If you’re looking for a refreshing cake that looks impressive, then you’re going to love strawberry charlotte cake. It might look complicated to make but it is actually simply sponge cake, filled with Bavarian cream and chopped strawberries. And if you find this too complicated, you can simplify it even more and use store-bought ladyfingers.
You can easily customize this cake and add different fruits, get creative with the decoration, use a different cake base. We’ll talk about the different components of the cake in depth so that you know exactly how to tweak the recipe if you wish.
What Is Bavarian Cream?
Bavarian cream is simply crème Anglaise that is set with gelatin so it’s no longer like a sauce. And then lightened with whipped cream. It is a type of mousse, with an airy and light texture. You can flavor it however you like. You can keep it simple and just add vanilla. Or you can add chocolate for a chocolate Bavarian cream, caramel, coffee. Today we will be adding fruit puree, specifically strawberry puree.
Let’s take a closer look at the components of a Bavarian cream:
- Crème Anglaise
- Whipped cream
Crème Anglaise for Bavarian cream
You can simply start off with the basic crème Anglaise recipe you have. Depending on how you wish to flavor it and how sweet the other ingredients will be, you might need to tweak a few things1:
- Sugar: if you want to add chocolate for example, you might need to decrease the amount of sugar in the original recipe.
- Egg yolks: you will generally need about 20-35% of the weight of the liquid used (milk for example). If you feel like your Bavarian cream has an egg taste, you could try decreasing the amount of egg yolks used.
- Liquid: in the basic crème Anglaise, we use milk and sometimes heavy cream. To give it a fruity flavor, you can replace part or all of the liquid with fruit puree.
Once the crème Anglaise is cooked and while it is still warm, bloomed gelatin (previously soaked and softened in cold water) is added. Usually about 3% of the weight of the liquid is enough to set the cream, without giving it a rubbery texture.
Whipped cream is added to the base (crème Anglaise) to lighten it and provide the airy texture, characteristic of a mousse. It should be whipped to soft peaks, so that you can easily fold it into the other ingredients. And the more you beat the cream, the denser it will become.
You have to be careful however not to add it too early to the crème Anglaise. Ideally, you should wait for the temperature of the crème Anglaise to be between 24°C (75°F) and 29°C (85°F). If you add the whipped cream to a hot base, it will melt and deflate. If you want to know more about whipped cream, read how to make sweetened whipped cream.
The Bavarian cream will start to set so it’s best to pour it immediately into molds or serving cups.
Sponge Cake/ Ladyfingers
We learned yesterday how to make ladyfingers. Today, we’re going to see how to pipe them for the strawberry charlotte cake. It’s actually quite easy and this piping method keeps the cream from leaking. But if you don’t feel like doing this, you can simply use individual ladyfingers if you prefer.
We need ladyfingers to place all around the cake. And two layers of sponge cake: one for the base, and one in the middle.
- On a piece of parchment paper, draw two circles that have a diameter of 2cm (3/4 inch) less than the mold you are using. So for a 16cm (6 1/3 inches) mold, we will draw two circles of 14cm (5 1/2 inches) diameter. You can use bowls as a guide. I initially made a larger circle for the base but ended up cutting it.
- Flip the parchment paper (so you don’t pipe on the ink) and using a piping bag fitted with a large round tip, pipe circles. Start from the middle and pipe outwards, keeping the tip about 1cm above the paper. Just let the “log” of batter fall into place.
To prevent any cream from leaking when filling the strawberry charlotte cake, it’s best to pipe a row of ladyfingers that are stuck together. Imagine a belt, that you will nicely wrap all around the cake, without any gaps.
Okay, time to do some math! Wait, don’t run away! I’ll give you the answer! I am using a 16cm (6 1/3 inches) pan so the row of ladyfingers should have a length of π x the diameter of the pan (the circumference of a circle is 2πr). So we have to make sure we have a row with a length of at least 3.14*16=50cm (19 2/3 inches). But let’s add 4 cm for extra security. Since you probably can’t fit that much in one line, we’re going to pipe two lines of 27cm (10 2/3 inches).
- Draw two rectangles that are 6cm (2 1/3 inch) high and 27cm (10 2/3 inch) long. Space them by about 2.5cm (1 inch).
- Flip the parchment paper and pipe ladyfingers that are about 1mm apart. They don’t need to be completely stuck as they will puff up during baking.
- Dust the ladyfingers and sponge cakes with icing sugar twice. Once as soon as you pipe them and once just before baking, preferably at a 15 minute interval.
- Bake at 200°C (392°F, conventional setting) for about 10 minutes.
- Let it cool down a little for a minute then transfer to a wire rack to cool down completely.
Preparing The Strawberries
We will use the strawberries in 3 different ways for the strawberry charlotte cake:
- Strawberry puree to flavor the Bavarian cream. I simply use frozen strawberries for this and blend them with sugar.
- Chopped strawberries to spread over the cake layers.
- Strawberries to decorate the cake (optional).
- Blend together the strawberries and sugar until smooth. Once mixed, you can sieve it if you want but I personally like keeping the seeds.
- Cut fresh strawberries in small pieces and set aside until it’s time to assemble the cake.
Strawberry Bavarian Cream
To make a strawberry Bavarian cream, the first thing we need to do is prepare crème anglaise. If you’ve been following the baking calendar, then you must be quite comfortable doing this! If not, you can read how to make crème anglaise.
- Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for at least 10 minutes. We don’t use gelatin when making crème anglaise sauce. This is for the Bavarian cream.
- Prepare a large mixing bowl with a fine strainer on top.
- In a small pot, boil the milk.
- Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar just until combined.
- Slowly add the hot milk to the egg yolks, stirring constantly.
- Return the mixture to the pot and keep stirring with a rubber spatula on medium-low heat. Remove from the heat when the cream thickens slightly.
- Squeeze the gelatin to get rid of the water and add it to the hot cream.
- Strain the cream into the mixing bowl.
- Add the strawberry puree and vanilla extract and combine using a spatula.
- Press a piece of cling film on the surface of the cream and let it cool down at room temperature to about 24°C (75°F) and 29°C (85°F). Stir it occasionally, if needed, to prevent the gelatin from setting. I personally didn’t need to stir. Since the amount is quite small, the cream cooled down quickly and I moved on to the next step.
- Once the cream has cooled down, whip the cold heavy cream until soft peaks form (barely hold their shape).
- Fold in about a third of the whipped cream into the strawberry cream.
- Fold in the rest of the cream in two more additions, being careful not to deflate the cream. It’s okay if a few streaks of white remain.
Assembling The Strawberry Charlotte Cake
- Place a cake ring (or springform pan without the bottom) on a serving plate.
- Fold the ladyfinger “belt” and place it in the ring. Try to fit in as much as possible so the cream doesn’t leak.
- Using a knife, cut off the excess ladyfingers.
- Place the sponge cake at the bottom of the cake ring. If it doesn’t fit, you can slightly cut the edges with a knife. The side dusted with sugar should be facing down. I did it incorrectly in the pictures. I don’t think it will make a huge difference either way. But it will probably soak up more syrup in the next step when placed properly.
- Generously brush the cake and the back of the ladyfingers with syrup.
- Place half of the chopped strawberries over the sponge cake.
- Fill the cake with half the Bavarian cream.
- Place the second sponge cake.
- Repeat the same process: brush with syrup, cover with strawberries and pour the remaining cream.
- Refrigerate the strawberry charlotte cake for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Remove the cake ring and decorate as desired.
And that’s it! Strawberry charlotte cake is such a pretty and refreshing cake. It’s not hard to prepare when you know what you are doing. Hopefully, these step-by-step pictures will encourage you to try it out. I can’t wait to see what you make and how you decorate it!
In case you missed it, head over to the crème Anglaise baking calendar to see what we’ll be learning this month.
1Suas, M. (2008). Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach (1st ed.). Delmar Cengage Learning.