MY MOTHER’S RECIPE #3 – Giselle’s Top Secret Tiramisu Recipe

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“In my South, the most treasured things passed down from generation to generation are the family recipes.”  Robert St. John

Hi there,

Years ago I had the pleasure of getting to know my friend Diana’s mother Giselle. Giselle was a very beautiful woman, very elegant, and cooked like a master chef. After marrying a G.I. on the Piazza de Campo in Sienna, Gisela Oretti came to the United States with her new husband. Diana told me that in this picture of her wedding, her dress is made from her husband’s parachute.

Giselle made the most heavenly Tiramisu and she guarded the recipe with ferocity. I was like a Border Collie constantly nipping at her heals of this poor woman for the recipe to absolutely no avail. After she died, Diana who watched my recipe begging go on for several years, gave it to me. And I am going to share it with you. I made the Tiramisu with my granddaughter, Maya. I am hoping that the sweetness of sharing it with another generation will overcome her irritation with Diana for giving me the top secret and much coveted recipe and with me for sharing it with all of you.

Here are her handwritten recipe cards:

Giselle’s Top Secret Tiramisu


  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 teaspoons for espresso
  • 1 lb. marscapone cheese
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 6 tablespoons of Cool Whip or 6 tablespoons of whipped cream
  • 2 cups of espresso
  • 2 packages of soft lady fingers or 1 and 1/2 packages of Bell ‘Amore Champagne Biscuits
  • 3 squares of semi-sweet chocolate


  1. Separate Eggs
  2. Beat the egg whites until stiff
  3. Mix egg yolks with sugar until smooth
  4. Mix marscapone cheese with cool whip or whipped cream until smooth
  5. Mix the egg yolk and sugar mixture into the marscapone mixture
  6. Fold egg whites into the mixture and fold until smooth and fluffy
  7. Make the espresso and combine with 3 teaspoons of sugar
  8. Layer the bottom of your container with lady fingers and sprinkle with espresso
  9. Add a layer of the cream mixture and then top with shaved chocolate
  10. Continue making layers until finished with cream and put shaved chocolate on top of the last layer

Special Note: As you can see I made my Tiramisu free form but Giselle liked to use a glass English Trifle bowl so that you could “view the elegance of the dessert”. Enjoy!

Talk soon, ❤️💕 Bernadette

39 responses to “MY MOTHER’S RECIPE #3 – Giselle’s Top Secret Tiramisu Recipe”

    • Rita, I think I am repeating myself but I would love for you to participate in this project. Let me know if you are interested. You can private text or email me.

  1. Thank you so much Rita. Do you have a family recipe that you would like to share? I would very much like you to participate in this project.

  2. Beautiful story with this recipe! And my goodness, I love tiramisu. Hope to try this one soon🌺

  3. Angie@Angie's Recipes – Angie's Recipes is an interactive blog dedicated to sharing yummy & creative recipes, helpful cooking hints and tips. Enjoy your visit and spread the word!
    Angie Schn says:

    wow…a wedding dress made from a parachute…that’s just something! And you have a super kitchen sous chef, Bernadette, Maya looks super happy with the piece of work that you two have created. The tiramisu looks truly amazing!

  4. the Painted Apron – Life is all about creativity for me, as long as I'm creating something I am happy! I hope I will inspire your daily life and give you ideas for your own wonderful creations!
    the Painted Apron says:

    My daughter loves tiramisu so much she served it at her wedding rather than cake! I’ve never seen it made “free form” like yours, it looks fabulous! Maya is adorable, a looks like a happy helper! The parachute dress is quite amazing, as is the story of you begging for the recipe, thanks for sharing it!

  5. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen – I'm a writer, cook, gardener, photographer, poet, quilter, and accomplished daydreamer. I'm also a wife, mother, grandmother, sister. cousin, aunt, and friend, no particular order on any given day. I've been a writer all my life, newspaper reporter and columnist, radio news writer, and magazine contributor, and poet and short-story writer as the spirit moves. Now, I turn my attention to my cookbook, the blog, and a cooking column "Memorable Meals," which runs in our county newspaper. Besides my family, I love dogs, cats, good coffee, chocolate, and my never-dwindling pile of books I intend to read. Our family ran a small Vermont Inn for 18 years, with our focus on local, organic ingredients. I cook from scratch, and try not to use anything that has ingredients I cannot pronounce! After many years of daily serving up local delicacies, cooking classes, and catering, we are now only open for special events, and the odd cooking class. We also host musicians and artists, having helped produce a musical festival and other musical events for nearly 20 years. Many incredible artists have found a place at our table. Wonderful experiences, we will treasure always. My family and friends are my practice subjects. With a family that includes nut, peanut, tree fruit, and vegetable allergies, gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, vegetarians, vegans, heart conscious, and a couple of picky eaters, there has to be a few quick tricks in the book to keep everyone fed and happy! Personally, I do not eat red meat or most full-fat dairy (usually) for health reasons, making the occasional exception at Thanksgiving and Christmas or our anniversary if the duck is locally raised. I do eat fish and seafood, so I try to come up with alternatives and substitutions when available. I serve local organic eggs and cheeses to my family who can tolerate dairy (My husband recently had a heart attack, and I need to watch my own cholesterol so I am careful, but have been known to let a little piece of really good cheese accidentally fall on my plate!). I believe strongly that eating in a way that is good for our planet is also good for our bodies, and I try to educated myself about our food sources! I cook by the seasons and draw on inspiration from the strong and talented women in my family who came before me, as well as the youth in the family who look at the world with fresh eyes. Food links us all, whether sharing a meal, cooking it together, or writing about it for others to enjoy. I love taking an old recipe and giving it a modern spin, especially if I can make it a littler healthier and use foods that are kinder to the Earth and to our bodies. I believe strongly in sustainable, delicious eating of whole foods, and the wonderful flavors we have at our fingertips! And finally, I love conversing with all the talented cooks and chefs out there who dot the globe! It's a wonderful, world full of culinary pen pals, and I cherish them all! XXXOOO Dorothy
    Dorothy’s New Vintage Kitchen says:

    What a lovely story, thank you so much for sharing it and the recipe as well. 💕❤️

  6. Thanks for sharing this recipe and the story behind it. The Tiramisu sounds so very rich and velvety! 🙂

  7. Darlene – British Columbia, Canada – Writer of children's stories, short stories and travel articles.!/supermegawoman!/pages/Darlene-Foster-Writer/362236842733
    Darlene says:

    Maya looks so proud!! I don’t think Giselle would be upset that you shared it. Tiramisu is hubby’s favourite dessert after trifle. (I had to marry him to get the family trifle recipe) Thanks for sharing.

    • Darlene – British Columbia, Canada – Writer of children's stories, short stories and travel articles.!/supermegawoman!/pages/Darlene-Foster-Writer/362236842733
      Darlene says:

      Thanks. I’ve sent you an email. xo

  8. Bern, Maya looks so happy after creating such a beautiful masterpiece!! My mother is looking down and so joyful that Maya has her secret recipe… I can taste the memories now! Oh btw, she made my brother’s christening gown out of her wedding gown! Love your blog … great recipes!🥰

  9. Everyone loves tiramisu and there are so many versions. I see cream cheese is listed as an ingredient (not a traditional ingredient) and it’s not mentioned as to what to do with it. I’m sure it’s softened and you just mix it in with the mascarpone?

  10. Yes, that is what I did. I copied Giselle’s recipe card and didn’t realize that some of the directions were fuzzy. She used Cool Whip also, which I know is definitely not traditional.

  11. I have two non-traditional recipes – one using cupcakes and the other using fruit 🙂 Cool-whip wasn’t around until the 1960’s or 1970’s I believe ?

  12. You know, I am not sure. It seems like it has always been in the freezer at the supermarket. Those two recipes sound very interesting. If I go to your blog will I find them?

  13. Tanooki – What food holiday is it today? Celebrating everyday with homemade food🥳🎉 Everyday is special, so have fun! When there’s a yummy homemade food on a dining table, there’s a smile:) & food coma;)
    Tanooki says:

    Woo my fav cake from Italian cuisine! Must be extra yum with heart warming memory❤️

  14. Amy @ – Northern Alberta – Living in northern alberta with my husband, 4 kids, 2 rottweilers, and 3 cats, while building our farm;
    Amy @ says:

    I’ve never made tiramisu, but that looks too good to not try it, thank you!

  15. Time Traveler of Life – Where my Motor Home is! – Biography Creating worlds, characters, and wielding power like a madwoman, making my characters happy, sad, angry, and some of them with no redeeming qualities. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I sometimes laugh out loud when I am writing a scene, and I have been known to cry when one of my favorites has to die. I am a left-handed Gemini, what do you expect? Reading bedtime stories to my two children until they fell asleep or until they just told me to go away, was fun. Making up wild stories for my grandchild, and creating Halloween costumes from Cowboys to a Dragon, was another favorite thing to do. I missed that so much when they were grown, that I started writing. My yearly newsletters frequently were drafted third-person by my Love Birds, Miranda our motorhome, and by Sir Fit the White Knight, our faithful Honda. Throughout the years, some of my creative talents centered around writing letters of complaint expressing my displeasure with services or products. One crucial, at least to my Son, was a note to our local school bus driver petitioning her to allow him back on the bus. He was kicked off for making an obscene gesture at his buddy. I reminded her that it was not directed at her, and that “obscenity can be in the eye of the beholder,” kids use that gesture as a greeting. He rode the bus until he graduated. I loved driving my English teacher crazy. Leaving a “continued next week” at the end of my five handwritten pages required each week. He was one of many people that suggested I “do something about my writing.” I graduated from the School of Hard Knocks at the top of my class. After 30 years, in the trenches as a Real Estate Professional, I have found that truth is stranger than fiction. My books are filled with characters I met in that profession. Their names were changed to protect the guilty. Others were from people we met traveling around the country in Miranda, our Motorhome. I am married nearly 60 years to the love of my life, Shirl, and partner-produced two exceptionally talented children, and one grandchild who is our pride and joy.
    Time Traveler of Life says:

    It is always fun to savor a “family” recipe and to covet one that everyone loves and no one but Mom or Gramma makes. My husbands mother used to make the yummiest Molasses cake, I have her recipe but it never turns out like hers. Maybe someday I will get it right.

    • That sounds like a delicious recipe. If you send me a picture of your mother in law, a story and the recipe, I will do a post on it.

  16. Hi Bernadette, thank you for sharing this great recipe. I have bookmarked it.

  17. I have never seen a “free form” tiramisu before…it’s beautiful, like I want to dig a spoon right into it! And that granddaughter, she is just adorable, 🥰

  18. Her Oasis – pretoria north – I share experiences and lessons i learn through my struggles and victories as a wife, mother, sister, friend, partner, daughter and friend…
    Her Oasis says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this💗

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