Cranberrymisu

My younger daughter moved to London way back in July of 2010, and you can bet that her sister and I visited her that following December! I mean, why wouldn’t we?! Between the Christmas markets, the mulled wine, roasting nuts, Christmas decorations, warm pubs… it was a perfect time. This is a photo of the main entrance:

One day we visited Borough market, even though it snowed and was a wee bit frigid. The market is a fabulous establishment year ‘round, but it is definitely magical in December. We sampled and smelled all kinds of goodies, enjoyed raclette, and then decided to hole up in a pub across the street to warm our toes!

I had no idea Borough Market had a website, but when I found it, by lucky accident, I discovered this recipe: Cranberrymisu, a recipe by Ed Smith.

On this recipe page he writes, “TIRAMISU + CRANBERRIES = A WINNING AND FESTIVE COMBINATION.” Well, I have to agree. I have no problem with the original, but this was good, and festive.

I have one big pet peeve when it comes to the biscuits, namely savoiardi, used in tiramisu, and how, over the years, the word ladyfingers has become a widely-used term, specifically for the shape, but not for any other reason.

I grew up with ladyfingers, having a French mother, and a dessert called Charlotte, utilizing this pan and ladyfingers. French name: biscuits à la cuillère. Fillings can vary from fruits to chocolate.

When I began cooking, I had to make my own ladyfingers, because I couldn’t find them. I used Julia Child’s recipe, because they are French. She didn’t cook Italian food. Ladyfingers are soft, spongy cookies – almost like finger-shaped cakes. The egg batter is prepared, then beaten egg whites are folded in, so you can imagine the light texture.

Leave it to Martha Stewart to add cocoa to her ladyfingers, for an outstanding triple chocolate Charlotte.

Savoirdi are Italian biscuits, and Julia Child does not have a recipe for them in her “Mastering” books. They are indeed finger shaped, but that’s where their similarity ends with ladyfingers. They are crispy. You can break one in half by snapping them. They are not soft, spongy and cake-like.

Savoirdi are perfect for tiramisu, an Italian dessert, because they can soak up a coffee-liqueur mixture without getting soggy, unless you do it for too long. The layers of savoirdi can be seen in a classic tiramisu photo, such as this one from New York Times.

Now, can ladyfingers and savoiardi biscuits be used interchangeably? Yes, as long as the ladyfingers don’t soak up too much liquid because they will simply mush up. If you require a stiffer biscuit, savoiardi will always be preferable. In fact, for a Charlotte, savoiardi might be a safer cookie to use for unmolding purposes.

But, comparing the two is like comparing an Italian grissini, a hard breadstick, to a soft, yeasted breadstick. They are completely different in texture, even if the shape is the same.

So what doesn’t help is packaging such as this. This is the brand of savoiardi I purchased from Amazon. I have no idea what has happened over the years, but this is pure confusion for people who do not understand the significant difference between the two cookies.

Savoirdi are not Italian ladyfingers, they are savoiardi biscuits. Nor can ladyfingers be called soft savoiardi. The shape of the cookies is the only similarity, but otherwise it’s truly apples and oranges. This kind of packaging is confusing and wrong. Even when the packaging states, “soft ladyfingers,” you can tell that they’re not.

Real ladyfingers are not shelf stable like savoiardi, which is why they’re harder to find. You can tell the ladyfingers are pale, and don’t have a hard, crispy coating.

So, the whole point of my rant is just to make sure you know what you’re buying! It’s easy to tell the difference between ladyfingers and savoiardi, so just know what you want before you purchase.

Next, I’ll rant about what’s happened to the word “charcuterie”…. But for now, this wonderful recipe!

Cranberrymisu

8.8 ounces cranberries
1 large orange, zest and juice
4 ounces caster sugar, divided
8.5 ounces strong black coffee
2.5 ounces Grand Marnier
3-4 tsp cocoa powder
3 egg yolks (I used four small egg yolks)
8.8 ounces mascarpone
10 ounces double cream
24 savoiardi biscuits
1 ounce dark chocolate

In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, orange zest and juice and 2 ounces of sugar. Bring to a steady simmer and cook for around 5 mins, until roughly half of the berries have popped and broken down, but the remainder are whole, yet soft. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Brew the coffee, decant into a small container that will snuggly fit the length of one savoiard1 biscuit. Add 3 tbsp Grand Marnier to the coffee and set aside.

Use a balloon whisk to whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and remaining liqueur for a few minutes, until the mixture is light in both colour and texture and has more than doubled in volume – it should look and feel like a thin mayonnaise. Use a spatula to combine this with the mascarpone.

In a separate bowl, use a balloon whisk to whip the cream to an airy, luscious but not-too-stiff ribbon stage. Fold and beat the egg yolk mixture into this, then very briefly use a balloon whisk to whip it back to that not-quite-soft peak stage (it will set further once in the fridge and a little ooze is preferable to over-whipped).

One by one, soak half the biscuits in the coffee and booze mix so that they’re wet and flavourful but not soggy, then transfer directly to the dish until the base is covered.

Spread the cranberry sauce over the biscuits and dust that with another teaspoon of cocoa powder. Spread just under half of the mascarpone mixture on top.

Repeat the biscuit soaking and arranging for a second layer. Cover with the remainder of the mascarpone, then refrigerate for 3 hours or more.

Just prior to serving, dust with a final, generous teaspoon of cocoa powder, then use a fine microplane or similar to grate the chocolate over the top.

By Published On: December 22nd, 202241 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

41 Comments

  1. BERNADETTE December 22, 2022 at 6:37 AM - Reply

    Thanks for this delicious recipe Mimi. I spent the Holidays in London one year and it is a very special place to be during the holidays. Have a very wonderful Christmas and a new year filled with many reasons to smile.

    • Chef Mimi December 22, 2022 at 6:39 AM - Reply

      Thank you Bernadette! Merry Christmas!

  2. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen December 22, 2022 at 8:46 AM - Reply

    Very festive Mimi, and I thoroughly enjoyed your rant! There’s a lot of misleading stuff out there. This week, my rant is with Chinese pine nuts again which are not even from the same tree as the real thing, and often come cleverly disguised as coming from Italy.

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:29 AM - Reply

      Oh, very interesting. I was not aware. Please write something up about that! Merry Christmas!

  3. Charlie DeSando December 22, 2022 at 9:26 AM - Reply

    Very nice and very creative. Hope you have a Great holiday and a Merry Christmas

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:29 AM - Reply

      Thanks Charlie! Merry Christmas!

  4. terrie gura December 22, 2022 at 12:53 PM - Reply

    Oh my God, Mimi!!! You’ve got my taste buds in a tizzy over here… wow!
    Merry Christmas to you! 😁

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:28 AM - Reply

      Thanks, Terrie! Merry Christmas!

  5. cookingwithauntjuju.com December 22, 2022 at 12:53 PM - Reply

    Love tiramisu – made a strawberry once and it was delicious. I’m sure using cranberries is another good version. It’s too bad there can’t be a universal food language – I spend a lot of time researching and trying to understand ingredients.Thanks for the detailed post on “lady fingers” :)

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:28 AM - Reply

      Oh strawberry. Wonderful. I honestly think the companies like to confuse people. Like calling it wheat bread to make people think it’s healthier. Of course it’s wheat. Doesn’t make it better! Hope you have a Merry Christmas!

  6. Raymund December 22, 2022 at 5:04 PM - Reply

    That really sounds like a good combo and very festive as well. I love the added tangy sweel element of cranberries. a real treat

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:26 AM - Reply

      It turned out really good and quite unique. Still like the original, though!

  7. Frank Fariello December 22, 2022 at 6:01 PM - Reply

    Lovely idea, Mimi. Love cranberries, love tiramisu. So what’s not to love here?

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:25 AM - Reply

      Exactly! Merry Christmas Frank!

  8. Sherry M December 22, 2022 at 10:16 PM - Reply

    this looks fabulous Mimi. we only have frozen cranberries here and only at christmas but i’ve not seen any at all this year. does your daughter still love in london? was it due to romance? :=) hope you have a great festive season. cheers sherry x

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:25 AM - Reply

      I hear that a lot about cranberries – so sad, cause they are such a unique and pretty fruit. No, my daughter attended Sotheby’s in London for her second masters, and then stayed longer for a job. You can imagine we visited her a lot during those years! Thanks, Sherry. Merry Christmas!

  9. Tandy | Lavender and Lime December 22, 2022 at 11:51 PM - Reply

    I am so with you on the savoirdi / lady finger issue. I buy my savoirdi and make lady finger biscuits when I need them, which is not often. I love the idea of adding tart fruit to tiramisu, which I never make as Dave is not a fan :)

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:22 AM - Reply

      I don’t know why the companies had to make things so complicated. The biscuits are so completely different. My dave isn’t a fan, either…. Such a pain! Merry Christmas!

  10. neil@neilshealthymeals.com December 23, 2022 at 6:26 AM - Reply

    Cranberrymisu? I’ve never heard of it before and I wish I had! I love everything cranberry and I love tiramisu. I’m definitely saving this for a future Christmas pudding recipe! Thank you for sharing and bringing to our attention. I hope you have an amazing Christmas and Happy New Year Mimi!

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:21 AM - Reply

      Thank you so much Neil! This was a nice twist on the traditional, for sure. Hope you have the merriest of Christmases!

  11. David @ Spiced December 23, 2022 at 8:42 AM - Reply

    I absolutely second your comments about ladyfingers vs. savoiardi – it can be really confusing! I absolutely love a good tiramisu, and the cranberry twist on this one sounds fantastic. This is perfect for the holiday season! (Also, those European Christmas markets are on my bucket list…we’ll get there eventually.) In the meantime, happy holidays!

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:19 AM - Reply

      You’re still young. We didn’t travel when our kids were little. But I told my husband we would get to Europe before they were out of high school, which we did. And now, they’re addicted to traveling! I would really love to be in Germany or Switzerland over Christmas one day! Merry Christmas!

  12. Ann Coleman December 23, 2022 at 9:22 AM - Reply

    Delicious! Merry Christmas, Mimi!!

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:17 AM - Reply

      Thank you Ann! Merry Christmas!

  13. Jean December 23, 2022 at 10:34 AM - Reply

    I appreciate this kind of education–I had no idea so thank you. Now I’d like to try to make a Charlotte and this lovely cranberrymisu.

    • Chef Mimi December 24, 2022 at 7:17 AM - Reply

      You’re so welcome! It’s just gotten too confusing!

  14. Karen (Back Road Journal) December 25, 2022 at 3:48 PM - Reply

    Thank you Mimi for sharing this fun twist on traditional tiramisu, very festive for the holidays. Merry Christmas.

    • Chef Mimi December 25, 2022 at 5:50 PM - Reply

      It was even better than I thought it would be!

  15. Liz December 26, 2022 at 11:55 AM - Reply

    Boy, this is one spectacular dessert for the holidays!!! I’m making a tiramisu cheesecake for my oldest’s birthday tomorrow. I had a heck of a time finding “soft” ladyfingers, but they ended up being at the nearest grocery store (the one that never has it’s shelves stocked!). Whew. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!!

    • Chef Mimi December 26, 2022 at 7:32 PM - Reply

      Amazing! Glad you could find them. If I ever see them, it’s a mistake on the store’s part! Happy New Year!

  16. David Scott Allen December 26, 2022 at 12:30 PM - Reply

    I love this recipe concept, as I really am not a fan of the coffee-laced confection (I would replace the coffee with… cocoa?). But like your discussion about the biscuits (I totally agree — horses of a different color!), I got a giggle out of the name. Tiramisu means “pick me up” (all that espresso, I suppose), so Cranberrymisu means “cranberry me up?” Your biscuit discussion also make me want to whip up a batch of ladyfingers and make my mothers trifle. Merry Christmas, Mimi — and all my best for 2023!

    • Chef Mimi December 26, 2022 at 7:31 PM - Reply

      Oh lovely, Trifles are the best. You know what? Slightly spiked hot chocolate in place of coffee would be fabulous! Great idea! And Happy New Year to you!!!

  17. nancyc December 27, 2022 at 6:31 PM - Reply

    London sounds like a wonderful place to be during the holidays! This Cranberrymisu sounds wonderful, too! :)

    • Chef Mimi December 28, 2022 at 2:10 PM - Reply

      I think just about every city and village in Europe is a wonderful place to be at the holidays! I just have little experience with that because we typically don’t travel in winter time!

  18. valentina December 29, 2022 at 6:32 PM - Reply

    Beautiful! Love the lady finger purchasing tips. Wish I had this right this minute. On my fork. ;-) ~Valentina

    • Chef Mimi December 30, 2022 at 6:28 AM - Reply

      You are so welcome. Companies are very good at confusing people!

  19. Jeff the Chef December 31, 2022 at 8:57 AM - Reply

    I have a feeling I’d love this variation on tiramisu, so thank for sharing. But above that, thanks for ranting! I love it. These types of things always drive me crazy, too. I had no idea about the ladyfinger situation, but I have always wondered about why I never see them on grocery store shelves. Now I know! I learned a lot from you rant, so please keep ranting!

    • Chef Mimi January 1, 2023 at 5:52 PM - Reply

      Well Jeff, you can bet on it. A few things make me crazy!!! I’m no professional, but I have been cooking a hell of a long time, and at least these days things can be researched. I like when foreign words are spelled properly and foods are presented correctly. Just wait for my charcuterie rant!!!

  20. Ronit January 2, 2023 at 11:51 AM - Reply

    I would never have thought about adding cranberries to Tiramisu, but I really like the idea! :)

    • Chef Mimi January 2, 2023 at 2:59 PM - Reply

      I know! I had second thoughts. It was the coffee and cranberry combo!

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