Writer of Soul-Searching Snark

People come and go quite regularly on the North Slope of Alaska. Personnel changes at some North Slope Borough (NSB) departments is staggering. No point in learning a person’s name unless they’ve stayed there for a year. Just kidding, we’re a friendly bunch of folk, but it is a common joke among the long-timers. When you do find work with someone you like, when they leave it can be heartbreaking.

A colleague was leaving NSB HOE (Hell on Earth) Department to obtain her master’s degree in some foreign place…I can’t remember if it was Pennsylvania or Prague. I was saddened to see her leave—very nice woman.

For her going away party, and we love going away parties—well, parties in general—I decided to concoct a fabulous Tiramisu. Graduate-school-bound co-worker loved Italian food. Certain things can’t be purchased in bush Alaska—or Booger County Arkansas for that matter. Ladyfingers would be the top of the list. Mascarpone cheese? Please!! Alcohol in which to soak the non-existent ladyfingers—not buying it in Barrow. Damp community—more on that later. And Booger County is dry.

A very wimpy substitution for ladyfingers is to bake a cake and slice it in thin slivers. As for the mascarpone cheese, I planned ahead and purchased some the week before when I was in Anchorage. You can use cream cheese. Booze? Well, admittedly, I had quite the stash. Only thing missing was the required Kahlua—funny how I can’t remember what happened to the bottle we brought back from Mexico.

After researching several tiramisu recipes and creative substitutions, I was able to concoct this recipe.


I hate to admit this bit, so Tarimisu afficiandos, please don’t cringe.

STEP ONE: Bake a yellow cake according to the directions on the box. Bake in 9 X 13” pan. Cool and slice into thin slices.

1 ½ cups strong coffee.
½ sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier—which is what I had on hand—you can also replace the Grand Mariner with Kahlua.
3 tablespoons of rum

Boil the coffee and sugar for about 2 minutes. Remove from stove and add alcohol. At this point, it’s always nice to add some alcohol to your system as well. I’ve found that cooking under the influence of wine is quite enjoyable.

1 ½ cup heavy cream
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
16 oz. mascarpone—if using cream cheese, use 14 oz and add 2 T of cream—mix together until creamy

Whip cream and sugar and vanilla into stiff peaks. Gradually add mascarpone


Line the bottom of a 9 x 13” pan with slices of the yellow cake. Drizzle with coffee mixture and then a layer of mascarpone—REPEAT—you’ll have TWO layers of dessert—cake, coffee, cream. Cake, coffee, cream

Chill for at least 4 hours. Before serving garnish with chocolate curls.


Comments on: "Barimisu–Barrow Version of Tiramisu" (8)

  1. Yum. I remember my brother and sister-in-law telling me about working on the north slope decades ago. If you last the year, the locals begin to take you seriously. Until then, you’re just another tourist passing through.

    • Yes, Pam, the turnover is unreal. It surprises me in this day and age how anyone could move somewhere and not know what to expect. Then again, it’s difficult to capture the essence of 64 days when the sun doesn’t rise. You can read about it, but can’t know about it until you experience it. Personally, I loved it.

  2. Fifteen years ago (has it been that long?) I was up in the town of Ambler, AK. Beautiful country up there. I was just introduced to Tiramisu this past year. I have to say, I’m glad I experienced both. As for your Baramisu, I’m glad you didn’t have to resort to fermented tang. I doubt it would have tasted as fabulous as what your recipe must taste.

  3. I love this recipe. AND to add PAIN to INJURY, I will leave out the cake, add the rum to the cheese mixture and enjoy. So what would that be called? Lindamisu?

  4. Ah, yes, there are many “family” recipes in my book that now have North Slope revisions! When we were in Point Hope, I wanted to make tiramisu and just couldn’t get enough substitutions to make it….I ended up making biscotti! 🙂 Not exactly what MY mouth was wanting, but no one else was the wiser.

    • Paula, the Point Hope store. Wow! You could get a fan belt for a 1957 Skidoo, but couldn’t get milk. I used to go to the store with contingency lists. If I can’t get bread, I’ll make… One learns how to be flexible when living in a village. 🙂

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