Vanilla Charlotte Recipe

Slice of Charlotte Cake
Stacy Howell / Getty Images
  • Total: 45 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Refrigerate: 4 hrs
  • Yield: 6-8 servings

A charlotte is a classic molded dessert that begins with a mold lined with sponge cake or ladyfingers and filled with custard, fruit or mousse. It's common to find some type of charlotte recipe cross-culturally in Eastern European kitchens.

This recipe is from the book, “Chocolate and Vanilla” (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2006) by Chef Gale Gand of Tru Restaurant in Chicago.


  • Cake:
  • 1 (7-ounce) package ladyfingers
  • 2 (1/2-pint) containers raspberries
  • Vanilla Custard:
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean (halved lengthwise)
  • 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons water (cold)
  • 12 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • Garnish: white chocolate curls (see below) and confectioners’ sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. Coat 8-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Line with parchment paper, using a circle for the bottom and a 4-inch-wide strip for the sides. Generously spray the parchment. Stand the ladyfingers up around the insides of the pan.

  2. Pick over the raspberries, saving the best ones, a little less than 1/2 pint, to garnish the finished charlotte.

  3. Have ready near your cooktop a large bowl. Fill it 3/4 full with ice and cover ice with water.

  4. Bring milk and vanilla bean to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, turn off heat and let vanilla steep in milk for 10 minutes.

  5. In a small bowl, gradually sprinkle gelatin over cold water and set aside to soften.

  6. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with granulated sugar for about 1 minute to combine.

  7. Then gradually pour in hot milk, whisking continuously.

  8. Return mixture to the saucepan and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over medium heat until sauce has thickened and is 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, being careful not to overcook or you will have scrambled eggs.

  9. Immediately stir softened gelatin into custard until dissolved.

  10. Strain mixture through fine-mesh sieve into medium bowl.

  11. Place bowl of custard into bowl of ice water and stir frequently until custard starts to cool and thicken.

  12. Fold in the less-than-perfect berries (don’t worry if they break up a bit) and then pour the custard into the ladyfinger-lined pan. Smooth top of custard and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

  13. To serve, trim ladyfingers even with top of custard. Invert charlotte onto serving platter. Remove mold and parchment. Arrange reserved raspberries around edge of charlotte and pile white chocolate curls in center. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut into wedges.


  • To make beautiful chocolate curls, the two keys are to use a block of chocolate and have it at barely above room temperature. If it’s too cold, it will break into shards as you peel it. You could warm it with a hair dryer set on low, or try wrapping it in a tea towel and warming it with the heat of your hands. Use a vegetable peeler and pull across the side of the block so the chocolate comes off in curls. Place them on a plate and refrigerate until you need them.
  • Freeze leftover egg whites and save for leftover egg white recipes.