Traveling with Grandma in Rome…

“I want to visit a city in Europe, any city…before I die!” she said on the phone. I was quiet for a moment on the other side of the receiver. I had only asked her if there was anything that she needs/wants from me…very casually at the end of our usual weekly phone call. In my mind, the answer would be a certain type of vitamin or medicine, a picture from us or her usual “no, I don’t need anything”. But  it was different this time. She apparently thought about it and decided that is what she wanted.  And this conversation happened two years ago.

How could you say “No!” to a grandma who has done everything for you—changed your diapers, fed you, took care of you while your mom was working?

Since that phone call, I had been thinking where and when I can take her. She loves traveling, seeing new places, going to places. She has the spirit of a traveler. And if she was born 32 years ago, she would be one of those people with a backpack, traveling the world today. But instead, she was born 82 years ago. Then married for 56 years to a great man who loved to sit at home, did not care for traveling, and couldn’t breathe when he was in enclosed and crowded spaces such as a plane or a bus.

And now, she wanted to see only one city with her own hazel eyes.  How can you say No?

You simply can’t…

But it took me two years to get my act together! Guilty of procrastinating… big time! You know, that whole “life gets in the way” excuse! Five months ago, finally I decided where to take her: Rome! Lots of things to see for both of us, and lots of cafes to take a break when we needed to. She was excited… so excited that even if it was going to be three days after her latest eye procedure, she did not mind.

We—and when I say we, it is almost the whole family: my mom, my grandma, my brother, his girlfriend, my husband and his parents—arrived Rome about 3 weeks ago. During our 5-day stay, we walked a lot, ate a lot, got lost a lot and enjoyed every bit of Rome.  We ate pizza, pasta and gelato like there was no tomorrow. After having thrown all of our quarters (and whatever other coins I could find in my purse) into the Trevi Fountain per the Roman tradition, I am pretty sure we will be back. Otherwise, I will demand my quarters back!

Unfortunately, one thing we did not have more than once was tiramisu. Before we went, I had expected to have tiramisu with every meal. But I was so focused on Nutella Gelato once we were there, it just slipped out of my mind. Until my mother-in-law said that she had to have tiramisu at least once before we left! And it was our last day! The nice, little restaurant where we had our dinner happened to have a great tiramisu, so we checked that off the list as well. I can not really compare it to any other tiramisu in Rome, so I decided to save that task for the next trip, whenever it may be!

So just to bring myself up to speed on tiramisu, my first week back home was spent with comparing some recipes, reading up on how to make tiramisu. I had not made it for 9 years! And I did not have any good recipes for it. That is when google comes handy. I entertained myself with reading the comments under some recipes, some people who were claiming to be of Italian descent were practically yelling at the recipe author for not making it the “real” way. So I took those comments into account as well (minus the temper!). I adopted/mixed some recipes and made it in two different ways: one is based on the traditional way of making Zabaglione custard, and the other is a simpler, more frequently used method. Just to see the difference…

And guess what? We really couldn’t tell much difference in taste. Texture, yes! The one I made with beating the egg yolks and sugar in a double-boiler over the hot, simmering water had a little bit thicker, grainy-er texture, and the one I made with just beating the egg yolks in a bowl had a smoother, velvety texture. Also heavy cream gave a little bit thicker consistency as well.  I used minimal savoiardi biscuits because I like eating the custard more than eating the biscuits. You can consider it as my pitiful attempt to cut carbs to eat healthy! If you like having more of it, feel free to layer it like a cake.

Tiramisu -Version 1

Ingredients (makes 5 individual desserts in wine glasses)

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua (or dark rum or marsala wine)
  • 16 ounce Mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Cocoa powder for dusting
  • 15-20 Savoiardi (lady finger) biscuits (this depends on if you are doing individual cups or like a cake and if you like your cake one layer or two. Individual cups will require 3 or 4 lady fingers per cup. If you are doing it like a layered cake, to cover 8” by 8” container, you will possibly need more than 15. My numbers are based on skinny saviordi biscuits, the Natural Nectar brand from Earthfare. They were really as wide as my finger. But I have bought from Bilo one time much wider than that)

To soak the savoiardi: ½ cup of Kahlua and ¼ cup of strong coffee . This was enough to dip my 15 savoiardi biscuits. (I am normally not afraid to use more Kahlua than the coffee. Compared to rum, it is not as strong. If you are using rum, you might want to start with the reverse ratio—1 part rum, 2 parts coffee—just to make sure it won’t be a DUI offense!)

1. Combine egg yolks and sugar in the double-boiler and put it over simmering water (bottom not touching water).

2. Whisk or beat yolks and sugar with an electric mixer for 5 -6 minutes or until the color fades and gets lighter.

3. Remove the double-boiler from the pan and set aside.

4. Beat mascarpone, kahlua and coffee together in a bowl until it becomes creamy and smooth.

5. Stir in the egg yolk mixture into mascarpone mixture.

6. Add the heavy cream and beat with the mixer for a minute or so until everything is well combined.

7. Dip the biscuits in their soaking liquid and start layering them in the individual glasses or in a big container. In the glasses, I drop a tablespoon of the mascarpone mixture, layer one and a half biscuits, put a couple more spoonful of the mixture and layer another 1.5 biscuits and top with more mixture.

Tiramisu -Version 2


Same as above, except heavy cream.

1. Combine egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 5 -6 minutes or until the color fades and gets lighter.

2. Beat mascarpone, kahlua and coffee together until it becomes creamy and smooth.

3. Stir in the egg yolk mixture into the mascarpone mixture and combine until it is mixed thoroughly.

4. Dip the biscuits in the soaking liquid and start layering in the individual glasses or in a big container as in Version 1.


  1. by Ovunc Yalcinkaya
    10:34 pm
    Oct 4, 2010

    we went Rome for honeymoon.good choice!congratulations.
    great and unforgettable moments with your family i can guess.sounds perfect.
    tiramisu recipe for the first part.waiting your post for the second part of your holiday:)
    good sister ilke!

  2. by zerrin
    9:19 am
    Oct 6, 2010

    ellerine saglik…Resimler cok guzel

  3. by Peggy
    9:51 am
    Oct 6, 2010

    Tiramisu is my absolute favorite dessert ever! This looks fabulous and can not wait to try it out myself!

  4. by Ema
    1:25 pm
    Feb 12, 2016

    hi i just made this tiramisu cause i have guest tooomrrw and i though it would be a great idea to make it the night before, but the cream part was too runny i really don’t know what went wrong cause i followed the recipe and the direction you gave. BTW yours looks great.

  5. by Ilke
    3:43 pm
    Feb 25, 2016

    Maybe heavy cream did not get thickened and more mixer time was required? Normally heavy cream, once it is beaten with handheld mixer should thicken things up. I have made it twice and did not have a runny problem but it was a long time ago. Will try again in the coming weekends and let you know if i run into the same problem.

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