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Strawberry Charlotte Cake

Assembled Strawberry Charlotte cake tied with a red ribbon, a vase and berries in the background.
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Strawberry Charlotte cake or Charlotte aux fraises is the greatest classic of French desserts made with homemade sponge fingers, delicious strawberry mousse, and fresh strawberries. 

Ingredients

Scale

For ladyfinger biscuits:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons (100 g) caster sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons (100 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar

For the strawberry Bavarian mousse:

  • 17.6 oz. (500 g) fresh strawberries
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons (90 g) granulated sugar
  • 4 gelatin sheets 200 bloom (see note #1)
  • 2/3 cup + 4 1/2 tablespoons (225 g) cold heavy cream, 30% fat

For decoration: 

  • 12.4 oz. (350 g) fresh strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 340°C (170°C). Prepare two parchment sheets. Draw one circle of 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter with a pencil. On the second sheet of parchment paper, draw two strips 2.4 inches (6 cm) wide. Turn both sheets upside down and place them on two baking trays.

  2. Pour egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Gradually add the caster sugar and beat until stiff peaks. Add egg yolks all at once and whisk until incorporated. Sift all-purpose flour over the bowl and gently mix using a spatula working from the bottom of the bowl to the top.

  3. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large smooth tip of 10-12 mm in diameter (Ateco plain pastry tip 806) and pipe a spiral sponge starting from the center of the drawn circle. Then pipe two long strips (aka bandoliers) about 13 inches (32 cm) diagonally, sticking piped cookies together. Sprinkle the cake disk and stips generously with icing sugar.

  4. Bake cake and sponge cookies in the middle of the oven (one sheet at a time) until slightly golden brown for 15 minutes. Let them cool down well.

  5. To be ready to pour the Bavarian cream once it is made and isn't set, it is imperative to prepare the assembled cake ring in advance. Place an 8-inch (20 cm) cake ring 2 inches (5 cm) high on the serving plate. There is no need to line it with an acetate collar.

  6. Cut the strips at the base and the top so the cookies are 2 inches (5 cm) high. For a neat appearance, make a fresh cut of the sponge stips' ends. Line up the cake ring with the strips (powdered side facing the ring), adjusting the edges to fit perfectly tight into the mounting circle.

    Cut a spoon biscuit layer about 7 inches (18 cm) in diameter (check if this size perfectly fits the bottom of the assembled ring) and place it down in the center of the circle, powdered side facing up.

  7. To make the strawberry Bavarian mousse, soak the gelatin leaves in a large bowl with very cold water. Puree strawberries using a potato masher or a food processor. Then pass the puree through a fine-mesh sieve: you should get 12.4 oz. (350 g) seedless puree.

  8. Pour strawberry puree with sugar into a heavy-bottomed small saucepan and bring over medium heat. With the first bubble, remove the pot from the heat, add well-drained gelatin (be careful not to crush it), and mix well. Pour the hot puree into a shallow dish and let it cool to room temperature, ideally to 73-86°F (23-30°C).

  9. Meanwhile, pour cold heavy cream into the cold bowl of a stand mixer and whip the cream until soft peaks. It must remain very flexible. Gently add the cooled strawberry puree to the whipped cream in a few additions and mix with a spatula or hand whisk.

  10. To assemble the Charlotte cake, pour the strawberry Bavarian mousse into the assembled cake ring lined with cookie biscuits. Sponge cookie stips will be elevated slightly above the Charlotte filling. Smooth the top of the cream with a small offset spatula and refrigerate Charlotte for 6-8 hours. Decorate the top of the cake with halved strawberries.

  11. Optionally, brush strawberries with a clear glaze to preserve fruit and bring a shiny appearance. Alternatively, dust the top of the strawberries and Charlotte's edges with icing sugar (sucre glace) before serving.

Notes

  1. 4 gelatin sheets (200 bloom) equal to 8 g (almost 3 teaspoons) of gelatin powder. Read the package instructions on how to bloom powdered gelatin.
  2. Adjust a sponge biscuit disk, ensuring it perfectly fits inside the cake ring with the baked sponge strips. It must sit very tight to prevent the mousse from escaping.
  3. Beat heavy cream until soft peaks; avoid over-whisking until firm peaks. Read on how to make whipped cream at the soft peak stage.
  4. Make ahead option: Bake the sponge cookies and disk in the evening and keep them at room temperature. Prepare the Bavarian cream and assemble the cake on the next day.

Nutrition

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