Strawberry Charlotte or Charlotte Russe is a lovely, light cake. Made with a fresh strawberry bavarois and lady finger biscuits, there's also a surprise layer of strawberry jelly inside. It's the sort of cake that looks difficult but isn't at all!
A Russian Charlotte was invented by influential patissier Marie-Antoine Carême (who also invented the toque or chef's hat). He named it after his employer King George IV's daughter Princess Charlotte and it's essentially a Bavarian cream and lined with lady finger biscuits surrounding it.
I made this cake when I bought too many strawberries (I have a weakness for small strawberries as they are so adorable). I actually bought six punnets envisaging all sorts of recipes. I actually thought that this cake would take a while but the beauty of it is that the bought sponge fingers add a lot to the decoration and I had half a packet left over from a tiramisu.
It came together freakishly quickly insofar as time spent making went (the effort vs reward/applause ratio was excellent). Plus it tasted delicious, of sweet berries and vanilla with the most ethereal lightness. I also added an extra layer of fruit jelly as a surprise because I had so much time.
Speaking of time, I recently wrote about my experience at the airport where I almost missed my flight to Thailand. I got to the airport early as I usually do, but I had one task I had to undertake and it was a really embarrassing one. It was to buy a selfie stick. A friend of mine had bought one recently and as cringeworthy as they are when in huge numbers at large tourist attractions, they also do tend to get better photos when you're filming videos etc.
Unfortunately, my time at the airport was eroded by crazy airline kerfuffles so I didn't buy the selfie stick. When we got to Bangkok airport for a two hour transit I snuck away subtly to look for one. I didn't know the other two writers very well at that stage and I didn't want to be the vain selfie stick buying a@#hole. But I was out of luck as there was no electronics shop in the terminal. Everywhere we went, I'd keep an eye out. Finally it got to crunch time and we were going to be in the centre town, and that was pretty much my only opportunity to buy one the whole trip.
I pulled the tour guide aside and asked him if it were possible to maybe stop by a store sometime to buy one. That one request turned into half a dozen stops because I wanted a good quality one (I'm trying to buy less disposable/throwaway things). My embarrassing secret was out.
Touch the heavens that the two writers I was travelling with were very lovely. They made fun of me in a light hearted way and I totally deserved the ribbing. I finally got my hands on a selfie stick with bluetooth. It was pretty expensive but I wasn't to quibble after inconveniencing others. I took it to the resort and turned it on and the bluetooth worked for a total of 5 minutes before it died. Turns out I was the selfie stick a@#hole with the dead selfie stick! ;)
So tell me Dear Reader, do you use selfie sticks? Do you use them for selfies or for filming? And have you ever made a bavarois? Do you look for recipes with a good effort to reward ratio?
Strawberry Charlotte Cake
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 30 minutes plus 6 hours setting time
Cooking time: 5 minutes
- 600ml/21.2flozs. cream
- 1/2 cup caster or superfine sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons gelatine powder
- 1 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/2 cup strawberries, pureed and strained
- A drop or two of pink food colourin g
- 10 savoiardi or lady finger biscuits
- 4 tablespoons Chambord (optional)
For jelly insert
- 1 tablespoon gelatine powder
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup caster or superfine sugar
- 1/4 cup strawberries, pureed and strained
- A few drops pink food colouring
- 300g fresh strawberries
- 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
- 1 tablespoon icing sugar
Step 1 - Spray the base and sides of a 20cm/8inch springform tin with oil spray. Trim the ends of the savoiardi biscuits until they sit flat and then place them around the edge, flat side down, glossy finish facing out. Make sure that they're sitting snugly-you may have to trim the last one to fit.
Step 2 - Next make the jelly insert. Sprinkle the gelatine powder over 1/4 cup of the water and melt in the microwave for 30 seconds on high until dissolved. Mix with the sugar, remaining water, colouring and strawberry puree. Spray a small round mold (smaller than the springform or same size and you can trim it) with oil spray and pour in the jelly mix and refrigerate until set (it will take around 20 mins).
Step 3 - Whip the cream until you get soft peaks and then scoop out and place in a bowl in the fridge until needed. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks until pale and fluffy-about 5 minutes.
Step 4 - Then sprinkle the gelatine powder over the water and melt in the microwave for 30 seconds on high until dissolved. Place the milk in a saucepan and heat gently and add the egg mixture stirring until thickened. It needs to coat the back of a spatula. Add the gelatine mixture and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in the whipped cream.
Step 5 - At this stage you can brush the inside of the sponge fingers with Chambord if you would like. Then pour half of the bavarois mix into the prepared tin and place in the fridge for 30 minutes (keep the remaining mixture at room temperature so that it doesn't set firm).
Step 6 - Check the bavarois and if it looks like it has set, carefully place the jelly insert on top (if it needs more time to set give it more time in 15 min increments checking it). Then pour the rest of the strawberry bavarois on top smoothing it on top and allow to set completely. Decorate with fresh strawberries, pistachios and icing sugar.