When it comes to Spring – specifically strawberry season – it doesn’t get any more traditional than a Strawberry Charlotte Cake, in France. This dessert has a retro feel to it (and granted, it might not be the most modern dessert out there), but come Spring, it is always present in bakeries and cake shops throughout the country.
It is also a favourite amongst home bakers, because despite its fancy appearance, it is actually easy and quick to throw together (less than 30 minutes) and looks much more complicated than it actually is! Ladyfingers (pre-bought or homemade), a simple strawberry mousse and a few fresh strawberries for decoration is basically all you’ll need.
This is such a perfect cake for special occasions. It is airy, light (ideal after a heavy meal), easy to make and beautiful.
If you’re into French baking, this Strawberry Charlotte Cake is definitely a classic to have in your repertoire. And once you’ve mastered it, you can start playing around with new flavours … Apple, pear, chocolate, etc. But right now, fresh seasonal strawberries are the way to go.
- The Strawberry Charlotte Cake recipe has several steps to it, but if you follow them precisely, one by one, you’ll really be surprised at how easy it is (for a result that is sure to impress).
- I bought ladyfingers to create this cake, but if you have time, you can make your own. I love the idea of using madeleines too, like in this recipe.
- You need a springform pan for this recipe (you can’t get away with this one, you need those removable edges!).
For the strawberry mousse:
½ lb (500 g) strawberries
¼ cup + 2 tbsp (75g) sugar
2 packets powdered Gelatine (14g)
1 ¼ cup (300 ml) whipping cream (30%)
For the soaking syrup :
5 oz (150 ml) water
¼ cup + 2 tbsp (75g) sugar
Step 1 – Make the strawberry puree. Wash the strawberries and cut the tails off. Set aside about 15-16 strawberries (the best looking ones), and puree the rest in a blender. If needed, strain the puree through a fine-meshed strainer to discard the seeds. I used my vitamix to puree the strawberries so the seeds were pulverized well.
In a medium-sized sauce pan, heat up about a third of the strawberry puree with half of the sugar (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons/75g) and the gelatine. Boil for 1 minute, whisking continuously (to avoid lumps), until the sugar has disolved and the mixture has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat, whisk in the rest of the strawberry puree, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Step 2 – Make the soaking syrup. In a small saucepan, heat up the water (5oz/150ml) with the other half of the sugar (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons/75g) and the zest of the lime. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Step 3 – Make the strawberry mousse In a large mixing bowl, whip up the cream to a firm peak. Gently fold in the strawberry puree, using a spatula. Do not overmix: stop mixing where the mousse is evenly pink in color and no lumps are visible, but the mixture still has to feel airy and foamy.
Step 4 – Assemble the cake.
Line an 8” round spring form cake pan with parchment paper (bottom and rims).
Take 4 strawberries and cut them in halves.
Take a ladyfinger and soak the flat side (the bottom) in the syrup. Place it against the side of the pan, rounded-side facing out and flat side (soaked side) facing inward. Repeat and arrange the ladyfingers all around the sides of pan, nice and snug to avoid gaps. You should use about 18-19 ladyfingers to fill the entire rim. Place the rest of the ladyfingers in one layer at the bottom of the pan, (rounded-side facing down, flat-size facing up), nice and snug to avoid gaps.
Pour half of the strawberry mousse inside the “ladyfinger mold” (this will also help keep the ladyfingers in place). Place the strawberry halves in one layer on top of the mousse. Ladle the rest of the mousse on top, and smooth it out with your spatula. I like to decorate the top of the cake with fresh strawberries, so do not worry too much about the mousse topping being too nice and smooth.
Place the Charlotte cake in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours (preferably longer). You should be able to slice the cake for serving, so the mousse has to set until relatively firm (but not too rubbery).
Step 5 – To serve. When the Charlotte is chilled and set, carefully remove it from the springform mold, peel off the parchment paper from the edges and place on a serving tray. If chilled enough, the cake should be easy to work with. If it is too soft (and starts to fall), give it more time in the fridge before you try to unmold it.
Optional: when on the serving tray, you can tie a ribbon around the Charlotte cake. Not too tight, but just enough to keep the cake together in case it has to sit at room temperature too long before slicing.
Right before serving, slice the rest of the strawberries (10) in halves, and place them on top of the cake to decorate.
If you try this Strawberry Charlotte Cake recipe let me know! Leave a comment or share a photo using #pardonyourfrench on Instagram.