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Tiramisu cheesecake is inspired by the Italian dessert, usually made with ladyfingers, custard, and espresso. Unlike the classic tiramisu, this cheesecake version is usually baked in the oven. It also usually features cream cheese in addition to the traditional mascarpone cheese. Some recipes use the ladyfingers as the crust of the cheesecake, while others do not.
Many recipes for tiramisu cheesecake replace the egg custard — or Zabaglione — with a cream cheese base. This mixture often contains eggs, cream cheese, and mascarpone cheese. Mascarpone is a soft, thick cheese usually made with heavy cream. Some cooks also flavor the base of the cheesecake with coffee. If mascarpone cheese is not available, a cook may substitute sour cream instead.
In traditional tiramisu, ladyfingers, or crisp, wafer-like cookies, are soaked in a mixture of sugar, Marsala wine, and espresso. Italian ladyfingers, called savoiardi, are crisp, and not soft like the ones commonly used in America. These wafers are then layered with custard to form the dessert. Soaking the wafers during preparation gives them a texture similar to sponge cake.
Unlike that dish, tiramisu cheesecake does not layer the ladyfingers, but instead uses the soaked wafers as the crust of the cake. The wine may be omitted from the recipe entirely. Another option is skip the soaking step and instead grind the ladyfingers or wafer cookies into crumbs to make a graham cracker-style crust. To do this, the wafer crumbs are combined with melted butter and coffee or espresso powder, and then pressed into the bottom of a baking pan.
Traditional tiramisu is typically left to sit in a refrigerator overnight, so that the wafers can meld with the custard. The dessert is usually not cooked at all, though some cooks may heat the custard when preparing it. Usually, a tiramisu cheesecake is baked, however, to set the cream cheese base. After baking, the cheesecake should cool completely before service.
Tiramisu cheesecake is typically topped with cocoa powder or shavings of chocolate. The cocoa powder is usually dusted over the entire surface of the cake. Some recipes call for drizzling a chocolate sauce over the cooled cake. Another option is to spread the cake with a thin layer of whipped cream, then sprinkle the chocolate shavings on top.
The cheesecake may be prepared and baked in a springform pan, which has removable sides. Some recipes call for using a rectangular or square baking dish instead, which produces cheesecake bars instead of triangular slices. Spreading parchment paper or aluminum foil over the bottom and sides of the pan usually makes removing the finished cheesecake easier.