So pink and pretty and a little bit witty!
I confess. I never buy strawberries out of season. Mainly because they just don’t taste good (terrible, usually) and it is against my basic food ethics; however… or, should I say: BUT!Â February found its way through my door and I was motivated to celebrate with something pink and pretty. Oh, how I crave pink and pretty!
Moreover, I must use the vast quantity of frozen fruits I had squirreled away last fall; so many varieties, but in the pink category I have Evan’s cherries and raspberries both grown in my own garden, and strawberries from a summer u-pick.Â As Vanja loves everything strawberry and February is the month for lovers, strawberries it was. Shortcake? Triffle? Noooo! There was a lovely little ditty that caught my eye when blog reading that I had tacked onto my February Pinterest board. Yes! I was inspired.
And the frozen berries just didn’t cut it as part of the border design, so out of season berries it was. They did not taste good, but looked lovely; the in season frozen berries and cream in the recipe actually heightened their flavour. Whenever I make anything, I usually make two.Â I am a lover of all things raspberry and was having some gals over for a meeting potluck dinner, so raspberries came out of the deep freeze, too!
I plunked them in my Thermomix and purÃ©ed the heck out of them with a little sugar, then strained them through a very fine tami. The Thermomix did such a great job of refining the texture that the coulis was thick and singing with bright fresh garden raspberry flavour. What a beautiful product created from the preserves of the summer past. So many ideas were flooding through my head when I eyed the velvety sheen and tasted the lively purÃ©e.
Now for the strawberry. Isn’t the difference in red colours mezmerizing. I adore the bluish hue in the raspberry and the orange warmth in the strawberry. Can you see how much thinner the strawberry coulis is?
Putting it all together was the most fun! I did decide to not buy any fresh raspberries to edge the raspberry cake. I couldn’t bring myself to do that having so many in my deep freeze. You can imagine how plain it looked with out the frame of lovely fruit fanning “hello”! However, I did add coulis to the plate with a variety of frozen raspberries and blackberries from my own garden, and it looked rather nice, really!
The gelatin was added to 1/4 cup of the coulis and let sit for 5 minutes, then heated and stirred into another 1/2 cup of the coulis while the other 1/4 cup was brushed on top of the cake. The cream was whipped to soft peak stage and the 3/4 cup of coulis with the gelatin mixture stirred into it was then poured into the whipped cream and whipped together until stiff. Yes, it was that easy.
At the turn of the 17th century the first Charlotte appeared, thought to be a British invention, consisting of lining a mold with bread and then filling it with apples. Adaptations have been made throughout the centuries,Â and a French chef (Antonin Careme) is attributed to making the first cold Charlotte consisting of a mold lined with cake and filled with custard.Â This recipe also deviates from the traditional Charlotte as the strawberries are used to line the mold instead of the usual bread, cake, or ladyfingers; the end result does look pretty when presented as a whole.
- 1 – 16 ounce bag (454 grams) of frozen unsweetened strawberries
- 1/4 (50 grams) granulated white sugar, or to taste
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional
Sponge Cake ingredients:
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (75 grams) granulated white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (85 grams) all purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, melted
Strawberry Cream Ingredients:
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) strawberry puree
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1 envelope (1/4 ounce) (7 grams) of unflavored powdered gelatin
Topping and Garnish:
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) strawberry puree
- 8-10 large Strawberries
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) strained apricot preserves
Make Ahead Instructions:
The strawberry puree can be made up to a week in advance, the sponge cake can be made in ahead and frozen, and the day before serving all you need to do is assemble the dessert.
To intensify the strawberry flavor of the dessert and to moisten the sponge cake, strawberry puree is spread over the sponge cake before adding the cut strawberries and cream.Â Also, make sure to use strawberries of equal size to line the pan so you have a uniform look.
After the charlotte has been chilled for several hours, or up to a day, the strawberries are brushed with apricot preserves to prevent them from drying out.Â The finishing touch is to place a beautiful strawberry on top.
- Place the unsweetened frozen strawberries in a large bowl and thaw
- Put theÂ strawberries and their juice in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process the berries until they are pureed
- Pour the puree into a 2 cup (480 ml) measuring cup; you need 1 cup of puree (If you have extra puree, cover, and place in the refrigerator for another use)
- Add the sugar to the puree and stir until the sugar dissolves; taste and add more sugar if needed
- Add a little lemon juice to taste
The puree can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Sponge Cake Instructions:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven
- Butter and line the bottom of an 8 inch (20 cm) cake pan with parchment paper
- In your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar on high speed for about five minutes, or until they are thick, fluffy and light colored (when you slowly raise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in a slow ribbon)
- Add the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated
- In a small bowl whisk together the flour and salt
- Sift 1/2 of the flour over the batter and gently fold through with a rubber spatula or whisk; sift the remaining flour over the batter and fold in
- Whisk about 1/2cup of the batter into the melted butter (to lighten it) and then gently fold the butter mixture back into the rest of the batter
- Pour immediately into the prepared pan and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until springy to the touch. (A toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean)
- Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool; run a spatula or sharp knife around the inside of the pan and then invert the cake onto a wire rack, removing parchment paper
- Set aside
The cake can be made a day or two in advance.
NOTE: Remember that when making the sponge cake you need to gently fold first the flour and then the melted butter into the egg and sugar mixture so the batter does not deflate.
Strawberry Cream Instructions:
- Chill your mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for about 15 minutes
- Meanwhile, in a small measuring cup stir together the gelatin and 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree; let this mixture sit for 5 minutes and then microwave for a 10 seconds to dissolve the gelatin
- Once the gelatin has dissolved, stir the gelatin mixture into the remaining 1/2cup (120 ml) of strawberry puree; set aside while you whip the cream
- Remove the mixing bowl and whisk from the freezer; beat the cream until soft peaks form
- Add the strawberry puree mixture and continue to beat the cream until stiff peaks form; taste and fold in a little sugar, if needed
To assemble the Charlotte:
- Place the cooled cake layer on the bottom of an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan
- Spread 1/4cup (60 ml) of strawberry puree over the top of the sponge cake; halve, or even slice the strawberries and fit them snugly on top of the cake with the cut sides facing the outside edge of the pan
- Fill the center of the cake with the strawberry whipped cream; smooth the top
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill for about 2-3 hours so the cream has time to set.
The Charlotte can be made up to this point and refrigerated for a day before serving.
- Several hours before serving, gently remove the sides of the spring form pan
- Heat the apricot preserves in a small saucepan over low heat until barely warmed; using a pastry brush, glaze the cut surfaces of the strawberries and the outside edge of the cake
- Cover and refrigerate until serving time
- If desired, decorate the top of the cake with a whole strawberry
Vanja preferred the strawberry version. I preferred the raspberry one, by far. The filling was more vibrant, too. Both must be served with the coulis as the berry flavour is not intense enough without it. Next, a mold for just the filling!