Featured Image: Alexis Fam and Tiramisu with Blueberries and Raspberries 

Tiramisu Made Sustainable

Baking follows everywhere I go, even to a French camp in the middle of the woods in the winter with no wifi and no signal.



Whether it was cookies, cakes, or pastries, I love to bake; and to me, baking is a way to relax and create smiles on people’s faces. When I was seven years old, I can greatly recall making my first dish: tiramisu. Coming from a caffeine-dependent family, there was always coffee and tea in the house; I knew this would be the perfect dish that everyone will love, and it was a simple recipe that required no cooking. However, every time I tried making tiramisu, the ingredients were difficult to find. A traditional tiramisu is made with sugar, eggs, mascarpone cheese, cocoa powder, espresso, and ladyfingers. What in the world is mascarpone cheese or ladyfingers? With a growing increase in culture and cuisine diversity, tiramisu is a dish served all over the world that can leave an unsustainable footprint behind with its over-processed, monoculture, transported ingredients.

Baking is in the air! During the holidays, I volunteered with HOSA and NHS to bake and decorate cookies and treats for nursing homes and the elementary schools.



To begin with, to keep up with the high demands of the market, humans have resorted to the “industrialization of the food chain,” resulting in the “rise of health and environmental problems” (Pollan 7, 9). For example, sugar is a globally important crop with a large unsustainable footprint. Sugar, like many other monoculture crops, depletes the soil of its nutrients, lowers biodiversity, and increases the use of fertilizer and pesticides. However, with sugar cane’s low adaptability to change, humans have started genetically modifying sugar cane that is resistant to climate change to improve crop yield, raising more questions on the impact of sugar on the environment. Also, sugar is a labor-intensive field that requires high labor demands from farming, production, and processing. Local maple syrup or coconut sugar are great alternatives to sugarcane. Maple syrup is boiled sap from maple trees. If properly tapped, a single maple tree can produce maple syrup for over a hundred years, and the dead and diseased trees can be used as lumber or as fuel.

Harvesting maple syrup is an ecological incentive to plant maple trees while producing a sustainable product. Another alternative to sugar is coconut sugar, which is obtained by palm trees. Palm sugar can be obtained sustainably and harmlessly without the need to cut down the palm tree. Palm sugar requires minimal processing and resources, and palm trees can produce sap for at least twenty years.



A major component of tiramisu is the light and creamy mascarpone cheese. In addition to sugar, cheese is an unsustainable source of protein that produces tons of greenhouse emissions, contributing to global warming. According to the National Resource Defense Council, cheese large a high carbon footprint that is both energy and resource consuming due to its manufacturing and maintenance. About ten pounds of milk are used to make a pound of cheese. Since beef and dairy have the same source, raising cattle requires intensive labor and large amounts of feed, resulting in little yield and potent carbon emissions. Cheeses with higher fat content, such as mascarpone cheese, require a longer processing and thus produces a larger environmental detriment. Since mascarpone cheese is known for its creamy and thick texture, a great alternative to mascarpone cheese would be a mixture of silken tofu and a milk alternative. For example, silken tofu is a soy product that is less energy consuming and emits fewer carbon emissions compared to meat. For every kilogram of cheese, 13.5kg of carbon is produced, compared to two kg of carbon tofu produces. By substituting mascarpone cheese with tofu, there are fewer environmental impacts without compromising the texture and taste.


Another unsustainable ingredient in tiramisu is coffee. As the second most tradable commodity after oil, coffee is a highly demanded product that poses ethical and environmental issues to keep up with the demands of the market. Traditionally, coffee is grown under a canopy of trees that provides for the wildlife surrounding it. However, farmers have abandoned the traditional method and resorted to “the use of destructive chemicals and on the wasteful methods of haste and anxiety,” such as by clearing forests and planting coffee in ways of monoculture (Berry 78). In addition to the diminishing of rainforests due to the lumber industry, coffee has contributed to the clearing of at least 2.5 million acres of forest. Along with the chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the process of separating coffee beans from the cherries produces tons of waste, which pollutes the water supply and environment. Much of the coffee beans on the market are cheap quality and shipped abroad from South America, which contributes to coffee’s greenhouse emissions. Instead of a traditional espresso tiramisu, an alternative would be to use Japanese matcha green tea. Unlike coffee, tea leaves can be grown all over the world and offer health and environmental benefits. Packed with antioxidants, matcha is powdered whole green tea leaves that produce no waste. Usually, tea plants can live up to half a century, cultivate in different climates, and perform little damage to the environment. Since many consumers are switching to tea due to its rising popularity, matcha found in many markets across the globe.


Bell Hooks believes that there exists an “intimate connection with the land… empathetic relationships with animals, self-restraint, [and] custodial conservation” (13). However, with the “industrialization of the food chain,” it is difficult to maintain these principles of environmentalism. By replacing some ingredients like cheese, sugar, and coffee, for more sustainable, locally sourced, and vegan options, we can reduce our carbon footprint and promote healthy eating in America. “How and what we eat determines to a great extent what we make of the world—and what is to become of it” (Pollan 11). As omnivores, we have the options and choices to make sustainable and healthy eating habits to combat global warming.


Original Recipe:

Courtesy of SortedFood


  • 2 cups espresso
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 4 tbsp dark rum
  • 1 packet ladyfinger cookies
  • 4 tbsp 60% dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 7 eggs


  1. Make the espresso. Prepare two cups of espresso, or make two cups of strong coffee. Then add rum to the espresso. Cool the espresso.
  2. Mascarpone MixWith the eggs, separate the whites from the yolks. Whisk sugar and yolks until smooth. Then add mascarpone cheese and combine thoroughly. Refrigerate.
  3. Meringue. Whisk the egg whites slowly adding half sugar and salt until stiff peaks. Add meringue mixture to mascarpone mix. Fold carefully making sure to incorporate air and not overmixing.
  4. Ladyfingers. Dip the ladyfingers in the espresso. They should be completely coated, but not mushy.
  5. Assemble. The ladyfingers should be on the bottom. Add the egg and mascarpone mixture to cover the ladyfingers. Sprinkle cocoa powder and chocolate shavings. Create a second level in the same order.

Vegan Matcha Tiramisu

Courtesy of Loving it Vegan and community


Vegan Vanilla Sheet Cake (Ladyfingers substitute)
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (312g) + 2 Tbsp All PurposeFlour
  • 1 cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) Soy Milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 3 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp White Vinegar
Tofu Mascarpone Mixture
  • 1 pkg (12oz) of Silken Tofu
  • 4 oz Almond milk and 2 oz Cashew milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Maple Syrup
Coconut Cream Meringue Mixture
  • 2 – 14oz (400ml) Cans Coconut Cream (chilled at least overnight in the fridge)
  • 1/4 cup (30g) Powdered Sugar
Matcha (Espresso Substitute)
  • 5 tsp (10 g) Matcha Powder (additional 1/2 cup for dusting)
  • 100 mL of water
  • Maple Syrup (optional, as needed for taste)


  1. Baking the cake. 
    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
    2. Dry ingredients: Sift flour. Then add sugar, baking soda, and salt.
    3. Wet ingredients: Mix soy milk, vanilla extract, oil, and vinegar.
    4. Add wet ingredients into dry. Mix thoroughly.
    5. Pour batter on baking sheet. Make sure it is evenly distributed.
    6. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
    7. Cool the cake
  2. Tofu Mascarpone Mixture. Mix together tofu, almond milk, cashew milk, and maple syrup until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Coconut Cream Meringue Mixture. Open the chilled cans of coconut cream. Scoop only the creamy, thick mixture on the top and leave the water behind. (The water can be used for smoothies or other dishes). Whisk coconut cream to soft peaks and add powdered sugar until stiff peaks. Fold coconut cream into tofu mascarpone mixture. Fold carefully making sure to incorporate air and not overmixing.
  4. Matcha. In a bowl, combine hot water and matcha powder while adding maple syrup as needed. Stir until dissolved. Allow matcha to cool.
  5. Assembling. Cut the cake into two halves. Place the first half on the bottom of the tray. Add half the matcha syrup. Add tofu mascarpone cream mix. Sprinkle matcha powder. Create a second layer in the same order.


Works Cited

Berry, Wendell. A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural. Counterpoint, 2012.

“How Sustainable Are Sugar Alternatives?” GRACE Communications Foundation, www.gracelinks.org/blog/6218/how-sustainable-are-sugar-alternatives.

Hymas, Lisa. “Is Your Cheese Killing the Planet?” Grist, Grist, 9 Aug. 2011, grist.org/sustainable-food/2011-08-08-is-your-cheese-killing-the-planet/.

Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma a Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin Books, 2016.

Richards, Jane. “Food’s Carbon Footprint.” Green Eatz, www.greeneatz.com/foods-carbon-footprint.html.

Shalant, Jenny. “To Shrink Your Carbon Footprint, Ease Up on the Dairy.” NRDC, 2 June 2017, www.nrdc.org/stories/shrink-your-carbon-footprint-ease-dairy.

“The Challenge of Sustainable Tea.” Matcha Tea, 6 Jan. 2016, matcha-tea.com/matcha/the-challenge-of-sustainable-tea.

T.M. Hess, J. Sumberg, T. Biggs, M. Georgescu, D. Haro-Monteagudo, G. Jewitt, M.Ozdogan,

Marshall, P. Thenkabail, A. Daccache, F. Marin, J.W. Knox, A sweet deal?Sugarcane,  water and agricultural transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa, Global Environmental Change, Volume 39, 2016, Pages 181-194, ISSN 0959-3780, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.05.003.

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