A Little Birthday "Pick Me Up" – Whole Wheat Coconut Tiramisu!

For those who may not know, the word “tiramisu” literally means “pick me up” in Italian. By that definition, anything can be called a “tiramisu,” but the world recognizes the delicate, spongy bittersweet dessert as its standard illustration. There are a few key components to creating the perfect tiramisu: a strong and assertive brewed coffee/espresso, delicately crisp and spongy ladyfingers, and a feather-light sweet cream topped with a generous dusting of cocoa powder.


Mmm perfection indeed.
While some may argue that tiramisu can be made one way (and one way only), I would be so bold to disagree. ;) In fact my sister Laura, talented photographer and world-traveler that she is, even got to experience a “tiramisu buffet” event while in Italy. Can you imagine the calories the amount of variety and flavor??!! Ah, I’d so love to go some day…
It was Laura‘s birthday nearly two months ago, and the family gathered to celebrate from all ends of the Eastern seaboard. Originally, I had planned to make her a mojito-inspired cake, but after a long week at work I was not in the cake-baking mood. [Apparently, I wanted to try something ridiculously complex instead.] My thought process: Laura likes….. Italy. She likes desserts…. She likes….tropical flavors….. COCONUT TIRAMISU!

I definitely took a risk with this recipe. My mom always tells me to my fail-safe recipe list whenever I’m in charge of a celebratory dessert – You don’t want to serve someone something that won’t taste good! Especially if you’ve never tried making it before.. On the other hand, I always see these special occasions as a prime opportunity to experiment! And because the crowd is never exactly the same, I know I can get some honest feedback each time hehe~ I will say though, there was nothing negative to be said about this healthy treat :) No heavy whipping cream, no butter, no marscapone cheese, and no cream cheese – but it works so well! Don’t believe me? Try making it and see for yourself :) Note: There are multiple parts to creating this semi-complex dessert, so be sure to follow these instructions very carefully!
Whole Wheat Coconut Tiramisu
Coconut Cream
2 c. (Full-fat) Canned Coconut Milk (Light can be subbed here)
1 Tbsp. Coconut Oil
1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1/4 c. Reduced-Fat Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
~Shake one can of coconut milk and place it upside down in the fridge – leave it there overnight. This allows the mixture to thicken. Once the ladyfingers have cooled (see below), remove the can from the fridge and mix 2 cups of the milk with the remaining ingredients. The end product should be somewhat thick. If it’s too runny, add an additional Tbsp. of Cornstarch. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.~
2 Large Egg Yolks
3 Tbsp. Granulated Sugar (I used Light Brown Sugar)
1/4 c. Canned Coconut Milk
1/4 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
(Recipe taken from Cooking Hawaiian Style)
“Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.  In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, coconut milk, vanilla extract. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.  Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.  Let the zabaglione cool to room temperature and then transfer it to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours or overnight, until it is thoroughly chilled.”
Whole Wheat Ladyfingers
4 Eggs (separated into 4 whites and 2 yolks – save the other 2 yolks for the Zabaglione)
2 Tbsp. Powdered Sugar (Confectioner’s)
1/2 c. Light Brown Sugar
1 c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
(Recipe inspired by The Cupcake Project)
~Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the 2 egg whites into stiff peaks, then continue mixing in the powdered sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with the light brown sugar and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the whole wheat pastry flour and baking powder. Mix in the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the whites mixture until fully incorporated. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Scoop mixture into a pastry bag (or large “Ziploc”-style bag) and pipe onto the parchment paper in your desired shape (ideal: 1″ wide and 3″ long), leaving 1-2″ of space between each cookie. [I baked half of the mixture in a loaf pan, since I was using the loaf pan for serving - same dimensions] Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies have turned a golden brown. Allow the ladyfingers to cool completely before assembly.~
Additional Ingredients
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (about 1/4 c., but no need to measure if you have enough)
2 c. Warm Flavored Coffee (I used an Almond/Amaretto flavor)
Note: You can use plain coffee for the liquid base, or mix a few teaspoons of your desired flavoring extract. Alcohol works too (e.g. rum), but you’ll have to play with the proportions on that one ;)
TO ASSEMBLE: Mix the chilled zabaglione and chilled coconut cream until fully incorporated (use an electric mixture for best results). Slice the cooled ladyfingers into your desired size, to fit your serving pan. Dunk each ladyfinger in the warmed coffee (mixture) for 1 second/side and place in your pan to form a single, uniform layer for your base. Spoon half of the zabaglione-coconut mixture over top the base layer, then repeat the coffee dunking process for the second layer of ladyfingers. Cover completely with the remaining zabaglione-coconut mixture and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. When you are ready to serve, dust the top with a hefty layer of unsweetened cocoa powder, and sprinkle with shredded coconut. Cut into individual slices, serve, and ENJOY! Optional: Melt 1/4 c. of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 Tbsp. of Coconut Oil over a double boiler. Drizzle over top the individual slices and sprinkle with more shredded coconut!
I had to hand whisk the egg whites since I forgot my electric mixer… NEVER AGAIN.
No pastry bag, so you gotta improvise!
 Since the family met up in a rather desolate, rural area, I had to bring the coffee in a tumbler to survive the 2.5 hour trip lol!
Oh yeah, I tried making chocolate “spoons” out of melted chocolate chips and coconut oil, but there wasn’t enough time to wait for them to set :(
Food Scenes from the Celebratory FEAST!
(leftover from Thanksgiving hehe)
Tofu Skin Dish (courtesy of Uncle #1)
Chinese Chives and Eggs (Traditional Dish)
Traditional Chinese Dessert-esque Item -> Nian Gao
Some sort of Meat, Mushroom, and Seaweed dish…
Sauteed Chinese Spinach and Garlic! Yum :) One of my favs
Multicolored Bell Peppers stuffed with a fish mixture and mushroom (courtesy of Mom)
Super cute decor ;)
Uncle #1′s birthday present for Laura haha.. Pistachios!
Yes, there were crabs. :)
Live fish!!! (well… not anymore…)
We attempted to be creative haha ^_^
Take it all in….. ahh so beautiful! :)
 Oh wait, they weren’t done adding food yet. Take TWO!!!
Laura‘s earring ;)
Post-dinner Watermelon! Since every no Chinese dinner is complete unless there’s fruit at the end..
Bday girl!
Oh yeah, leftover ladyfingers make for a great afternoon coffee treat as well. :)
As you can see, it IS possible to make a healthy tiramisu! I came across a bunch of different varieties of tiramisu while researching – another great idea: tiramisu cupcakes.
Have you ever tried making tiramisu? How did it turn out?
I think this is the most difficult recipe I’ve ever had to execute… thankfully it turned out well! ^_^