Making lady fingers at home

Lady fingers, also known as savoiardi in Italian, are widely used in dessert making, namely, for soaking up rum-splashed coffee and layering into a glass dish with that creamy, rich, sweetened and egg-fortified mascarpone for tiramisu.

savoiardi ready for the oven

There are other biscuits you can use but I consider savoiardi indispensable for tiramisu. My Tuscan mother in law prefers to use Pavesini, which are thin, finger-shaped children’s cookies, but being so thin, they get soggy very quickly and they just don’t have the wonderful soft and springy texture of perfectly re-hydrated savoiardi. In fact, savoiardi in tiramisu takes on the texture of sponge cake.

Suddenly it dawned on me. Savoiardi are nothing more than my favourite pan di spagna (an Italian sponge) recipe, in finger form. A revelation. They are simply cake, dried out so they last a long time in the pantry and in a conveniently small size, which makes layering into glasses or a wide dish for other desserts very handy. They are cookies with a lot of history (they date back to the 1300s) and a name fit for royalty — in fact, they are named for the House of Savoy, the last monarchs of Italy, so they are especially tied to the regions where the Savoys had significant history: Sicily, Sardinia and Piemonte in particular.

They’re relatively easy to make and quick to bake, but you do need a bit of skill with a piping bag to get the right shape (Food52 has a great article on how to use a pastry bag). Otherwise, try the drop biscuit method for round ones (if you aren’t familiar with drop cookies or drop biscuits, it’s simply dropping blobs of batter off a spoon), which are still just as tasty and also perfectly suited for dipping into coffee or custard to eat just like that, as well as layered in desserts.

Savoiardi (lady fingers) just out of the oven

Feel free to use your favourite sponge recipe, if you have one. Do need gluten free lady fingers? This is my favourite gluten free sponge recipe, inspired by an Artusi recipe from 1891 so it doesn’t have strange ingredients in it, just potato starch, sugar and eggs. Then, once you have your homemade lady fingers, why not also make your own mascarpone (it’s a thousand times better than a store bought one)? That’s what I would call homemade tiramisu.

The following recipe is the pan di spagna (similar to a sponge cake) recipe that I like to use for desserts like zuccotto, which is in my cookbook, adapted to become lady fingers. The warming and heating with double broiler makes for a stable and fluffy batter. To make 24 lady fingers, I piped about 8 per baking sheet. I have two baking sheets, but only baked them one sheet at a time, so this meant that while one was in the oven, I was piping and preparing the next sheet, and when the first one came out, I left the cookies to cool directly on the counter top and I cooled the tray down quickly in the sink by running cold water over the top and then I could prepare the last 8.

savoiardi made at home

Homemade lady fingers (aka my favourite pan di spagna or sponge cake recipe)

For US conversions and measurements, see my recipe for these on Food52.

  • 120 grams of sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 120 grams of plain flour

Heat oven to 200ºC. Beat together the sugar and eggs in a metal bowl set over a bain marie (double broiler) until the mixture reaches 45ºC (the mixture should feel like a very warm bath, it takes about 2-3 minutes) and is doubled in size and pale, thick and creamy.

Fold in the flour gently, bit by bit, until smooth.

Prepare a cookie tray with baking paper. Fill a piping bag with the batter and pipe fingers that are roughly 10cm long, 2.5cm wide and 1cm high. Leave plenty of space between each finger. Sprinkle the fingers with some sugar, and then dust over some powdered sugar.

Bake for 6-8 minutes or until the lady fingers are puffed, dry to the touch and deep golden in colour. Remove from the oven and let cookies cool completely on baking sheet before removing carefully.

Use immediately, or if you want to keep them for later, let the cookies dry out on a wire rack overnight before packing into an airtight container. They will keep this way for 2 weeks.

Homemade lady fingers (savoiardi)

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Comments

2 Responses to “Making lady fingers at home”
  1. Sabine says:

    Sounds great. I once tried to make ladyfingers at home, but mine turned out a bit flat so I returned to store bought ones for my tiramisù. Now I´ll try your recipe. And the idea of making my own mascarpone never even occurred to me…..I see two new kitchen projects coming at me! Thank you!

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