 5. Mesh Strainers (Set of 3, Cuisinart, Stainless Steel) | 8. Offset Spatula (6-Inch, ECYC, Stainless Steel) | 7. Measuring Cups (Set of 6, Bellemain, Stainless Steel) | 8. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel)
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Tiramisu is a gorgeous decadent Italian dessert. I am not gonna lie - this raw tiramisu isn't the easiest of desserts you can whip up, but it's so worth it. With almond-coffee lady-fingers, rich cashew cream layered in between, and a light dusting of cacao, this vegan tiramisu will impress everyone.
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 cup Medjool dates , pitted
- 3/4 tsp. instant espresso powder
- pinch sea salt
- 2 cups cashews , soaked*
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1/4 cup coconut oil , melted
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- pinch sea salt
- 1 cup almond flour , finely ground
- 1 cup Medjool dates , pitted
- 1 Tbsp. cacao powder
- 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
- pinch sea salt
- cacao powder (for dusting)
Add all the crust ingredients into the food processor and pulse until the crust begins to stick together when you pinch it in between your fingers. Be careful not to over-process the walnuts, so they don't start releasing their natural oils.
Scoop the crust into a greased 6" (15 cm) springform pan and press it down into an even layer with your fingers. You can also use the bottom of a glass to really pack the crust down. Cover the crust while you’re working on the next layer.
Add all the ingredients for the ladyfinger layer into the food processor and pulse until the ladyfinger mixture begins to stick together when you pinch it in between your fingers.
Shape the ladyfinger mixture into a 6" circle that fits on top of the crust (or any other shape you like). I have a spare 6" springform pan, so I use it as a guide for the ladyfingers.
Place the ladyfinger layer into a refrigerator (or the freezer) for a few minutes, so it firms up and is easier to cut.
Blend all the ingredients for the vanilla cream until smooth.
Spread half of the vanilla cream on top of the crust and smooth it out with a spatula. Then place the ladyfinger layer on top of the cream (I like to cut the ladyfinger layer into 12 equal wedges, so it's easier to work with), and then spread the rest of the cream on top of the ladyfinger layer.
Using a small fine mesh strainer. lightly dust the top of the tiramisu with some cacao powder.
Cover the cake and let it set in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight to firm up.
Store leftover tiramisu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for 1 month.
*Soak the cashews for at least 8 hours (or overnight) so they soften up and are easy to blend. If the nuts are not soft, the vanilla cream might turn out grainy and not completely smooth. When the cashews are done soaking, drain the water and rinse the nuts thoroughly.
**Prep time does not include soaking the nuts (8 hours).