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everyone's favourite 'pick me up'

Probably the most popular Italian dessert today, it's the caffeine and sugar in tiramisù that promises to 'pick you up.' It's made of Savoiardi dipped in coffee (and usually rum or Marsala), layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks and mascarpone cheese, and flavored with liquor (rum, brandy or Marsala) and cocoa.

As famous as it is, tiramisù of relatively recent and slightly controversial origin. It was first mentioned in print by Giovanni Capnist's 1981 book Vin Veneto:

Born recently, less than two decades ago, in the city of Treviso is a dessert called Tiramesu [sic] which was made for the first time in the restaurant Alle Beccherie, by a pastry chef called Loly Linguanotto, the dessert and its name, tiramesu, which signifies its nutritious and restorative properties, became immediately popular and was copied with fidelity and variations not only in the restaurants of Treviso and the region but throughout Veneto and Italy.

Although others claim (as in a Washington Post article) that it was invented by Carminantonio Iannaccone on 24 December, 1969 in Treviso, because unlike the Beccherie recipe, his had the essential Marsala.

But really it may have much older...

But there is another older tale in Treviso: tiramisù was the pick me up served in the city's numerous brothels. Every morning local farmers would deliver the fresh eggs, that the prostitutes whipped up with sugar to serve to their clients for free after a heavy session to restore their flagging energy and have another go, which meant more money for the brothel.

In 1958, the government closed down the brothels, and tiramisù was in danger of being forgotten, until Alle Beccerie revived it.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Raffaele Diomede, Creative Commons License