Let’s revisit a French classic and bring a little twist to it, using madeleines instead of lady fingers to this traditional strawberry charlotte cake!
In France, Charlotte is a very festive dessert, often served for family gatherings. You can enjoy it either with chocolate or with fruits. The most common fruits used in a Charlotte are strawberries. Every family has its own recipe and the filling used comes in several different versions. However, the biscuits are almost always the same: ladyfingers. These low-density, dry, egg-based, and sweet sponge biscuits are just perfect to absorb the syrup used in a Charlotte.
Charlotte is not only a popular dessert in France, it also looks very fancy and pretty; it’s always a pleasure to see the dessert being served at the end of a meal… together with some bubbly (to me it’s almost mandatory, it adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to the dessert). The texture is soft while the taste of the dessert as a whole is delicate and very refreshing. The only downside to a charlotte is that it is not always easy to master the recipe because of its molded shape.
The very first Charlotte recipe I ever baked was indeed an absolute failure (to lessen the blow, I was a mere 15… but if I want to be honest with you, my age had nothing to do with this). The taste of the dessert itself was absolutely divine, but in terms of visual aspect, the Charlotte didn’t keep its shape and collapsed straight away. This phenomenon happened quite a few times to me already, and if you’ve been following the blog, you might have seen my unforgettable (unforgiving) picture of a Charlotte last year, where I showed to my entire readers the disaster of my recipe, which I never shared on the blog of course. Did it ever happen to you too? Please tell me yes, I will feel better!
So with this in mind, I felt a little bit stressed at the prospect of baking a Charlotte again this year, wondering whether, this time, I would manage the filling better. I went for a classic strawberry mousse, which is light and airy in texture, thanks to the whipped cream and of course the gelatine leaves (you can also use some agar agar if you prefer or if you are vegetarian/vegan). Really, there is no way you can go wrong with this strawberry mousse, it holds its shape perfectly in the mold, and most importantly even after. If you don’t feel so adventurous or are not too advanced in terms of baking skills, this filling recipe is for you!
And of course, the little twist of this Charlotte is the use of madeleines instead of ladyfingers. You might not know it yet, but I have had a mild addiction to madeleines for a very long time. I’m crazy about the classic Orange flower water madeleines, or even the Chocolate-dipped madeleines sprinkled with pistachios (so fancy, I know!), and on the savory side, Goat cheese and sun-dried tomato madeleines are an absolute must try for a Summer picnic! As such, when I stumbled upon a Charlotte recipe made with madeleines quite some time ago, it immediately stuck to my mind and I knew straight away I would need to try it one day!
And oh my goodness, I’m so happy I finally overcame my reluctance to baking Charlottes and gave this recipe a try. It’s such a perfection in many ways. I baked some madeleines with lemon (my other madeleine favorite recipe!). The flavors pair with strawberries perfectly. The texture contrast between the madeleines and the mousse reminds us of a layer cake but in a much fancier way, the taste being more subtle and delicate. It’s soon Mother’s Day and this Strawberry Madeleine Charlotte Cake is for sure the one they will loved to be celebrated by!
- 2 large eggs
- 100g (3½ oz) caster sugar
- 100g (3½oz) all-purpose flour
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- 100g (3½oz) butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 tsp melted butter for the madeleines tray
- 100 ml water
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 2 tbsp rum or other liquor (optional)
- 300g strawberries
- 100g caster sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 300 ml whipping cream
- 1 vanilla bean
- 5 gelatin leaves
- 250g mixed fresh berries (strawberries and raspberries)
- For the madeleines: preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Brush the madeleine tray with melted butter or cooking spray, and shake in a little flour to coat, tapping out the excess.
- Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until frothy. Lightly whisk in the remaining ingredients. Leave to stand for 20 minutes before carefully pouring into the prepared madeleine tray.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture has risen a little in the middle and is fully cooked through. Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly.
- For the madeleine syrup: in a small saucepan, mix sugar and water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the rum, and simmer one more minute. Leave to cool.
- For the strawberry mousse: wash the strawberries and remove the stems. Heat the strawberries in a small saucepan with half of the sugar, stirring to break down the strawberries and creating a puree.
- Push the hot strawberry puree through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Discard the seeds and set the puree aside.
- Cover the gelatine leaves with cold water in a clean bowl.
- In another bowl, whisk egg yolks with the remaining caster sugar.
- Pour the hot strawberry puree onto the yolk-sugar mixture and whisk continuously.
- Transfer into a saucepan and heat whilst continually mixing until the puree thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
- Drain and squeeze out the gelatine leaves, and add them to the hot strawberry puree. Stir and set aside to cool.
- Using an electric hand whisk, whip the whipping cream to soft peaks, adding the seeds from the vanilla bean half way through.
- When the strawberry puree is cool, fold in the whipped cream in two additions to create a smooth and creamy mousse.
- To build the Charlotte:
- Line a 9-inch (22 cm) springform with removable bottom with baking paper.
- Cut the madeleines in half lengthways and line the tin with the curved sides against the wall of the tin.
- Damp some of the remaining madeleine halves into the syrup, one by one, and use them immediately to cover the bottom of the springform.
- Using a ladle, carefully cover the madeleines with half the mousse.
- Add a final layer of the madeleines damped into the syrup, and cover with the remaining mousse, leaving some space at the top (the madeleines on the sides should be higher than the mousse). If there is some mousse leftovers, pour into one or two ramekins.
- Place the cake in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours.
- When set, gently remove the cake from the springform tin and place on a serving plate or cake stand. Decorate with mixed summer fruits.