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Charlotte Russe Cake- Classic European Recipe(No Bake)

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Charlotte Russe Cake is a classic European recipe that comes from the eighteenth century. The cake has layers of lady fingers, Bavarian cream and fruit. My version is also a no bake dessert, very suitable for any occasion when you do not want to heat up the oven.

Charlotte Russe Cake on a glass cake stand

It is a popular cake in Romania especially around the New Year’s Eve but not only. Birthdays, holidays and other family and friends gatherings are always a good occasion to make this delicious dessert.

I made this Charlotte Russe Cake for the New Year’s Eve. A classic European cake, the Charlotte Russe recipe is a very old one. 

Eighteenth-century European aristocrats knew Charlotte Russe as a cake made of lady fingers pressed into an elegant mold, filled with thick custard or Bavarian cream, and flavored with cooked fruit, spices or brandy.

If you traveled to Europe, you noticed pastry shops at almost every corner of the street. Pastry shops, at least those that bake and sell nothing but pastries are becoming rare in America.

In small towns they don’t even exist anymore, unless there is a deep ethnic pocket of people from other countries who consider pastry essential to life.

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charlotte russe cake- pinterest picture

Occasionally, in a neighborhood predominantly French, Austrian, Italian or Scandinavian, an honest pastry shop will survive, and often successfully, as long as it does stay honest.

In general, though, it is a losing battle with families who accept instant gelatins, bought ice creams and defrosted pies as necessary endings to their meals.

It is a different story in Europe. Most women, no matter their level of education or background, know a few basic recipes for making the end of a meal light and reviving, or creating a rich, exciting finale.

European cakes are different from the American ones. I used the term “torte” for them, but I do understand that not everyone knows what a torte is.

Well, a torte is a multilayered cake that can be filled with different things, like buttercream, jam, whipped cream, mousse or chocolate ganache.

The term comes from Europe, where most cakes are called torte. The American cakes are lighter, as they are baked with flour.

The tortes are heavier and they could be baked with flour, but also some other ingredients, like groundnut meal, egg whites (like a meringue torte) etc.

The tortes are usually soaked in syrups, to make them moister and have more layers than an American cake. In other words, tortes are cakes, but not all the cakes are tortes if that makes sense. 

Personally, I like this cake because it is a no baked one. Besides the fact that you don’t need to heat up the oven, with a little bit of desire, the cake can be put together in less than two hours. How cool is that?

It can also be decorated with all kind of fruits in season. For example, I made one last year and decorated it with strawberries and orange slices.

Charlotte Russe Cake decorated with fresh strawberries and oranges

I also covered the lady fingers with whipped cream. You can also use raspberries, blueberries, cranberries etc. Use your inspiration and make this recipe your own.

Light and delicious, full of different textures and flavors this cake is a keeper and deserves a place in your recipe book collection. Try it, you will not be disappointed.

How to make this Charlotte Russe Cake:

First of all, you will need an 8 inches springform cake pan. If you use a different size pan, you will have to adjust the amount of ingredients.

If the pan is bigger, you need to increase the amount of custard, otherwise you will end up with a cake that is half filled (lol, it happened to me before).

Start with the syrup.

This is a very easy step. In a medium pot, mix sugar and water, bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. 

sugar and water boiling for the syrup

Remove from the stove and flavor the syrup with rum extract.

Note: Do not add the rum extract while simmering the syrup as the flavor will dissipate.

Let the syrup cool down. This syrup will be used to steep the lady fingers in it. If you add ladyfingers to a hot syrup, they will fall apart.

Line the bottom of the springform with cling wrap. Steep the lady fingers in the syrup and line the sides of the springform with them.

Charlotte Russe Cake- cake pan covered in plastic foil and fruit bowl in the background

Place them tightly together.(You will probably need 20-25 lady fingers)

Charlotte Ruse Cake- cake pan with lady fingers and fruit bowl in the background

Line the bottom of the springform with lady fingers that you steeped in the syrup. Set aside.

Charlotte Ruse Cake- lady fingers sitting in a cake pan

How to make the cake filling:

Whipped Cream: Place mixer bowl and whisk in freezer for at least 20 minutes to chill. The heavy cream will whip faster if everything is very cold.

Pour heavy whipping cream and vanilla into the cold bowl and whisk on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, about 1 minute. Do not over beat. Set aside.

Bavarian Cream:

Start by hydrating the gelatin. Mix gelatin with water in a little bowl and set aside.

Charlotte Russe Cake- gelatin hydrating in a bowl

In a medium pot mix the eggs with the sugar. Add milk.

Place the pot on Bain-Marie and stir constantly until the first signs of boiling. At this point the eggs are cooked enough and the custard should cling to the spoon.

custard cooking on the stove

Remove and add the hydrated gelatin. Mix continuously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is completely cool and the gelatin dissolved.

Add the whipped cream and blend together.

custard with gelatin and whipped cream mixed together

Add the candied fruit and mix well.

How to assemble the cake:

Pour half the filling on the bottom of the cake, over the lady fingers.

assembling the cake: lady fingers soaked in syrup with custard

Cover the filling with another layer of lady fingers soaked in the syrup. Pour the rest of the filling over the lady fingers and smooth the surface with a cake spatula.

Place it in the refrigerator for few hours or better overnight. Next day, carefully remove the edges of the springform and place the cake on a platter. Decorate it to your taste with fruits, more whipped cream, sprinkles etc.

This is how the cake looked like when instead of adding dried fruits(suitable for winter), I used fresh fruit(in the summer).

Charlotte Russe cake slice on white plate

Interested in more No Bake Cakes? Try these ones:

 No Bake Chocolate Biscuits Cake 

 No Bake Cheesecake with berries

No Bake Orange Mousse Cake

Recipes for other cakes here . Enjoy!

Do you want to join our The Bossy Kitchen Group on Facebook? Come and join here. Everyone with a love for cooking and baking is welcome to join, including food bloggers.

Yield: 12 servings

Charlotte Russe Cake- Classic European Recipe(No Bake)

Charlotte Russe Cake Classic European Recipe

Charlotte Russe Cake is a classic European recipe that comes from the eighteenth century. The cake has layers of lady fingers, Bavarian cream and fruit. It is a no bake dessert.

Prep Time 2 hours
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 30-35 lady fingers(use 20-25 lady fingers for the sides of the cake, the rest will be used for the bottom)

For the syrup:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon rum extract

Custard:

  • 2 1/4 cups/500ml heavy cream
  • 4 envelopes/28g gelatin
  • 4 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 cup/200g sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup/200ml whole milk
  • 1/2 cup/100g candied fruit
  • Optional: Fruits for decoration(strawberries, oranges, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches etc)

Instructions

  1. You need a 8 inches springform cake pan.
  2. Prepare the syrup: bring to a boil the water mixed with sugar and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Remove from the stove and flavor the syrup with rum extract.(do not add the rum extract while simmering the syrup as the flavor will dissipate)
  4. Let the syrup cool down. If you add ladyfingers to a hot syrup, they will fall apart.
  5. Steep the lady fingers in the syrup and line the sides of the springform with them. Place them tightly together.(You will probably need 20-25 lady fingers)
  6. Line the bottom of the springform with lady fingers that you steeped in the syrup.
  7. How to make the cake filling:
  8. Whipped Cream: Place mixer bowl and whisk in freezer for at least 20 minutes to chill.
  9. Pour heavy whipping cream and vanilla into the cold bowl and whisk on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.
  10. Do not over beat. Set aside.
  11. Bavarian Cream:
  12. Start by hydrating the gelatin. Mix gelatin with water in a little bowl and set aside.
  13. In a medium pot mix the eggs with the sugar.
  14. Add milk.
  15. Place the pot on Bain-Marie and stir constantly until the first signs of boiling. It should look like a thin mayonnaise. At this point the eggs are cooked enough and the custard should cling to the spoon.
  16. Remove and add the hydrated gelatin. Mix continuously with a wooden spoon until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Allow it to cool for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  17. Add the whipped cream and blend them together.
  18. Add the candied fruit and mix well.
  19. How to assemble the cake:
  20. Pour half the filling on the bottom of the cake, over the lady fingers.
  21. Cover the filling with another layer of lady fingers soaked in the syrup.
  22. Pour the rest of the filling over the lady fingers and smooth the surface with a cake spatula.
  23. Place it in the refrigerator for few hours or better overnight.
  24. Next day, carefully remove the edges of the springform and place the cake on a platter. Decorate it to your taste with fruits, more whipped cream, sprinkles etc.

Notes

If you choose to use fresh fruit inside the custard instead of dried fruit, DO NOT USE fresh kiwi, pineapple, mango or papaya, because they have some enzymes that will destroy the gelatin and the cake will not set.

If you want to use these fruits in particular, use canned and drain the juice very well. Otherwise, berries(fresh or frozen), peaches(fresh, frozen or canned), cherries are great to use as well. Use about 16 oz of fresh or frozen fruit.

If you use frozen fruit, make sure you drain it very well before you add it to the cake.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 486Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 198mgSodium: 115mgCarbohydrates: 61gFiber: 1gSugar: 39gProtein: 16g

Did you make this recipe?

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Erica

Saturday 11th of January 2020

Made this last night and it came out great. I tried the custard twice and could not get it to thicken. I mixed it into the cream anyway - not ideal but it worked. Some of the questions on here....are they for real? I apologize for those people if they are.

The Bossy Kitchen

Saturday 11th of January 2020

Hi Erica, Yes, all the questions are 100% real. :-) I wonder why the custard did not thicken. It shouldn't be like a thick paste, but it should be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. After you put the cake together and let it cool in the fridge for few hours, that combination of whipped cream and custard should set nicely. Did it set? The gelatin does the magic. Thank you for visiting and also taking the time to review the recipe.

K.B.

Saturday 21st of December 2019

Hello. I have having a hard time finding the dried candied fruit. Can the cake be made without it?

The Bossy Kitchen

Sunday 22nd of December 2019

Hi! Yes, you can! Use fresh fruit instead, or canned, but make sure you drain the fruits very well. DO NOT USE fresh kiwi, pineapple, mango or papaya, because they have some enzymes that will destroy the gelatin and the cake will not set. If you want to use these fruits in particular, use canned and drained very well. Otherwise, berries(fresh or frozen), peaches(fresh, frozen or canned), cherries are great to use as well.

Alaina Kitzman

Wednesday 30th of October 2019

Okay, so what does it mean when it says I have to 'steep' the ladyfingers?

The Bossy Kitchen

Wednesday 30th of October 2019

steep /stēp/

1.soak (food or tea) in water or other liquid so as to extract its flavor or to soften it. "the chilies are steeped in olive oil"

Sarah

Friday 6th of September 2019

Hi making ur recipe right now. In your instructions you say add the egg to the milk in the saucepan but it doesn't say if I should separate the yolk from the egg white. am I supposed to mix the egg white and egg yolk together with the milk or separate the yolk from the egg white?

The Bossy Kitchen

Friday 6th of September 2019

Hi Sarah, Do not separate the eggs. The instructions are telling you: "In a medium pot mix the eggs with the sugar. Add milk. Place the pot on Bain-Marie and stir constantly until the first signs of boiling. At this point the eggs are cooked enough and the custard should cling to the spoon. " I replaced the yolks(typo) with the eggs. I hope that makes sense now.

Andrea Frost

Monday 24th of June 2019

I can’t wait to make this recipe. Do I soak the ladyfingers for the sides in the simple sugar or just the ones for the bottom? Thank you

The Bossy Kitchen

Monday 24th of June 2019

Hi Andrea, You will find that information under the instructions on how to make the cake: "Steep the lady fingers in the syrup and line the sides of the springform with them. " So, yes, you will need to soak the ladyfingers for the sides as well. Let me know how the recipe worked for you. :-)

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