Raspberry Charlotte

Raspberry Charlotte

Just in time for Easter, this delicate Charlotte is perfect for ushering in the spring.

If you’ve the stamina to create a layered cake, then you’ve got what it takes to make a Charlotte. With a little patience, and a pastry bag, you can create a dessert worthy of a French Patisserie.  And, if you’re short on patience, you can forgo the lady fingers and whip up the raspberry mousse instead.  What better way to use the last of the summer’s frozen berries?

The Charlotte consists of an easy sponge cake, the “ladyfinger” exterior, and a sweet and tangy raspberry mousse filling.  If you’ve never had homemade ladyfingers before you’ll be surprised to discover they are soft and cake-like; nothing like the store-bought ones in the cello packages.

To understand the assembly of the cake, read the recipe through to the end before you start.  Like you always do.

You will need a few pieces of equipment easily found at most kitchenware stores:

A pastry bag with a round nozzle tip approximately ½” to ¾” in diameter. The larger the nozzle, the bigger the ladyfingers.

A round stainless steel ring mold, 8” diameter x 2 ½” height.  If you can’t find the exact size, the recipe can be easily adapted to any size mold; simply adjust the size of the ladyfingers accordingly.  Leftover mousse can be piped into small sherry glasses and served with fruit.

A cardboard cake round, 8” diameter. You can buy cardboard cake rounds from craft stores or cake decorating stores, but I make my own from recycled cardboard.  I use my ring mold to trace the template onto the cardboard, and then I cover the cardboard with plastic wrap.  It doesn’t have to look pretty, it will be discarded later.

If you have a kitchen scale, use it.  I’ve provided imperial measurements but I prefer the accuracy of grams, especially when baking.

A beautiful cake platter (to show off your creation).

Cake Base and Ladyfingers
4 egg whites
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (120 grams)
4 egg yolks
1 cup of flour (120 grams)
pinch of cream of tartar
small amount of powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 365F.

Line two baking trays with parchment or a non-stick liner, such as Silpat.  Place the ring mold on top of one of the lined trays.

In a large bowl, combine egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar.   With a hand-held or stand-up mixer, whip the egg whites for a few minutes at medium-low speed.  Don’t rush this process as whisking egg whites too quickly will produce unstable egg whites that can deflate easily.  Gradually add approximately half of the sugar, increasing the speed to high just until you have a firm peak.  Over-whipping the egg whites can turn beautifully glossy, frothy egg whites into a curdled mess.

Add the balance of the sugar to the eggs yolk and whisk until the yolks turn a pale yellow.  You can do this by hand or by mixer.

Gently fold the yolk mixture into the meringue, until well incorporated.  Then fold in the flour until it is well incorporated.

You should have a light, smooth batter.  Don’t be concerned if the batter is somewhat loose.  It should puff up, once it’s in the oven.

The mixture is now ready to scoop into a piping bag.  You will find it easier to manage a piping bag if you have a narrow canister or large-mouthed glass that will hold the piping bag in place while you fill it.  Simply tuck the bag into the container, tip down and roll the large end of the bag over the edge of the canister or glass.  Do not overfill it.

Cake Base

Fill the ring mold (on the lined-baking tray), with ½” deep batter.  It is easy to spread the batter evenly with your piping bag if you start in the middle and pipe a thick spiral to the edge of the mold.

Bake for approximately 10 to 12 minutes until golden.

Loosen the edges of the cake mold with a knife; carefully remove the cake base from the ring mold and place it on a rack to cool.  Using a sifter or a fine-mesh sieve, lightly sprinkle the golden side with powdered sugar.

Once the cake is cooled, trim the cake into a 7 ½” round.  This will make perfect sense when you assemble the charlotte.

Ladyfingers

Pipe 4” lengths of batter, approximately ¾” thick onto your lined baking tray, leaving at least ½” between each ladyfinger.  Just before baking, lightly sprinkle each ladyfinger with powdered sugar.

Bake for approximately 10 – 12 minutes until golden.  Carefully remove the ladyfingers from the tray with a spatula and place them on a rack to cool.

Assembling the Charlotte

Place a tray (that will easily fit into your fridge) on your work surface.

Place the cardboard cake round on the tray and place the ring mold directly on top of the cardboard.  (The cardboard acts as a temporary base for the cake.)

Now, place the trimmed cake, sugar side down, directly on the centre of the cardboard.  You should have a half-inch gap from the cake to the ring mold.

Line the inside of the ring (the gap) with the ladyfingers, flat sides facing in.  The bottom of the ladyfingers can be trimmed slightly so that they are flat on the bottom.  You will want a snug fit.   Set aside, loosely covered, until the mousse is ready.

Raspberry Mousse

1 ¼ cup raspberry puree – thaw a package of frozen raspberries and puree in a food processor; strain the mixture and measure 1 ¼ cups
½ cups sugar (plus more if required)
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp unflavoured gelatin
1 cup whipping cream, whipped until light and fluffy (do not over-whip)

In a small saucepan, melt the sugar and the strained puree until the sugar has dissolved.  If the berries are tart, you may wish to add more sugar.  Add the unflavoured gelatin and mix until well combined.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Fold in the whipping cream until the mixture is combined.

This mixture will be poured into the lined mold, almost to the top of the ladyfingers.  (Leave a little room at the top for garnishing with fresh raspberries.)

The mixture should be somewhat firm; if it is too runny, it will seep through the ladyfingers and make a mess.  If the mixture needs additional firming, place it in the refrigerator for the gelatin to take effect.  You want the texture soft enough to pour into the lined mold, but firm enough so that is will hold its shape.  If you do place it in the refrigerator, check it every now and then to make sure it has the correct consistency.

Once the raspberry mousse has been poured into the mold, place it in the refrigerator until the mouse is firm enough to cut through.  (It can also be placed in the freezer, if you’re pressed for time.)

To remove the mold, place a warm damp cloth on the cold metal ring to warm it, and then carefully lift the mold from the Charlotte.

With a cake platter in front of you, lift the charlotte, peel off the cardboard base, and carefully place the cake on the platter.

Decorate the top of the cake with fresh raspberries and a sprig of mint.

Stand back and admire.  Your guests will be duly impressed.

Comments
5 Responses to “Raspberry Charlotte”
  1. Nancy says:

    I made this!!! We had a family get-together and this was the hit. Mine didn’t quite look like the picture, but no one seemed to mind that the ladyfingers weren’t lined up straight. I need to work on my piping skills 🙂

    The flavours! Seriously awesome and worth the effort.

  2. Denise says:

    So pleased you enjoyed this, Nancy!

    If your ladyfingers aren’t perfectly straight, you can always level and trim them with a paring knife. As Julia Child would say, “who’s to know?”

    • Nancy says:

      As odd as it sounds, I would have never thought to level them. Thanks for the tip. I actually baked an extra batch and froze them for coffee breaks.

  3. ChannonD says:

    Is there a way to make the mousse without the puree? more like a custard? I would love to do that and just use some berries on top (to please the non-raspberry lover in my house).
    Thanks so much! I had no idea making lady fingers didn’t require a special recipe or pan!!

    • Denise says:

      Yes, of course, you can make charlotte without raspberries. You can use any sort of fruit puree; peaches, mangos, blueberries, strawberries and the like.

      You can fill the charlotte with a custard, too, providing you add gelatin or another firming element, like chocolate.

      I’ve made a chocolate charlotte with this mousse http://www.frenchmint.ca/mousse/.

      Lady fingers are easy to prepare once you’re armed with a piping bag — and they’re fun to make, too.

      Good luck and let me know how you make out.

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