This truly delightful, light and fruity summer dessert is a winner, with the perfect combo of a celebratory glass of champagne and lots of fresh strawberries. This version of the traditional charlotte is slightly healthier because there’s lots of fruit, a quarter of the whipping cream is replaced with natural greek yoghurt, sweetened slightly with pure maple syrup, and the sponge fingers are dipped not in sugar syrup but directly in champagne. There are two advantages to this: there’s less sugar involved so the dessert is nice and light (see an article about the health benefits of champagne here, lol), plus you can really taste the champagne! It’s wonderful! After years of making disappointing ‘champagne’ mousses, creams and sponges where not even a hint of bubbly could be discerned, finally here’s a dessert that tastes celebratory! I used brut nature cava (low-sugar Catalan champagne), but prosecco, cremant or any sparkling wines could work, and probably even grape or apple juice. The typical pink biscuits de reims used here are lovely and have an amazing history – more about this further down – but any similar sponge finger would be fine. This dreamily delicious dessert is easy, no-bake and pretty. And it takes less than 30 minutes to make! Try this strawberry and champagne charlotte and be very pleasantly surprised! 🙂
THE RECIPE – for a 12-cm/4.7in diametre cake and 4-6 slices
For the recipe I looked at photos and a few ingredient lists, then basically recreated this charlotte. Oh, and on my packet of biscuits roses de Reims (bought at a little French food store in Barcelona) it says,
La tradition veut qu’il soit dégusté trempé dans le champagne ou tout autre vin d’apéritif’ (tradition dictates that it – this biscuit – be eaten dipped in champagne or some other aperitif wine)
Being quite happy to go along with this tradition, I thought, ‘What a great idea! For my charlotte, by jove, these biscuits will definitely be soaked in champagne, not sugar syrup!’ Ok, perhaps I didn’t use the expression ‘by jove’ but it has a nice ring to it.
Rose means pink here by the way – the biscuits do not taste of roses (the flowers).
As for the cream, well, the first version I made included some mascarpone, which makes for a richer, heavier filling, if that’s what you like. I decided to lighten and modernise a little by using greek-style yoghurt instead. Perfect.
This is the mascarpone one, with less strawberries on top.
It needed more decoration so I added mini meringues, which brought a nice balance as the cake itself isn’t very sweet.
Feel free to adapt any which way you like. Some charlottes include cream cheese. And you can use boudoir or savoiardi sponge fingers, though you might have to carefully cut them to make them shorter. You can of course also make a bigger charlotte.
Yes, you could use deliciously soft homemade sponge fingers (recipe link further down in the Charlotte section). But it’s amazing how the shop-bought ones aren’t very sweet at all and though dry and not great to eat as they are, they do eventually soften to an amazing spongy texture after dunking, while holding very nicely around a cake – which I suppose is why bakers in France and even my French chef cousin don’t turn their noses up at them. Not to mention the sheer convenience of it all.
- Day 1 – assemble in the ring (takes 15 – 25 minutes); store in fridge overnight (or minimum 4 hours)
- Day 2 – unmould then top with strawberries (2 minutes)
- Any ring with a 12cm/4.7in diametre, about 5cm/2in high (I used a metal cake ring), or some other size, adapting quantities
- 15 biscuits roses de Reims (I used the classic Fossier ones, made with free-range eggs) or a suitable number of other sponge fingers
- 90g/ml liquid whipping cream (35% fat)
- 45g/1.6oz unsweetened natural greek-style yoghurt (or mascarpone)
- 1 tbsp pure maple syrup (or sugar), to taste
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 150g/5.3oz or more chopped strawberries, to taste
- 100g/3.5oz or more whole strawberries, to taste, for decoration
Note: if your strawberries are not very tasty you could macerate them in a few spoons of orange juice or liqueur with a little sugar or maple syrup, for 30 minutes before assembling your charlotte.
- Prepare your ring/mould by placing it on a plate or cardboard cake board.
- Dip a sponge finger in the champagne/cava, for 2 to 3 seconds – soaking just the non-sugared side.
- Place it in the ring, with the unsoaked sugared side facing outwards.
- Repeat with the other biscuits – you’ll need 12 biscuits de Reims for a 12cm-diametre ring.
- Finally, fit in about 2 and a half biscuits at the base, with broken smaller pieces to fill gaps.
Whisk the whipping cream to very soft peak. Whisk in the greek yoghurt and the maple syrup or sugar. Whisk until you get a nice soft fluffy stiff peak (not too firm, and definitely not buttery – if this happens, lightly whisk in a little more liquid cream to make it soft again).
Rinse, pat dry then chop the 150g (or more) strawberries – leave the 100g (or more) whole ones for the top for the next day.
Spoon a layer of cream on the base. Add a good layer of chopped strawberries, pressing lightly into the cream. Add another layer of cream then another layer of strawberries. Finish with a good layer of cream on top.
Refrigerate overnight (or minimum 4 hours) in the ring, in airtight tupperware.
Lift ring off the cake. Top with strawberries. Tada!
Admire then eat.
Storing and eating
After unmoulding on the second day, you can eat this cake straight from the fridge or allow to come to room temperature 15 to 20 minutes. I should mention that unhulled strawberries are photogenic but you may want to serve cake slices with hulled strawberries – easier to eat.
Cakes are usually best eaten within a day or two but this one keeps very well and is also delicious day 3, possibly 4 (eat the strawberries on top first as they’d go off earlier).
It’s a very refreshing cake; I was also super impressed with the amazing champagne flavour and lovely pink biscuits.
A little champagne and biscuit history
The city of Reims, 129km from Paris in the North East, is famous for its medieval buildings, cathedral, museums and as the capital of the Champagne region. As a major champagne production centre, many of les grandes marques houses in Reims are usually open for tastings and tours. One day I hope to travel there and visit these! 🙂
The biscuit rose de Reims is frequently associated with Champagne wine and apparently one of the earliest known biscuits around, first created around 1690! Apparently the pink colour was introduced by a baker who didn’t like the black flecks or grey streaks of vanilla in his sponge fingers and wanted to camouflage them with cochineal, a natural scarlet dye (it’s a wonder there aren’t many more pink desserts around).
The biscuits I used, made following an original 17th century recipe, are by La Maison Fossier, founded in Reims in 1756 – as usual I’m not being sponsored or anything, but I do like to let you know about any great finds.
As you probably know, bis means double and cuit means baked; Fossier say that because these biscuits are double-baked, they have a unique texture and ability to absorb liquids, thus ensuring your charlotte stays stable. It’s true! My charlottes didn’t even need a ribbon to hold them up and even after cutting nothing collapsed!!! Quite the miracle …
If you’d like a little history about charlottes russes and my recipe for homemade sponge fingers, check out my raspberry charlotte russe recipe here.
But for now, let’s have another look at this great no-bake strawberry and cava charlotte with biscuits roses de Reims. You could say it’s a very modern cake with a lot of history. And it’s delicious. Please have some…
Thanks for stopping by again dear reader! I hope you’re enjoying your Summer (or Winter) holidays and wish you all a happy and safe time. And lots of happy baking, no-baking and eating of course! 🙂 Lili x