Charlotte Russe Cake is a classic European recipe from the eighteenth century. The cake has layers of ladyfingers, Bavarian cream, and fruit. My version is also a no-bake dessert, very suitable for any occasion when you do not want to heat the oven.
It is a popular cake in Romania, especially around New Year’s Eve but not only. Birthdays, holidays, and other family and friends gatherings are always good to make this delicious dessert.
I made this Charlotte Russe Cake for 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 ladyfingers pressed into an elegant mold, filled with thick custard or Bavarian cream, and flavored with cooked fruit, spices, or brandy.
Are you a Downton Abbey Fan?
Recently, I noticed that this wonderful dessert became more popular because of one episode of Downton Abbey, where this dessert is prepared by Ethel, Isobel’s cook, for a luncheon.
If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you probably remember the part where Mrs. Patmore and Daisy make ladyfinger biscuits in advance to help Ethel with the dessert. The luncheon is interrupted by Robert who gets into an argument with his wife, daughter, and mother. He wants everyone to go home, but Cora refuses as she really wants to try the Charlotte Russe.
Anyway, if you traveled to Europe, you noticed pastry shops at almost every street corner. 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.
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. No matter their level of education or background, most women 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 American ones. I used the term “torte” for them, but I 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 and 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 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 the oven, the cake can be put together in less than two hours with a little bit of desire. How cool is that?
It can also be decorated with all kinds of fruits in season. For example, I made one last year and decorated it with strawberries and orange slices.
I also covered the ladyfingers 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, and 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 each ingredient used in the recipe.
If the pan is larger, you need to increase the amount of custard; otherwise, you will end up with a half-filled cake (lol, it happened to me before).
Start with the syrup.
This is an effortless step. In a medium pot, mix sugar and water, bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.
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 ladyfingers in it. If you add ladyfingers to hot syrup, they will fall apart.
Line the bottom of the springform with cling wrap. Steep the ladyfingers in the syrup and line the sides of the springform with them.
Place them tightly together. (You will probably need 20-25 ladyfingers)
Line the bottom of the springform with ladyfingers that you steeped in the syrup. Set aside.
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 beat 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 overbeat. Set aside.
Start by hydrating the gelatin. Mix gelatin with water in a little bowl and set aside.
A few words about gelatin:
I get many questions about the use of gelatin in different recipes.
This is a sensitive subject as each brand in every country is different. You might think that gelatin is gelatin after all, but it is not entirely true.
I want to say that this might be the most controversial subject in the baking world.
However, gelatin has different strengths based on the brand or needs. For example, I like to use gelatin sheets, but sheet gelatin comes in many different bloom strengths: 120 (titanium), 140 (bronze), 160 (silver), 200 (gold), and 230+ (platinum).
The stronger the bloom is, the less amount you will need to use. Platinum is more potent than titanium, for example.
Also, each gelatin sheet has a different weight. Platinum has 1.75grams, Gold is 2 grams, Silver is 2.5 grams, Bronze is 3.5 grams, and Titanium is 5 grams.
The Knox powder gelatin is 225 bloom. Usually, one tablespoon of powder gelatin equals four gelatin sheets, but if the American gelatin is 225 bloom, you need to substitute with a gelatin sheet that has a closer strength with the American one(aka Gold or Platinum).
You can also go by weight, which is typically 7 grams of powder gelatin per cup of liquid, in case you want a relatively stiff final product.
Gelatin and the use in this recipe.
I used gelatin sheets 200 bloom strength and needed 28 grams for this recipe. If you use Knox gelatin, each packet is 7g, and you might think you need four packets of it to get the 28 grams.
But, remember, Knox gelatin is 225 bloom so that we will need less of it.
Makes sense so far?
To make the story short, I would use about 2 1/2 packets of Knox gelatin for this recipe.
In a medium pot, mix the eggs with the sugar. Add milk.
Place the pot on Bain-Marie and constantly stir until the first signs of boiling. At this point, the eggs are cooked enough, and the custard should cling to the spoon.
Remove and add the hydrated gelatin. Mix continuously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is completely cool and the gelatin is dissolved.
Add the whipped cream and blend 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 ladyfingers.
Cover the filling with another layer of ladyfingers soaked in the syrup. Pour the rest of the filling over the ladyfingers and smooth the surface with a cake spatula.
Place it in the refrigerator for a few hours or better overnight. The next day, carefully remove the edges of the springform and place the cake on a platter, using a spatula. 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).
Interested in more No Bake Cakes? Try these ones:
Recipes for other cakes here. Enjoy!
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- 30-35 ladyfingers(use 20-25 ladyfingers 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
- 2 1/4 cups/500ml heavy cream
- 2 1/2 envelopes Knox gelatine OR 28 g of Gold sheet 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)
- You need an 8 inches springform cake pan.
- Prepare the syrup: bring to a boil the water mixed with sugar and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- 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)
- Let the syrup cool down. If you add ladyfingers to hot syrup, they will fall apart.
- Steep the ladyfingers in the syrup and line the sides of the springform with them. Place them tightly together. (You will probably need 20-25 ladyfingers)
- Line the bottom of the springform with ladyfingers that you steeped in the syrup.
- How to make the cake filling:
- Whipped Cream: Place mixer bowl and whisk in freezer for at least 20 minutes to chill.
- Pour heavy whipping cream and vanilla into the cold bowl and whisk for about a minute on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form.
- Do not overbeat. Set aside.
- Bavarian Cream:
- Start by hydrating the gelatin. Mix gelatin with water in a small bowl and set aside. If you use gelatin sheets, squeeze the water after it gets hydrated.
- In a medium pot, mix the eggs with the sugar.
- Add milk.
- Place the pot on Bain-Marie and constantly stir 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.
- 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.
- Add the whipped cream and blend them.
- Add the candied fruit and mix well.
- How to assemble the cake:
- Pour half the filling on the bottom of the cake over the ladyfingers.
- Cover the filling with another layer of ladyfingers soaked in the syrup.
- Pour the rest of the filling over the ladyfingers and smooth the surface with a cake spatula.
- Place it in the refrigerator for a few hours or better overnight.
- The 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.
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 adding it to the cake.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 462Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 198mgSodium: 102mgCarbohydrates: 61gFiber: 1gSugar: 39gProtein: 10g