Date and Cardamom Coffee Tiramisu

Date and Cardamom Coffee Tiramisu

The Italians can’t agree on who invented this iconic dessert, but at least all non-Italians can agree it hails from The Boot. It is one of those dishes whose list of ingredients invariably begs the question: How can something so simple taste so good? And yet, it truly does. Savoiardi biscuits soaked in alcohol-spiked coffee, layered with cream, and dusted with cocoa somehow become much more than that in our mouths. I’m usually of the mindset, especially when it comes to such iconic dishes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So this is in no way a better version of the classic. Rather, it is a variation of it that uses traditional Arabic cardamom coffee (because that’s what we usually drink at home), adds a bit more texture to the cream with chopped dates, and tops it with bright green crushed pistachios instead of cocoa powder. It’s indeed a pick-me-up dessert—Arabian style—not only for the coffee but for the vividness of the colors and flavors as well.


  • 2 cups (16 fl oz/475 ml) freshly brewed strong dark coffee
  • 2–4 tablespoons rum or Cognac, to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 16 oz (450 g) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 ½ cups (12 fl oz/355 ml) heavy (double) cream
  • ½ cup (3 ½ oz/100 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (5 oz/150 g) pitted dates, finely chopped
  • 10 ½ oz (300 g) ladyfingers (sponge fingers) or savoiardi (about 36)
  • ½ cup (2½ oz/70 g) pistachios, finely ground


  1. In a bowl, stir together the coffee and rum, using as little or as much as you like. Stir in the cardamom and set aside to cool as you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), combine the mascarpone, cream, sugar, and vanilla and whip on medium-high speed until the cream has thickened and the whisk leaves behind tracks that don’t disappear, 2–3 minutes. Gently fold in the chopped dates until evenly combined and set aside.
  3. To assemble the cake, briefly dip the ladyfingers (sponge fingers), one at a time, into the coffee mixture until just soaked but not soggy. Line the bottom of a 9 × 7-inch (23 × 18 cm) rectangular dish with two rows of 6 ladyfingers each. Spread one-third of the mascarpone/cream mixture over the ladyfingers. Repeat with a second layer of coffee-dipped ladyfingers and top with another third of the cream mixture. Repeat with the remaining ladyfingers and top with the final layer of remaining cream. Sprinkle with the crushed pistachios. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight before serving.

Note: I most often use a deep 6-cup (1.4-liter) glass dish that measures 9 × 7 inches (23 × 18 cm) and end up with exactly three layers. However, you can use a round 9- or 10-inch (23 or 25 cm) cake pan, individual serving bowls, or a larger square or rectangular dish for a thinner cake. If you plan to remove the cake from the dish it is assembled in to serve, line the dish with plastic wrap (clingfilm), leaving a 3-inch (7.5 cm) overhang on all sides. You can then invert a plate over the tiramisu, flip it and remove the wrap, then invert your serving platter and flip back, pistachio-side up, and serve.

Adapted from THE ARABESQUE TABLE by Reem Kassis (Phaidon, $39.95 US/$49.95 CAN, 2021).

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