My Mum’s birthday falls on the 8th August, right in the middle of our holiday in France and Spain. Whilst this meant she was lucky enough to enjoy sunshine and swimming pools on her birthday – there was no homemade cake! Now in family with bakers and cooks, there should ALWAYS be a homemade birthday cake. So once we were home, out came the recipes!
Before we had left, my Mum had noticed a gorgeous looking Charlotte Russe in the window of the patisserie Paul. Paul is a very fancy French bakery which has now spread its chains all over London as well as smaller branches at motorway service stations! Whilst the standard of baking there is very high, this sure pushes up the prices! The rather small (if beautiful) charlotte russe my Mum saw was practically £20! So, a homemade one it was definitely to be.
A Charlotte Russe is essentially when you line a tin or bowl with sponge fingers, and pour in a “bavarois”. The bavarois in the recipe I followed was a custard thickened with gelatine, with whipped cream and raspberry puree stirred in – then refrigerated in the tin. We (my Mum & I) topped our russe with whole raspberries which we set with a raspberry glaze, but we thought that the raspberries looked prettier without. The exact origins of the charlotte russe is, as with many desserts, not 100% exact. It is either thought to be named after the British Queen Charlotte (1744-1818, wife of George III) or to have been invented by the French chef Marie Antoine Careme (1784-1833), who named it in honour of his Russian employer, as russe is Russian in French.
You can find the recipe I followed here except I made a few alterations…..
Instead of four miniature desserts, I used one large tin. I found I needed 4 gelatine leaves to make the custard set properly, and I also used two packets of frozen raspberries for the mousse and bought extra fresh raspberries for the top. Although I just used shop-bought this time, the recipe also includes how to make your own sponge fingers, which would improve the dessert even more!
The charlotte russe involves quite a few steps, so I split it over two days – which is easy seeing how the bavarois needs at least 4 hours or overnight to set up well. I’m pleased with how the final product turned out and it looked so pretty waiting to be devoured! The rich raspberry mousse was delightfully offset with the crunchy sponge fingers, and the whole glazed raspberries added another dimension of sharp juicy goodness :) Whilst I wouldn’t rush to make this dessert again– it was a really good one to make as it was my first time using gelatine and a right show stopper!