For the June Daring Bakers’ challenge Rebecca from BakeNQuilt.com challenged us to make Charlotte Royale or a Charlotte Russe from scratch.
Wow, this was one of those slightly intimidating challenges that test your mettle every step of the way, but make you feel awfully chuffed when you finally come to serve it up in front of your very impressed guests!
I decided to make the Charlotte Royale (though I’ll be making the Charlotte Russe pretty darn soon) – I’d been wanting to make it for ages after seeing it on The Great British Bake Off – one of my favourite TV shows. What is it? Well… it’s thin slices of home-made jam roll which are used to line the inside of a bowl so as to create a mold of sorts. Into that you pour a Bavarian cream (which is like a pastry cream, but thickened with gelatin), then top it with a sponge ‘lid’ to encase the cream, chill it, and invert it. The finished dish looks rather like… well, a brain actually… and if it’s set just right it stands tall and proud, but with a delightful wobble as it’s moved.
I have to say… making this baby was no walk in the park but, taken one step at a time, it’s actually very doable. Of course, always one to make things that little bit harder on myself, I decided to make the recipe all in one go and all up it probably took about 3.5 hours. To tell the truth, I was glad to finally get it done! Of course, while it took hours to prepare, it was all wolfed down in minutes – such is life!
While I made a vanilla Bavarian Cream, you can add whatever flavourings you prefer, such as lemon, raspberry or even chocolate – you’ll find some suggestions in the original Daring Kitchen recipe. If you go with the vanilla version as I did, I suggest you serve it with some fresh fruit or fruit sauce to add extra flavour – I made a simple raspberry sauce, (thanks to Joy of Baking), which provided a lovely tart contrast.
It might not be something you’re likely to make on a whim, but if you’re looking to impress and you’re willing to stretch your culinary skills at the same time, this dessert will provide a jolly good challenge.
For the Roulade:
- 1/3 cup (1.16oz/33g) sifted cake flour (I used a gluten-free flour blend)
- 3 tablespoon (.8oz/23g) unsifted cornstarch (cornflour), preferably organic, non-GMO
- 4 large eggs (8oz/227g weighed in the shell), room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk (0.64oz/18g), room temperature
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 oz/113g) sugar, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup (250g) (9 oz) raspberry jam (seedless if possible), divided
For the Bavarian Cream:
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
- 1/3 cup (2.25oz/65g) sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon (.333 oz/9.3g) unflavoured gelatin powder (I used 5-1/2 gold standard gelatin leaves)
- 3 large egg yolks (3.25oz/95g)
- 1-2/3 cups (400 ml) milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split (you may also use extract/paste, but add it when the cream is cool)
- 1-1/2 tablespoon (22 ml) kirsch or other liqueur (optional)
- Apricot jam, thinned and strained for glazing (optional)
- Whipped cream, fresh fruit or sauce as desired for decoration
Preparation: Lightly oil a 6-cup (1½ litre) round bowl or mold (the smaller the diameter at the top the better) and line it as smoothly as possible with plastic wrap, leaving a small overhang. Measure the diameter of the bowl and make note of it – you will need a round cake base of this size for the bottom of the Charlotte (I cut out a baking paper template). Note: If the diameter of the top of your 6 cup bowl is very wide, you may want to make an additional 1/2 recipe of the sponge in a smaller pan to make sure there is enough for the roll as well as the base. Alternately, you can use a smaller bowl.
For the Roulade:
- Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8. Grease a jellyroll/sheet pan and line it with parchment and then grease it again and flour it. You may use baking spray with flour included if desired.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cake flour and cornstarch.
- Separate 2 of the eggs, placing the yolks in one large mixing bowl and the whites in another.
- To the yolks, add the additional yolk, the 2 remaining eggs, and ½ cup of the sugar.
- Beat the yolk mixture with the paddle attachment on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick, fluffy and tripled in volume. Beat in the vanilla.
- Sift half the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in gently but rapidly with a large balloon whisk, slotted spoon or rubber spatula until the flour has disappeared. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture.
- Beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until foamy, add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the batter and pour into the prepared pan, using an angled/offset metal spatula to level it.
- Bake for 7 minutes or until golden brown, a cake tester comes out clean, and the cake is springy to the touch.
- As soon as the cake has finished baking, slide it out of the pan onto a flat surface using the parchment to help move it. Flip the cake onto a clean dishtowel and carefully remove the parchment paper.
- While the cake is still hot, you will need to set aside a piece for the base and roll the remainder in a towel as described below. Cut off a piece from one of the ends just wide enough to cut the top from later as shown in the photo below.
Set this piece aside to cool. After this piece has cooled, cut it with shears or a sharp knife into the circle for the Charlotte base. Roll the remaining (still hot) piece of cake up tightly in the dishtowel. Roll from the longest side with the darkest side of the cake on the inside. Cool the rolled cake/towel on a rack.
- When ready to fill, gently unroll the cake and leave it on top of the towel (don’t worry if it cracks a little). Spread up to ½ cup of raspberry jam in a thin layer (just barely covering the surface – don’t go by the photo below which has too much jam on it) on top of the cooled cake, leaving it on the towel.
- Roll up the cake as tightly as you can about 1/3 of the way and then use the towel to roll the cake all the way up. It is important to get this roll as tight as possible as you do not want gaps in the spirals.
- Wrap the roll tightly in plastic wrap and then foil and freeze until firm enough to slice, at least a couple of hours. If desired, the roll and the base can be frozen for a few weeks before you make the rest of the Charlotte.
To line the bowl with the roulade:
- When the roulade is firm, cut it into ¼ inch (5 mm) slices with a small, serrated knife. You want to get as many spirals as possible, so be careful to evenly cut the slices as close to ¼ inch (5 mm) as you can. Work quickly so the cake roll doesn’t thaw and soften too much.
- To line the bowl, place 1 slice in the center and place other slices around it as tightly as possible to try to avoid gaps.
- The width of your mold and the width of your slices will determine how far up the mold you can get. You may need to cut the slices in half or smaller to fit the last rows if your slices go all the way up the mold. If your spirals do go all the way up, trim the last ones even with the edge of the bowl. If not, you can trim them when you put in the cream.
- Adjust the spirals to eliminate gaps, but it may not be possible to make it fit perfectly. If there are any gaps between the spirals, plug them with a small amount of the remaining raspberry jam or some trimmings from unused sponge. You want to plug these spots to prevent the Bavarian Cream from leaking through.
- Cover the lined bowl tightly and place it in the refrigerator until the filling is ready.
For the Bavarian Cream:
- Start by whipping the heavy cream till the soft peak stage and store in fridge until needed.
- In a small, heavy, non-corroding saucepan, stir together the sugar, salt, gelatin powder (if using gelatin leaves, presoak them in cold water for 10-15 minutes, wring them out and then add in Step 2) and yolks until well blended, using a wooden spoon.
- In another small saucepan heat the milk and vanilla bean (split with seeds scraped and added) to just below a simmer (170°F/77°C – 180°F/82°C). There will be steam rising off the milk and there may be some small bubbles but it will not be at an active simmer yet. If using gelatin leaves rather than powder, add the presoaked and wrung out leaves into the hot cream and stir until dissolved.
- Stir a few tablespoons of hot milk into the yolk mixture to temper it. Gradually add the remaining hot milk and vanilla bean, stirring constantly.
- Heat the egg and milk mixture at a low heat, stirring constantly, to just below a simmer again (170°F/77°C – 180°F/82°C). Steam will begin to appear and the mixture will become slightly thicker than heavy cream. It will leave a well-defined track when a finger is run across the back of a spoon.
Caution: If the mixture gets too hot (above 180°F/82°C), the cream can curdle. If this happens, immediately pour it into a blender and (with the vent open or a towel over the top) blend it to try to bring it back together smoothly.
- Immediately remove from the heat and pour the mixture through the strainer into a separate bowl, scraping up any thickened cream that has settled on the bottom of the pan. Remove the vanilla bean. You can place the mixture directly into the fridge to start chilling, or if you want to hasten the process, place the bowl first over an ice-water bath, stirring with a whisk, until cooled, then place in fridge to chill further. Check the mixture frequently and stir occasionally – you are looking for the mixture to start setting around the edges but still be quite liquid in the middle – at this point, take it out of the fridge and immediately follow the next step before it sets any further. NB: If you find the mixture has set too much, whisk it vigorously to break it up before moving to the next step – you will find that adding the cream should make the mixture smooth again).
- Whisk the optional kirsch or other preferred liqueur into the mixture, then fold in the whipped cream until just incorporated. The mixture will be soupy, like melted ice cream. Move straight into assembling the dessert.
- Spoon the Bavarian Cream into the lined bowl until it comes up to the top of the bowl or just to the place the top spirals last touch each other. Trim the top spirals even above the cream if necessary. (Note: the picture below shows a raspberry Bavarian Cream rather than the vanilla Bavarian Cream that I made).
- Place the cut cake round on top of the cream and touching the edge of the spirals. Press down gently on the edges of the cake circle so it makes contact with the edge of the spirals.
- Cover tightly and refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours (I refrigerated the Charlotte for 24 hours to give time for the flavours to develop).
- To unmold, invert onto a plate and lift away the bowl, tugging gently on the plastic wrap to release it. To prevent drying out, leave the plastic wrap in place until serving. Alternatively, you can glaze the cake with some apricot jam that has been heated, strained and thinned with a bit of water until it is thin enough to brush over the cake.
- To serve, decorate with whipped cream or fresh fruit. The cake may also be served with raspberry sauce.
Note: Thanks to Rebecca from BakeNQuilt for the process photos.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting