We use to think that the charlotte was a French recipe. It is true that charlotte cake, especially Raspberry Charlotte is a dessert much loved by the French people. Nevertheless I have learned that the recipe originally comes from England: our closest neighbors. By the way, nowadays London is only two hours fifteen minutes from the French capital thanks to the Eurostar!
The ancient charlotte was probably created for the queen Charlotte in the eighteenth century and looked more like a pudding than the dessert we all know today. Buttered bread or brioche were placed on the mold sides and filled with a mix of fruits. It was then baked for hours.
In the nineteenth century, Antonin Carême changed the original English recipe by covering the side with sponge finger biscuits and renamed the charlotte as “Charlotte à la Parisienne” or Charlotte of Paris. Later on he renamed it “Russian Charlotte” when he cooked for the Czar in Russia.
Originally the sponge finger biscuits or in French “biscuit à la cuillière (spoon)” were round because they were made with a spoon. It would have been impossible for Antonin Carême to create his Russian charlotte with such biscuits. But Charles de Talleyrand at that time Minister of External Affairs asked his pastry chef to make him a special sponge finger biscuit so he could soak them in his Madera glass. That’s why today they look like fingers. Antonin Carême used his pastry bag instead of a spoon to make them.
I used pre-made sponge finger biscuits but you can also bake some at home if you feel motivated enough! I would strongly advise to read the recipe from beginning to end before you begin anything. Its not that complex, but you could complicate it if you are not careful!
Raspberry Charlotte recipe
Ingredients (serves 8) :
• 750 gr. of fresh raspberries
• 3 gelatin sheets approximately 6gr.
• 3 egg yolks
• 40 gr. of sugar
• 1 dl. of milk
• 1.5 dl. of full cream
• Approximately 20 sponge finger biscuits
• 1 dl. of orange juice
• 1 tablespoon of raspberry schnapps
• iced sugar
• mold with a removable bottom
First of all, prepare all the ingredients on your kitchen table. Mix the orange juice with the schnapps. Reserve the mix next to your mold and the sponge finger biscuits.
Separately mix 250 gr. of raspberries, sieve the liquid out and reserve.
Prepare a bowl with cold water and ice cubes and place the gelatin sheets in it.
Bring the milk to parboil and in the meantime mix the egg yolks with the sugar. Pour very slowly little by little the warm milk while mixing into the egg/sugar mixture, wait until cream thickens slightly. Add the gelatin sheets and mix continuously for few minutes to cool the cream.
Add the raspberry coulis and place in your refrigerator.
Whip the cream until you obtain a nice Chantilly (stiff peaks). Stir the whipped cream gently into the raspberry cream which is cooling in your refrigerator. Now quickly soak the sponge finger biscuits into the orange juice and place on the sides of your mold. Place the rest of the soaked biscuits at the bottom. Then assemble by adding a layer of raspberry cream, a layer of fresh raspberries, then repeat the process until you get to the top of the mold. Finish with a layer of fresh raspberries and place in your fridge at least 8 hours before serving.
Natacha Gajdoczki is the author of the blog French Girl Cuisine. She hails from Montpellier, France. All photos by Natacha.