© 2014 Can Caramelo Tiramisu


Did you know that Tiramisu translates to “lift me up”? Tiramisu is meant to make us happy and at least in my case it turns out to be totally true. Tiramisu is definitely one of my favorite desserts. I usually make it with the recipe of the grandma of an Italian ex-flatmate, but as I’ve been intrigued lately by the possibilities of cashew cream in soups, creamy pasta sauces and desserts, it suddenly struck me that I should try it in a healthier version of Tiramisu. This one is refined sugar free, gluten free and vegan. And makes me at least as happy as the original one.

1 pot
This is a recipe I would envy others for and still be delighted that someone invented it. Seriously, I would like to cover myself in this Tiramisu – and eat my way out! But the experience of pleasure certainly depends on motivational states. Now that I just had dinner – and dessert – my wish for a bowl of that creamy Tiramisu is not the same as on Sunday, coming back from a long bike ride (still, this Tiramisu is so good, there is no really wrong moment for it).

coffee collage
What happens inside our brains is pretty similar in the case of a great dinner, an orgasm, being in love or consuming certain drugs. In fact, there is a way of electrically stimulating the brain, that produces a very pleasurable sensation independent of the motivational state. Rats have been given the possibility to self stimulate their brains electrically via a button press, activating an electrode placed at their hypothalamus. The rats press this buttons up to 2000 times per hour! Having water and food on the other side of the cage, many of these animals died of thirst and hunger because they wouldn’t move away from the button (at least they must have died a very joyful death).

delicious tiramisu
The networks of reward are wide-spread and involve dopaminergic neurons in structures thought to be important for motivation like the nucleus accumbens (also implicated in gambling behavior for example), the striatum and frontal cortex. Interestingly, the increased release of dopamine in these structures also leads to an improved working memory and online information processing capacity, as well as a better transfer to long term memory. Additionally, endogenous opiods are set free in the frontal lobe of our brain. That means that pleasure and learning are closely linked. I know, the beauty of neuroscience…

tiramisu collage
The hypothalamus is another prominent structure when it comes to motivational states, as it is critical for regulating behaviors directed at homeostatic goals like obtaining food and water or the regulation of body temperature. I’ll just tell you about another interesting experiment conducted with rats before getting to the recipe: the experiment consisted in splitting the animals in groups and feeding them differently for 40 days. One group received normal rat food, the other one typical western cafeteria food like sausages and cheesecake. The surprising outcome is not that the rats receiving the cafeteria-diet gained more weight, but that their pleasure threshold raised (this is also known for the consumption of cocaine and heroin) and that this was a long lasting effect (contrary to cocaine and heroin), so that the animals had to eat more to feel as satisfied. Afterwards, the rats received fear conditioning: a little lamp was associated with fear by administering the rats a small but painful electrical shock every time the lamp was turned on. Food was then placed close to the lamp. The rats that had been fed with normal rat didn’t approach the food. The rats that received the cafeteria diet threw themselves at the sausage and cheesecake, even though they knew they could receive electrical shocks. The addiction to fat and sugar had become more important than avoiding physical pain. That does give something to think about a typical diet high in saturated fats and sugar, especially maybe (but not exclusively) if served at schools…

But now the creamy, fluffy, tasty Tiramisu recipe!
Serves 4.


For the biscuit:
• 2 cups of almond flour
• 1/4 cup agave syrup
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups full-fat coconut milk
• 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp baking powder

dough collage

For the cream:
• 1 cup cashews soaked for 2-8h or over night
• 1/2 cup maple syrup
• 1/8 tsp seasalt
• 1 cup water
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• solid part of 1 can of coconut milk chilled for at least 10h
• pure raw cacao (for sprinkling)
• 1/2 cup of espresso (or strong, good quality coffee)

Preheat the oven to 170ºC/340ºF. For the biscuit, just combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. If it’s somewhat crumbly, that’s fine. Line a baking tray with slightly oiled (coconut or olive oil) parchment paper. Put the dough on top and use a spatula and your hands to spread it evenly. Bake for around 35min or until golden. As there are no eggs in it, it stays a little moist and doesn’t hold together extremely well, but as even the fluffiest biscuits gets moist and dense when soaked with coffee anyway, that is nothing to worry about. And if it breaks in some parts, never mind, just puzzle your pieces into the tiramisu bowl(s).

If you want to have a perfect fluffy (non-vegan) biscuit, substitute the last 4 ingredients on the list for 4 eggs and beat the whites until stiff before carefully folding them into the rest of the ingredients (baking time should be a little shorter, around 15-20 minutes).

Let the biscuit cool down for at least 20 minutes. That will make it hold together much better. The almonds give this biscuit a subtle, very satisfying amaretto flavor.

3 fotos
For the cream, place everything except the last 3 ingredients on the list into a blender and blend until homogeneous. Carefully open the can of chilled coconut milk and put the solid part into a mixing bowl. (Keep the coconut water for smoothies or cooking.) Use a stand or hand mixer to beat until creamy and thick. Combine with the cashew cream.

Now it’s the moment of putting everything together. Place a layer of biscuit into one big or 4-6 individual bowls (or glasses). Soak with some coffee by pouring it over the biscuit. Top with a layer of cream. Repeat the process 2-3 times, until the bowls are full and the cream is finished. The last layer should be cream. Sift some cacao on top. It might be served immediately or chilled in the fridge until serving. In case you’re serving it later, I recommend to sift the cacao on top just before serving.


  1. Britney
    Posted 3 Mar ’14 at 8:52 pm | #

    THANK YOU for making this recipe! I’ve been looking for a gluten free and egg free tiramisu recipe for a while. I can’t wait to make it! I’ll let you know how it goes.

  2. Posted 3 Mar ’14 at 10:26 pm | #

    thanks for your comment Britney, I’m so happy you like the recipe (or at least the idea of it for now), I’m already thinking about repeating… It would be great to hear how you liked it!

  3. Anna
    Posted 4 Apr ’15 at 11:13 pm | #

    Hi. We came across this recipe, got very excited and are in the process of making it lol. Just hit one speed bump. In the ingredients for the biscuit, it calls for 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk. Is this correct? Once we added this, it was no longer crumbly, but a liquidy batter. We’ll let you know what happened.

    • Posted 7 Apr ’15 at 8:05 pm | #

      Hi Anna, sorry for answering late, the notice of your comment somehow went to my spam folder. I actually made the biscuit with almond pulp (although on different occasions I made similar biscuits with almond flour) and I think that even though the pulp is moist, it somehow soaks up more liquid than almond meal. I’m so sorry for that, I should have tested it! I hope the biscuit still came out okay!!? Do you think 1 cup or maybe even only 1/2 cup of coconut milk would be the right amount? I will test that soon and change the recipe accordingly!

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