Happy summer at last! To kick things off, this week I’m sharing the slightly over-the-top cool and creamy treat that I whipped up for Father’s Day last Sunday. As I learned from the world’s most wonderful source of trivia (aka Wikipedia), charlotte is not just a popular girl’s name and a popular city’s name, it’s actually also a highly underrated and not-nearly-as-popular-as-it-should-be cake’s name. It really refers to any kind of cake that has a lovely ring of ladyfinger biscuits (aka savoiardi) lining the sides.
Of course, the natural and logical progression in the mind of your favorite casually addicted baker is to combine the world’s most popular savoiardi-centered dessert (aka the illustrious tiramisu) with the pizzazz inherent in the fantastic presentation of the charlotte.
In other words, I had the oh-so-brilliant-and-apparently-not-terribly-original-judging-by-what-comes-up-when-I-check-on-Google idea of sticking ladyfingers on the outside of the tiramisu as well as the inside.
At least it’s still super amazingly delicious.
At any rate, all things progressed with minimal hiccups. Through a combination of sheer determination, mild neuroticism, and pre-med surgeon hands, the slightly ambitious homemade savoiardi came out surprisingly not-wonky. I threw in a slightly excessively detailed guide in the tips section of the piping step to help you all with advice that I amassed during all of my 20 minutes of concentrated piping efforts. Basically, as far as I’ve figured, the trick is to squeeze the piping bag and apply constant pressure with your dominant hand while steadying the tip with your non-dominant hand (which may seen non-intuitive, since it seems like you’re directing with your non-dominant hand, but I promise, it’s really your dominant hand that’s actually doing all the detail-oriented-type work when you pipe this way). Also, keep the tip hovering a little above the surface of the pan to prevent undue spreading and otherwise smooshing of the savoiardi, and pull toward your dominant hand rather than pushing away to help make straighter lines.
Otherwise, may the odds ever be in your favor.
(Or just pick up a pre-made pack at the grocery store – I won’t tell if you don’t tell.)
Also, if you’re feeling a bit squeamish about raw eggs, be sure to use extra fresh eggs (or better yet, pasteurized eggs) to minimize risks of food poisoning. If you want to go the totally eggless route to be extra safe, while I haven’t tested these ratios, I would guestimate that 20 oz mascarpone + 10 oz heavy cream, whipped to firm peaks to replace the mascarpone and eggs ought to do the trick!
Either way, while it’s a bit late for Father’s Day, it’s never too late to add another deliciously cool and refreshing recipe to the summer repertoire, and what with all the dinner parties and barbecues that stock photos and TV ads inform me that we are all supposed to having, an extra giant tiramisu or 2 laying around certainly couldn’t hurt. Hope you enjoy!
Makes one 9″ tiramisu charlotte
100 g all purpose flour
50 g potato starch
1 tbs lemon zest, finely grated
5 eggs, separated to yolks and whites
150 g powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
extra powdered and granulated sugar
24 oz mascarpone cheese
5 eggs, separated (use pasteurized if you’re worried about salmonella!)
2 cup (250 g) powdered sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup very strong coffee
2/3 cup marsala wine (or more coffee!)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 400 deg. F. Line a 9″ cake pan with parchment paper as well as 2 large baking sheets.
- Sift together the flour and potato starch, whisk in the lemon zest, then set aside.
- In a stand mixer or in a bowl with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and about half of the powdered sugar until the meringue reaches the firm peaks stage. At this point, when you lift the beaters out, the meringue should form well defined peaks with tips that bend over.
- In another bowl, beat together the egg yolks, vanilla extract, and remaining half of the sugar until well combined.
- In the yolk mixture, fold in about 1/3 of the meringue, then fold repeatedly using a silicone spatula until only a few streaks remain. Add this mixture into the remaining 2/3 of the meringue and fold until just combined, taking care to be gentle and avoid collapsing the meringue.
- Fold in the flour mixture until just combined.
- Using a piping bag and a large round piping tip (I used the Wilton 2D), pipe the savoiardi onto the 2 large baking sheets. Each cookie should be about 3/4″ wide and 5″ long. You will need to make about 45-50 in total.
Tip: To help pipe perfectly straight cookies and to prevent overspreading, hold the top of the piping bag with your dominant hand at a 45 deg. angle to the surface of the baking sheet, keeping the tip hovering just above the surface of the pan. Use your non-dominant hand to steady the tip, start at the top corner opposite your dominant hand (so the right corner if you’re left-handed, and vice versa), then drag slowly across the top toward the side of your dominant hand, carefully maintaining an even pressure, and folding slightly back over toward the center of the cookie as you lift up at the end to prevent a point from forming. Continue down the column, then keep forming columns from right to left or left to right, depending on where you started.
Also, pipe quickly, since the batter is rather thin by cookie standards and may drip if you lift up for too long in between cookies. To avoid this drip, when you are not piping, tip up the tip slightly with your non-dominant hand.
- Dust the cookies with a layer of powdered sugar, then a thin layer of granulated sugar, then another layer of powdered sugar. If possible, bake both sheets in the oven at once for 8 minutes, or until the cookies are fully dried and have yellowed slightly but have not browned. Otherwise, bake one sheet at a time.
- Meanwhile, fill the remaining batter into the lined 9″ cake pan, then dust the top surface with powdered sugar, then granulated sugar, then powdered sugar. Bake immediately after the savoiardi cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until the center of the cake springs back without leaving a mark when lightly pressed.
- Allow the cookies and cake to cool!
Tip: If you plan to pre-make the cookies, allow to dry overnight in a cool, dry space, then place into a cookie jar. They should stay good for at least a couple of days. The same goes for any extras, but no guarantees they’ll last that long!
- Whip together the mascarpone, egg yolks, half of the sugar, and vanilla extract until fluffy.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip together the egg whites and remaining half of the sugar to the firm peaks stage.
- Fold about 1/3 of the meringue into the mascarpone mixture, fold until well combined, then add back into the remaining 2/3 of the meringue, folding just until the entire mixture is fully combined.
- Combine the strong coffee and marsala (if desired).
- Generously soak the 9″ cake layer in about 2/3 of the coffee mixture until the sponge is fully saturated, then carefully layer into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan.
- Carefully line the edge of the springform pan with the savoiardi cookies.
Tip: I laid all of my cookies bottomside-out, but as long as you keep them all in the same direction, it’s really up to you as to how you do it. Also, I found it easier to keep the savoiardi standing up if I combined this step with the next one, spreading a thick bottom layer of filling from the center outward to glue the savoiardi in place as I laid them down.
Also, for extra optimal height evenness and a smooth surface to stand the cookies on, trim off the bottoms to form a flat edge and perfectly equal lengths.
- Layer on about 1/2 of the filling mixture, roughly smoothing the top surface.
- Soak each remaining savoiardi in the coffee mixture and place on top of the filling to form a second sponge layer.
Tip: This is the optimal place for slightly burnt and/or misshapen savoiardi. Shhhh
- Layer on the remaining 1/2 of the filling mixture, smoothing the top surface well using a small offset metal spatula (or any tool of your choice).
Tip: At this point, if you plan to make the cake in advance, feel free to freeze down the cake and thaw about 1-2 hours before you are ready to serve. I’ve generally found that whipped cream tastes a bit off after being frozen, then thawed, so I would save the last minute decorations to add on after you take the cake out of the freezer.
- Dust on a generous layer of cocoa powder over the top layer of filling to smooth out any remaining bumps.
- In a stand mixer or using an electric mixer, beat together the heavy cream and powdered sugar to the stiff peaks stage. At this point, when you lift the beaters out, the cream should form sharp peaks that do not curl over at all. Load the whipped cream in to a piping bag with a star tip (I used the Wilton 1M), then pipe swirls around the periphery of the cake to garnish.
Tip: The whipped cream swirls tend to move around a bit on the cocoa powder layer as you’re piping. To keep the swirls about where they’re supposed to go, I started my swirls at the 12 o’clock position (closest to the ladyfingers and farthest from the center), then piped in the direction of the previous swirl to make sure that the edges lined up properly, then tried to keep the remainder of the swirl as neat as possible. That way, the swirl begins by sliding toward the previous swirl rather than away, making sure that at least they all line up without spaces in between.
- Dust with additional cocoa powder to garnish, remove the walls of the springform pan, and tie off with a ribbon as desired. Buon appetito!