Charlotte Russe, A Very Victorian Dessert
Charlotte Russe is an uncooked dessert which features an exterior and bottom of lady fingers (sponge), and an interior filled with a Bavarian Cream or Mousse. Often the latter is flavored with coffee, or fruit (as shown, Strawberry). Because there is gelatin used in the Bavarian Cream, once it’s chilled, the dessert is able to stand, and cuts like a cake.
According to Larousse Gastronomique, Charlotte Russe was created by French pastry chef Marie-Antoine Carême (1784–1833). Originally it was called Charlotte à la Parisienne but apparently during the Second Empire, Russian dishes were all the rage and so the name was changed to Charlotte Russe.
The original Charlotte dessert came about in the latter part of 18th century England and was most likely named after Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III.
The first Charlotte was made with a fruit puree and flavorings of lemon and cinnamon. It was poured into a mould and surrounded by slices of buttered bread, then baked, then served with cold custard cream while it was still warm.
From this description, you can see how it evolved into the Charlotte Russe we know today, with ladyfingers replacing the bread, the Bavarian Cream or mousse replacing the simple fruit puree, and the refrigerator replacing oven.
Although Charlotte Russe was invented at the tail end of the Georgian era, it was in the Victorian era that it became very popular, with the latter’s love of all things moulded (jellies, savory pies etc).
The Charlotte Russe I made was from Will Torrent’s cookbook, Pâtisserie at Home. He wrote this recipe in honor of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first baby, George. As I’m sure you know, the Duke and Duchess to whom he refers, are William and Kate. They had a boy when he wrote this recipe…but then just a few years later, they had a girl. And of course, we all know what they named her…
Click her to get Will Torrent’s Red Berry Charlotte recipe (aka Charlotte Russe with red berries). I substituted strawberries as currants were not around at the time of my bake.
Red Berry Charlotte Recipe