By Hannah White
Invented by Chef Antonin Carême in the early nineteenth century, charlotte russe is a beautiful trifle cake-like dessert that typically consists of layers of sponge cake, bavarian cream, and fruit elegantly surrounded by lady finger cookies. This European dessert has appeared in the popular television series Downton Abbey–it is one of the dishes cooked by Ethel for Isobel’s ladies’ luncheon.
Charlotte russe is popular in bakeries across Brooklyn, and in Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, it is mentioned that there were “red candied cherries on their whipped cream tops for those who were rich enough to buy.”
To continue with my literary baking series, I decided to recreate this lovely layer cake myself, though I opted for raspberries instead of candied cherries. While moderately difficult to assemble, this dessert consists of simple ingredients and is perfect for summer– it is cool, refreshing, and not overly sweet.
For the cake I followed this recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen. The cake is not only tasty, but the lady fingers and fresh raspberries make it look so delicate and light. Following the steps in the recipe, I first made the raspberry syrup by cooking down frozen raspberries with sugar, straining it through a sieve, then adding in fresh lemon juice and gelatin powder.
I then made the whipped cream topping and the raspberry mousse filling, which I set to chill in the fridge before making the sponge cake.
For the sponge cake, I mixed together all the dry ingredients then very gently combined with the whipped egg and sugar mixture that I made. After the sponge cake came out of the oven, it cooled on a rack while I cut the ends off the lady finger cookies and lined the sides of a springform pan with plastic wrap.
After the cake cooled completely, I cut it into two layers and then cut about half an inch off the edge of both layers using kitchen scissors. I added the first cake layer to the pan, then I then lined the sides of the pan with the lady fingers. Next came layers of raspberry preserves, simple syrup, and raspberry mousse. I finished the cake off with the whipped cream topping, fresh raspberries, and garnished with mint leaves.
For any literature lover looking for a delicious new cake to bake this summer, the charlotte russe is the perfect literary dessert to try.