Shavuot with Rabbi Howard: Tiramisu

Tiramisu. TheCubanReuben.comThis past week, our friend and newly minted rabbi, Howard, invited us to his home to celebrate Shavuot. As the custom on Shavuot is to serve dairy dishes, Howard challenged his guests to a “cheese-off.” Anyone who knows me knows that I take cooking challenges very seriously, so Kenny and I put our heads together, and brainstormed what we wanted to bring to the celebration. I suggested my Cuban-style flan, which resembles a crust-less cheesecake, but I made that last year, and Kenny vetoed this idea. Then, I suggested my herb and goat cheese stuffed cherry tomatoes, but Kenny had something else in mind. He wanted us to bring something nobody else would ever think of bringing: Tiramisu.

Tiramisu.Slice.TheCubanReuben.comKenny and I learned to make truly authentic Tuscan-style tiramisu while on our honeymoon in Italy. During our highlight tour of the country, we spent some time in the Tuscan hilltop town, Cortona, where Allessandra Federici opened up her home to us, as she taught us to cook traditional Italian recipes. This was, by far, the best day of the honeymoon, and when Kenny suggested tiramisu for the party at Howard’s house, I knew just the recipe.

WholeTiramisu.TheCubanReuben.comSince classic tiramisu calls for the use of *raw eggs, we felt the need to make a disclaimer when we arrived at Howard’s, but Howard assured me that if it tasted good, it would get eaten. Sure enough, as soon as we set it down, it wasn’t long before word got out about its rich coffee and mascarpone flavor, and the party-goers went at it. As we ate, played a really fun and new board game (team Stempel won!), and discussed Howard’s plans for the future, we gave Howard a lovely send-off, filled with cheesey/dairy goodness and good memories.

Later, Kenny shared with me that since tiramisu is his favorite dessert, and suggested we don’t need to wait for Shavuot to make it again.  Kenny has a big graduation coming up this week. Who knows… maybe he’ll get a double dose of the good stuff.

*Note: My dear friend Ali, who is a champion for all things public health, shared with me that it is best to use fresh, pasteurized eggs in this recipe. Click here for a store locator where you can find the type she recommends.

Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 8-10
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Impress your friends with this creamy, authentic Italian treat.
  • 6 FRESH, pasteurized eggs
  • ¾ cups fine sugar
  • 1 lb. mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 cup brewed coffee or espresso
  • 1 large package of ladyfinger cookies
  • 1-2 Tbs. good quality cocoa powder or bittersweet chocolate shavings
  1. Carefully separate the egg whites from the egg yolks into two large bowls.
  2. In the bowl with the egg yolks, mix in the sugar, using a hand mixer until they are soft and cream-colored. Add the softened mascarpone cheese, and mix well, and set aside.
  3. In the bowl with the egg whites, add the pinch of salt, and whisk using a mixer until firm peaks are formed. Gently fold the egg whites unto the egg yolk mixture until just incorporated. Be careful not to overmix.
  4. Spread a light layer of the egg mixture on the bottom of a 9x11-inch dish. Individually dunk ladyfingers in the coffee, and layer over the egg mixture. Add another layer of egg mixture, and top with coffee-dunked ladyfingers. Continue layering until ingredients run out.
  5. Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift the cocoa powder over top layer.
  6. Cover and place in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours.
Find your local purveyor of fresh, pasteurized eggs here:


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La Reyna del Flan: My Shavuot Offering

Shavuot is just around the corner, and I see my friends frantically scouring the internet, searching for the perfect dairy-based dish to commemorate the arrival of our ancestors to the land of “Milk and Honey,” and the point in history when the Jewish people were said to have received the torah. It’s funny that we have a holiday whose main highlight is all things dairy, considering how many Jewish friends I have who suffer from lactose-intolerance. Sounds like a cruel joke to me, but I digress.
At my family get-togethers, which commonly revolve around holidays and food, there is  usually a healthy dose of competition involved. I’m not talking about the Marc Summers-hosted “Double Dare” variety, with obstacle courses and green slime, although we’ve definitely tried those in the past. These days our competitions revolve around culinary feats and there is one title that has eluded me since I joined the ranks of family cooks: La Reyna del Flan, or The Flan Queen.
Several of the matriarchs in the family have held this title in the past. My mom’s cousin, Virginia, blazed the trail with her traditional, Spanish-style flan, whose custard is so silky smooth and deeply rich, that for years, no one dared to compete. Then, Vilma, Virginia’s sister came up like a dark horse with a flan de coco (or candied coconut flan), whose strands of sweet coconut took the spotlight and threatened all we knew and loved about the traditional egg dessert. Not to be outdone, my very own mother entered the race with a super-sized pumpkin flan big enough to feed an army, or one flan-enthusiast family. But for a long time, the clear shoo-in was always my Tia Pipa, whose bread pudding flan simply could not be touched…until now.
Ladies and gentlemen, this Shavuot, I’m bringing out the big guns, as I believe I have rightfully earned my place in my family’s Cuban flan hall of fame with my latest entry. Sure, I borrowed, begged, and stole the best elements of these matriarch’s versions, but in doing so, I believe I created a flan worthy of the regal title.
When it comes to La Reyna del Flan, it looks like I take the cake…er, flan.
5.0 from 2 reviews
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Cuban
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (*Note: Make sure it is kosher for Passover)
  • a pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tbs water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and add your empty pan in the oven to warm.
  2. Mix first six ingredients (from evaporated milk to salt) in a blender, and set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, cook the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar becomes a deep amber color (about 15 minutes).
  4. Working quickly, remove the empty pan from the oven, and pour in the now melted sugar. Swirl the pan around, so the sugar covers the entire bottom of the pan. Pour in the milk and egg mixture over the caramelized sugar.
  5. Insert the now full pan into a larger pan, and fill the larger pan about half-way up with water (a water bath).
  6. Return the flan pan and water bath to the oven, and bake for about 70 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Remove the flan pan from the water bath, and set on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  8. When you are ready to serve the flan, run a knife along the edge of the pan, place a rimmed serving platter over the pan, and invert it. The flan should fall easily, and the caramel sauce will coat the top and run along the sides.
  9. Serve immediately.
This recipe works best in a 9-inch pan.