Before Tiramisu Was Officially Created, It Was Sbatudin

Like so many international dishes we love and crave, tiramisu comes with a pile of origin stories and more than a few regional conflicts. Nobody doubts the luscious dessert's birth in Italy, though it was likely an evolution more than a from-scratch aha! moment by an enterprising chef.

Today's version of the rich and sweet "pick me up" treat gets its moniker from a northeastern Italian phrase, "tireme sù," reportedly because early indulgers used it to perk up a lazy day or revive lagging energy levels after work or play. That stands to reason since caffeine-laden coffee holds a primary spot in today's tiramisu ingredient list. But did it always?

Apparently not, according to the way-back story of a simple treat called sbatudin. There's little doubt the modern incarnation of tiramisu originated in the mid-1900s, but Italians also nod to its lineage as sbatudin, a very simple sweet treat for children, farmers, the elderly, and everyday folks getting through ordinary days. Sbatudin is far from the renowned dessert now served with gusto in most Italian ristorantes, trattorias, caffès, and panetterias, not to mention their equivalents across the globe. Ingredients in a basic tiramisu typically include egg yolks, sugar, coffee, mascarpone cheese, cocoa powder, and ladyfinger cookies or other similar biscuits

Here's a shout-out to the humble sbatudin – if only for giving the world its notorious descendant, the elegant and somewhat-decadent tiramisu.

Sbatudin sweetness survives

Traditional sbatudin was indeed an uncomplicated creation, essentially comprising two ingredients: egg yolks and sugar, though routinely served with Italian biscuits, (aka cookies), similar in style to modern ladyfingers. Like its tiramisu offspring, sbatudin was considered an energizing treat, but more likely due to the sugar content than the caffeine-infused espresso and cocoa powder ingredients in today's tiramisu.

As sbatudin morphed into tiramisu, an identity crisis ensued, leading to origin claims from across the Veneto region, including Treviso and the border district of Friuli–Venezia Giulia. Those two areas are home to the most prominent culinary culture wars regarding the invention of tiramisu. Treviso gets a lot of regional affirmation as the home base of tiramisu, springing from a sbatudin remake by chef Loly Linguanotto, owner of Le Beccerie restaurant, explains Britannica. However, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture ultimately designated the Friuli–Venezia Giulia region as the dessert's origin, based on a recipe by restaurant owner Norma Pielli that appeared in print in 1959.

Relegating sbatudin to the past, however, would be an oversight, given its own reincarnation in Italian gastronomy. Modern versions of sbatudin, a word that means "a little beaten" in Venetian vernacular, stay close to its roots, consisting primarily of egg yolks and sugar and served as a breakfast food. However, some modern sbatudin recipes now include espresso and an optional sprinkle of cocoa powder, including this recipe from 101Caffe.