Charlotte Russe Cake is a classic European recipe that comes 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 a good occasion 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.
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.
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 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, 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 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, 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 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 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 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 lady fingers)
Line the bottom of the springform with lady fingers 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 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 forms, about 1 minute. Do not overbeat. Set aside.
Start by hydrating the gelatin. Mix gelatin with water in a little bowl and set aside.
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 lady fingers.
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 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.
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 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
- 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)
- 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 on high speed until medium to stiff peaks forms, about 1 minute.
- Do not overbeat. Set aside.
- Bavarian Cream:
- Start by hydrating the gelatin. Mix gelatin with water in a little bowl and set aside.
- 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 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 you add it to the cake.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 486Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 198mgSodium: 115mgCarbohydrates: 61gFiber: 1gSugar: 39gProtein: 16g