Hi, I’m Rebecca from BakeNQuilt.com! I’ve been a member of the Daring Bakers since 2011 and this is the second challenge I’ve hosted. This month, I’m excited to show you how to make a classic Charlotte Royale and Charlotte Russe! Charlottes have been on my baking bucket list for many years now, ever since I saw a beautiful photo of a Charlotte Royale in one of my baking books. I hope you have as much fun making them as I did!
The term Charlotte actually refers to two different types of dish one cold and one hot. For this challenge we are making the chilled variety, which is sometimes referred to as an icebox cake. Chilled Charlottes are composed of a lined bowl or mold, which is then filled with a Bavarian cream or mousse which is firm enough to slice when chilled. The sweet Charlotte molds are typically lined with bread, cake or ladyfingers and the savory ones are lined with vegetables or bread.
The two classic types of chilled Charlottes are the Charlotte Royale and the Charlotte Russe. The French Chef Marie-Antoine Carême supposedly invented the Charlotte Russe in the 1800s, naming it partly for the daughter of his former employer (George IV), as well as his current Russian employer (Czar Alexander I ). The Charlotte Royale is a variation on the Charlotte Russe.
The Charlotte Russe is made in a loose bottomed cake pan lined with ladyfingers and is filled with one or more layers of Bavarian Cream or mousse.
The Charlotte Royale is typically made in a round bowl lined with slices of Swiss roll cake for a spiral effect.
Though less common, Charlottes may also be savory. These Charlottes come in many shapes and are filled with meat or vegetable mousses and the molds are lined with vegetables or bread.
The Charlotte Royale and Charlotte Russe recipes have been adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. The savory Charlotte is my own invention.
You can find the challenge PDF here
This is a creation where it really helps to read the instructions a few times before you start and make a plan! J
Charlottes are ideal make-ahead desserts as they have several components and require several hours of chilling before serving. They keep very well for 3 or more days and can also be frozen after assembly. There are a lot of steps in making Charlottes, but if you break down the process into a couple of days it makes it a lot less intimidating. I found it easiest to make both the cake roll for the Charlotte Royale and ladyfingers for the Charlotte Russe ahead of time and freeze them until I was ready to continue with the recipe. You could also line the molds ahead and wrap them well so that they don’t dry out, refrigerating for a day or freezing them until you are ready to fill them.
The savory Charlotte doesn’t freeze or keep as well, but could be made one day ahead. It is very rich and best served as an appetizer with crackers.
Charlottes can be shaped in any sort of mold/pan that you can unmold it from easily. I have made the two most common shapes, but use what you have on hand! The Charlotte Russe is particularly nice made in individual small molds.
A caution about cornstarch – if possible, use an organic non-GMO cornstarch when making the cake for the Charlotte Royale. I recently heard Rose Levy Beranbaum (recipe author) speak at an event. She stated that many of her older cake recipes had recently started coming out more like bread than cake in texture. She found that when she switched to an organic non-GMO cornstarch that her recipes worked again as they had when she first developed them. I tried the cake with both types of cornstarch and the cake will turn out either way. However, I do think that the one with the organic cornstarch had a more tender texture than the one with generic cornstarch.
A tip about folding egg whites into batters – the recipe author recommended using a balloon whisk or a slotted spoon as the ideal tool for folding the egg whites into the batter mixture of the cake and ladyfingers recipes. I tried both my usual rubber spatula and a balloon whisk and was astonished by how much better the balloon whisk worked to quickly and evenly fold the egg whites into the batter without losing volume.
The method for measuring volumes of flour – spoon from the flour bag into a measuring cup and cut it level with a knife.
Weighing: If using an analogue scale, use the finest weight divisions (usually 5 gm increments) on your scales when measuring weights.
Varies greatly depending on your skill level and the Charlotte you decide to make. It will probably take an average of 3 to 4 hours of active time plus several hours of chilling for the dessert Charlottes. The savory Charlotte will take about 2 hours. The dessert recipes work well spread out over a couple of days.
4 Cup (1 litre) Bowl (for the vegetable Charlotte)
6 Cup (1½ litre) bowl (for the Charlotte Royale)
8” (20 cm) spring-form or loose-bottom pan (for the Charlotte Russe)
17”x12” (43 x 30 cm) jellyroll or half sheet pan (for the Charlotte Royale cake component)
Balloon whisk/skimmer spoon/rubber spatula (see notes)
Candy Thermometer (optional, but nice to have for the Bavarian Cream recipe)
Food Processor (optional, but nice to have for the savory Charlotte)
Handheld or stand mixer (optional, but nice to have)
Parchment paper/silicon liner/foil
Piping bag with 1/2”-3/4” (1¼ to 2 cm) tip or zip-top freezer bag with the corner cut for piping
Ribbon or other decorations as desired
Raspberry Charlotte Royale:
3/4 cup (180 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) seedless raspberry jam, divided
1 recipe Biscuit Roulade (below)
1 recipe Bavarian Cream, raspberry flavor (below)
Apricot jam, thinned and strained for glazing (optional)
Whipped cream, fresh fruit or sauce as desired for decoration
Lightly oil a 6-cup (1½ litre) round bowl or mold (the smaller the diameter at the top the better) and line it as smoothly as possible with plastic wrap, leaving a small overhang. Measure the diameter of the bowl and make note of it. You will need a round cake base of this size for the bottom of the Charlotte. Note: If the diameter of the top of your 6 cup bowl is very wide, you may want to make an additional 1/2 recipe of the cake in a smaller pan to make sure there is enough for the roll as well as the base. Alternately, you can use a smaller bowl.
Make the Biscuit Roulade cake in a sheet pan as directed in the recipe. As soon as the cake has finished baking, slide it out of the pan onto a flat surface using the parchment to help move it. Flip the cake onto a clean dishtowel and carefully remove the parchment paper.
While the cake is still hot, you will need to set aside a piece for the base and roll the remainder in a towel as described below.
Cut off a piece from one of the ends just wide enough to cut the top from later as shown in the photo below. Set this piece aside to cool. After this piece has cooled, cut it with shears or a sharp knife into the circle for the Charlotte base.
While the cake is still hot, roll the remaining piece of cake up tightly in the dishtowel. Roll from the longest side with the darkest side of the cake on the inside. Cool the rolled cake/towel on a rack.
When ready to fill, gently unroll the cake and leave it on top of the towel. Spread up to ½ cup of raspberry jam in a thin layer on top of the cooled cake, leaving it on the towel (I spread my jam a little too thick the first time and the jam bled a bit after I cut the spirals. The jam should look like it’s barely covering the cake).
Roll up the cake as tightly as you can about 1/3 of the way and then use the towel to pull the roll towards you and press on the other side of the roll with a bench scraper or your hands to help make the roll tight as you continue to use the towel to help roll the cake all the way up. The completed roll should be about 2” (5 cm) in diameter. It is important to get this roll as tight as possible as you do not want gaps in the spirals.
Wrap the roll tightly in plastic wrap and then foil and freeze until firm enough to slice, at least a couple of hours. If desired, the roll and the base can be frozen for a few weeks before you make the rest of the Charlotte.
When the roll is firm, cut it into ¼ inch (5 mm) slices with a small, serrated knife. You want to get as many spirals as possible, so be careful to evenly cut the slices as close to ¼ inch (5 mm) as you can. Work quickly so the cake roll doesn’t thaw and soften too much.
To line the bowl, place 1 slice in the center and place other slices around it as tightly as possible to try to avoid gaps.
The width of your mold and the width of your slices will determine how far up the mold you can get. You may need to cut the slices in half or smaller to fit the last rows if your slices go all the way up the mold. My bowl was fairly wide, so my cake slices did not go all the way up to the top of the bowl with what I had left over after cutting the base circle. If your spirals do go all the way up, trim the last ones even with the edge of the bowl. If not, you can trim them when you put in the cream.
Adjust the spirals to eliminate gaps, but it may not be possible to make it fit perfectly. If there are any gaps between the spirals, plug them with a small amount of the remaining raspberry jam or some trimmings from unused spirals. If you are using a glass bowl, you can hold it up to the light and see where light comes through. You want to plug these spots to prevent the Bavarian Cream from leaking through.
Cover the lined bowl tightly and place it in the refrigerator until the filling is ready.
Make the Bavarian cream and spoon it into the lined bowl until it comes up to the top of the bowl or just to the place the top spirals last touch each other. Trim the top spirals even above the cream if necessary.
Place the cake round on top of the cream and touching the edge of the spirals. Press down gently on the edges of the cake circle so it makes contact with the edge of the spirals.
Cover tightly and refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours.
To unmold, invert onto a plate and lift away the bowl, tugging gently on the plastic wrap to release it. To prevent drying out, leave the plastic wrap in place until serving or glaze the cake with some apricot jam that has been heated, strained and thinned with a bit of water until it is thin enough to brush over the cake. If desired, decorate with whipped cream or fresh fruit. The cake may also be served with raspberry sauce.
Orange Chocolate Charlotte Russe:
1 recipe Biscuit à la Cuillière (below), piped to make 2-dozen ladyfingers and an 8 ½” (21 cm) base.
Grand Marnier (if the ladyfingers are not freshly baked)
1 recipe Bavarian Cream, orange variation (below)
1/2 recipe Light Whipped Ganache (below)
Decorations as desired (ribbon, candied orange peel, fruit, flavored whip cream, etc.)
Make the ladyfingers and base as directed in the recipes below.
If using a spring-form pan as a Charlotte mold, remove the bottom and set the outer ring on top of your serving plate or a cardboard cake circle. If using a loose-bottom pan, leave the disc in place but line the bottom with parchment . Very lightly oil the inside of the ring to prevent any sticking or line the sides with parchment.
If the ladyfingers have not been freshly baked, sprinkle them with a little Grand Marnier.
Trim one end of the ladyfinger strips to form a flat bottom edge. Use the ladyfinger strips to line the inside of the mold, placing the flat edge at the bottom of the pan and facing the nice side of the ladyfingers towards to outside. It is not necessary to cut the ladyfingers apart unless the height of the ladyfingers need adjustment. The Charlotte will look best if the top of all the ladyfingers is fairly even.
Place the base in the bottom of the pan, trimming it as necessary for a tight fit inside the ladyfinger walls.
Prepare the Orange Bavarian and scoop it into the lined mold.
Prepare the Light Whipped Ganache and scoop it on top of the Bavarian and gently smooth it out. It should be just below the edge of the ladyfingers.
Note: Depending on the size of the mold you are using you may or may not want to use all of the Bavarian and all of the whipped ganache. Use your judgment as you fill the mold.
Chill for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days before serving. The assembled Charlotte may also be frozen for up to 3 weeks.
Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Remove the Charlotte from the mold and decorate as desired. A ribbon is often tied around the Charlotte Russe and some sort of decoration is put on top to indicate the flavors inside.
This recipe can easily be made in mini molds or ramekins for a fun individual dessert.
Servings: (8) 1 cake
1/3 cup (80 ml) (1.16oz/33gm) sifted cake flour, (see note above how to measure volumes of flour)
3 tablespoon (45 ml) (.8oz/23gm) unsifted cornstarch, preferably organic, non-GMO (see notes)
4 large eggs (8oz/227g weighed in the shell), room temperature
1 large egg yolk (3 ½ tsp/0.64oz/18g), room temperature
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 oz/113g) sugar, divided
¾ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8. Grease the jellyroll/sheet pan and line it with parchment and then grease it again and flour it. You may use baking spray with flour included if desired.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cake flour and cornstarch.
Separate 2 of the eggs, placing the yolks in one large mixing bowl and the whites in another.
To the yolks, add the additional yolk, the 2 remaining eggs, and ½ cup of the sugar.
Beat the yolk mixture with the paddle attachment on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick, fluffy and tripled in volume. Beat in the vanilla.
Sift ½ the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in gently but rapidly with a large balloon whisk (see notes), slotted skimmer spoon or rubber spatula until the flour has disappeared. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture.
Beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until foamy, add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Fold the whites into the batter and pour into the prepared pan, using an angled/offset metal spatula to level it.
Bake for 7 minutes or until golden brown, a cake tester comes out clean, and the cake is springy to the touch.
While the cake is still hot, follow instructions in the Charlotte Royale recipe about cutting a base and rolling the cake.
Chocolate Biscuit: Increase the sugar to 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (5oz/145gm). Replace the cornstarch with an equal weight or ¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder. Dissolve the cocoa in 3 tablespoons of boiling water and cool. Stir in the vanilla and add to the beaten yolk mixture, beating a few seconds until incorporated.
Biscuit à la Cuillière:
Servings: 2 dozen 3” (7½ cm) ladyfingers and an 8” (20 cm) circular base
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature (yolks – 4oz/1152 g, whites – 6.25oz/180g)
¾ cup (180 ml) (5.25 oz/ 150gm) granulated sugar, divided
2½ teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon warm water
1½ cups (360 ml) (5.25oz/150gm) sifted cake flour, (see note above how to measure volumes of flour)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Powdered sugar for dusting, approximately 1 cup
Separate the eggs and set them aside to come to room temperature while preparing the rest of the ingredients and equipment.
Draw as many three-inch (7½ cm) wide strips as you can fit on a piece of parchment paper to use as a guideline for piping the ladyfingers. There should be at least ½” (1¼ cm) between the strips so that the top of the ladyfingers don’t run together. Trace an 8 1/2” (21½ cm) circle on a second sheet of parchment paper. (to fit the bottom of an 8”(20 cm) pan.
Turn each parchment sheet over onto baking sheets so that the ink is on the underside and won’t get on the batter. If you’d rather use a silicon liner, you can draw your lines with a marker on a paper bag and place that under the liner so it shows through. If you are using foil, use a skewer to trace guidelines onto the foil.
Preheat the oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the yolks and ½ cup of the sugar on high speed with a mixer with the paddle attachment for 5 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and ribbons when dropped from the beater.
Lower the speed and mix in the vanilla and the water. Increase back to high speed and beat for another 30 seconds or until the mixture is thick again. Sift the flour over this mixture without mixing it in and set it aside while you beat the whites.
In another large mixing bowl, beat the whites until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat to soft peak stage. Gradually beat in the remaining ¼ cup sugar, beating until very stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly (while off, of course!).
Fold 1/3 of the beaten whites with a balloon whisk (see notes), skimmer spoon or rubber spatula into the batter to lighten it. Fold until all of the flour is incorporated. Gently fold in the remaining whites, making sure that no streaks remain but being very careful not to deflate the whites any more than necessary.
Working quickly so that the batter doesn’t lose volume, put about 4 cups of the batter into a piping bag fitted with a ½” or ¾” (1¼ to 2 cm) tip. If you don’t have piping bags and tips, spoon it into a freezer zip-top bag and clip one corner to ½” (12 mm) wide and use that to pipe the batter.
Holding the piping bag straight up over the baking sheet, pipe the batter into a circle shape following the guidelines drawn on the parchment paper. Pop this pan in the oven and to bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.
While the base is baking, scoop the remaining batter into the piping bag and pipe ladyfingers onto the other baking sheet; they will be 3 inches long and about 1½ inches (3 cm) wide. Pipe the fingers ¼” (5 mm) apart, they will spread and join together at their sides while baking. The tops should be ½” (12 mm) apart as those should remain separate. This will create a continuous strip that you can line the pan with. Variation: You may also pipe the ladyfingers at an angle or in a design within the 3” (7½ cm) guidelines for a different look for the sides of your Charlotte.
Sift some powdered sugar evenly over the ladyfingers. After a few seconds the batter will absorb the sugar. For a pearled effect, sift another layer of sugar over the ladyfingers. Bake 8-10 minutes until light golden brown and springy to the touch.
Remove the sheets to racks and cool slightly. To prevent cracking, remove the ladyfinger strips from the sheets while still warm with a long, thin spatula. For the cake base, invert onto a rack covered with a paper towel or a dishtowel, peel off the liner, and invert onto another rack. Cool the base and ladyfingers on racks until completely cool. Ladyfingers go stale very quickly. If not using them right away, wrap in plastic wrap. They may be frozen at this point for up to 1 month.
Servings: enough to fill a 6-cup cake- lined mold
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2.25oz/65gm) sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons/.333 oz/9.3gm) unflavored gelatin powder
3 large egg yolks (3.25oz/95gm)
1-2/3 cups (400 ml) milk
1 vanilla bean, split (you may also use extract/paste, but add it when the cream is cool)
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
1½ tablespoon (22 ml) kirsch or other liqueur, optional but helps mask the gelatin flavor
Additional flavoring ingredients as listed in the variations below
Note: As a general rule, two gelatine leaves is equivalent to one teaspoon of powdered gelatine.
Refrigerate the mixing bowl for whipping the cream.
Have ready a fine strainer nearby, suspended over a small bowl.
In a small, heavy, noncorroding saucepan, stir together the sugar, salt, gelatin and yolks until well blended, using a wooden spoon.
In another small saucepan heat the milk and vanilla bean to just below a simmer (170°F/77°C – 180°F/82°C). There will be steam rising off the milk and there may be some small bubbles but it will not be at an active simmer yet. Stir a few tablespoons of hot milk into the yolk mixture to temper it. Gradually add the remaining hot milk and vanilla bean, stirring constantly.
Heat the egg and milk mixture, stirring constantly, to just below a simmer again (170°F/77°C – 180°F/82°C). Steam will begin to appear and the mixture will be slightly thicker than heavy cream. It will leave a well-defined track when a finger is run across the back of a spoon. If the mixture gets too hot (above 180°F/82°C), the cream can curdle. If this happens, immediately pour it into a blender and (with the vent open or a towel over the top) blend it to try to bring it back together smoothly.
Immediately remove from the heat and pour the mixture through the strainer (unless making the orange or lemon variations), scraping up the thickened cream that settles on the bottom of the pan. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce. Stir until the seeds separate.
If time allows, chill the pastry cream in the refrigerator for about 1½ hours (checking frequently and stirring occasionally) until whisk marks barely begin to appear when stirred. For faster results, cool the sauce over an ice-water bath, stirring with a whisk, until whisk marks barely begin to appear. The mixture will start to set around the edges but will still be very liquid.
In the chilled bowl, whip the cream until it mounds softly when dropped from a spoon.
Whisk the optional kirsch or other liqueur into the pastry cream and then fold in the whipped cream just until incorporated. The mixture will be soupy, like melted ice cream. Pour into a cake-lined mold. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before unmolding. The flavor will improve as it sits, so letting it chill for 24 hours before serving will be even better.
Raspberry Bavarian: Use raspberry liqueur in place of the kirsch. After folding in the whipped cream, fold in ½ cup of seedless raspberry jam. If the jam is stiff, you may need to loosen it a bit first with a tablespoon or two of warm water until it’s liquid enough to fold into the cream mixture.
Orange Bavarian: Use ½ cup sugar instead of 1/3 cup. Replace the kirsch with Grand Marnier. Add 2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice concentrate and 1 tablespoon of orange zest. To make the concentrate, start with ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice and reduce it to 2 tablespoons. Add the zest to the milk before heating and do not strain the custard. Add the concentrate when the mixture is cool. Note: This is a very lightly flavored Bavarian and the flavor is better after a day or two. If you want a stronger flavor, you may want to use some orange oil or orange extract in addition to the concentrate and zest.
Lemon Bavarian: Replace the kirsch with Limoncello. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon zest to the milk before heating and do not strain the custard. After folding in the whipped cream, fold in ½ cup of lemon curd.
Light Whipped Ganache:
Servings: 2 cups ganache
1 cup (240 ml) (4oz/115g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Heat the cream just to a simmer. Pour it over the chopped chocolate in a large mixer bowl and let it sit for couple of minutes to melt the chocolate. Whisk until smooth.
Refrigerate until cold, stirring once or twice, for about 2 hours. Do not let the mixture get too cold or it won’t whip well.
Mix in the vanilla and beat the mixture using a mixer with the whisk attachment until very soft peaks form when the beater is raised. It will continue to thicken after whipping, so it’s best not to overbeat it. Use right away.
Note: You will only need half of this recipe to make the Charlotte Russe. However, it’s easier to make in the mixer in a larger batch. The remaining ganache keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer.
Vegetable and Cheese Charlotte:
For the mold:
2 large zucchini, approximately 1 lb (½ kg)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (optional)
For the Cheese Mousse:
8 oz/250 gm cream cheese at room temperature (do not use whipped cream cheese)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, drained
¼ cup finely chopped fresh herbs (use your favorites, I used Basil, thyme, chives and parsley)
In a large bowl, mix the 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 clove of minced garlic, salt and thyme (if using). Slice the zucchini into 1/8-inch (3 mm) rounds and toss with the olive oil.
Heat a grill pan and cook the zucchini slices on both sides until they are pliable but not mushy. Set aside to cool.
Lightly grease a 4-cup (1 litre) bowl and line it with plastic wrap.
Mix the cream cheese, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper together in a food processor until smooth and creamy. With the food processor running, stream in the whipping cream and process for a minute or two until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in the chopped herbs and sun-dried tomatoes. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
Place one zucchini round in the bottom center of the bowl. Start layering in the other zucchini rounds in a circular fashion along the bottom and sides of the bowl, overlapping each round slightly. Since the zucchini are floppier than cake or bread, it helps to fill the mold as you line it. Go up a few circles high and then spoon in some of the mousse. Layer in more zucchini circles and more mouse and continue until you run out of mousse.
Smooth out the top of the mousse into an even layer and fold over the top edges of the zucchini.
Line the top of the mousse with more zucchini circles.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Serve chilled. Note: This Charlotte is too rich to be served by the slice like the dessert Charlottes. It is best served spread on crackers or bread.
Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
The Charlotte Royale must be assembled at least 8 hours ahead.
The Charlotte Russe must be assembled at least 4 hours ahead and must sit at room temperature 1 hour before serving.
Both dessert Charlottes may be prepared as much as 3 days ahead. They also keep very well in the refrigerator, and can also be frozen for up to 3 weeks. The flavors actually improve after 24 hours, so it is an ideal dessert to make ahead.
The Savory Charlotte does not keep as well. It can be made the night before but should be served within a day of assembling it.