A super light and no-bake lemon tiramisu cake is a perfect choice for a summer dessert! Made like a traditional tiramisu but with lots of lemon flavors.
I took two of my favorite desserts and mashed their concepts together in my head! I crossed the classic tiramisu with lady fingers dipped in espresso, and tart lemon bars with a crunchy cookie base. It's amazing!
You're probably wondering how I did it, right? It was easy and completely makes sense for your summer entertaining schedule.
Is it really like a traditional tiramisu?
Yes! But there's absolutely no coffee involved in making it. It's all about the lemon flavor so instead of using espresso to dip the sponge fingers into, I used lemonade. If I'm making traditional tiramisu I use a combination of cream cheese, mascarpone and heavy whipped cream. Those three ingredients get mixed with egg yolks that are cooked over a warm water bath until they reach a certain temperature. This method will give you the creamiest and best tiramisu you'll ever taste outside of Italy!
But for this lemon tiramisu cake I skipped the egg yolks and just combined the cream cheese, mascarpone and whipped cream along with a little sugar and tons of fresh lemon zest. This also means no-bake so no hot oven on a hot summers day either!
FAQ's about this lemon tiramisu cake
Can I add alcohol to my tiramisu cake? Definitely. Usually I'd add Kailua to the coffee version, but limoncello would be amazing in this tiramisu. I'd add it to the lemonade when you're dipping the lady fingers.
I've never heard of lady fingers! Lady fingers are long sweet sponge cookies. By themselves, they're not very exciting but you can really kick up a dessert by adding them as dippers or crumbled and mixed through some whipped cream. They can be a little tricky to find in the summer months. Tiramisu is more of a fall/winter kind of dessert so you'll have better luck finding them in the store then. But it's not impossible earlier in the year, I found mine at Whole Foods Market and you should be able to track them down in the packaged cookie section.
Building your lemon tiramisu I said it was easy and I wasn't lying. Beat the cream cheese and sugar then add the mascarpone cheese until light and creamy. Fold in your whipped cream and that's your base for the dessert! Take each lady finger one at a time and quickly dip it into the lemonade for about 2-3 seconds. The lady finger will absorb the liquid and end up with a texture just like a regular sponge cake! Make sure not to dip it in the lemonade for too long or the lady finger will take on too much liquid and just dissolve on you. Tiramisu cake is always better made the day before you need to serve it so that the filling can firm up and also all of the lady finger liquid can seep into the sponge.
Do I need to use cream cheese, mascarpone and heavy cream? Yes, definitely because each one brings a unique flavor and texture to the final recipe. If you only used whipped cream which a lot of no-bake recipes do, it is far too light and boring in my opinion. Mascarpone cheese is essentially an Italian cream cheese but with a higher fat content than the cream cheese we use in the U.S. to top our bagels. That's why most Italian desserts are ridiculously good and by adding the cream cheese and mascarpone cheese it makes the cream more stable. This is why if you order tiramisu at a restaurant it comes as a neat square and not a goopy, runny mess on your plate. Top the lemon tiramisu cake with any kind of crushed lemon cookie, there are lots of varieties to choose from but try and get one with a good lemon flavor. I managed to find a box of lemon and white chocolate biscotti which were perfect for sprinkling on top. Garnish with the cookies right before you serve it though so the cookie crumbs don't become soggy in the fridge overnight!
Recipe steps to watch out for!
- Don't dip the lady fingers in the lemonade for too long or they'll fall apart.
- Only whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. By adding in the cream cheese and mascarpone the mixture will thicken even more so if you whip the cream too far the whole mixture will be much stiffer and not silky smooth like it should be.
- I used an 8 cup volume baking dish.