Desserts

Charlotte Malakoff- an afternoon with Julia Child

I just spent an afternoon with Julia Child- making her Charlotte Malakoff dessert! I’ve always been intrigued with this recipe after studying the diagrams and explanations in Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook. I decided to give this dessert a try and at the same time have a close encounter with Julia. How did I do this? By watching (studying!) the re-play of Julia demonstrating this recipe in 1964 on her TV show The French Chef.

This show had none of the slick nuances of today’s cooking shows. Julia was able to float effortlessly through several small mistakes and blunders, while presenting us with a delicious cake at the end that makes us believe (even 50 years later) that we can do it too!

At one point, Julia’s electric mixer was going too fast as she creamed the butter and sugar together: sugar flew off the side of the bowl in a whispy cloud. Did she panic? No, she just said, “Heavens- that’s going too fast, let’s slow it down!”

“Heavens! That’s going too fast!” (sugar flying off the side)

JC Sugar incident

During another incident, Julia mistakenly said that the recipe called for 1/2 cup almond extract to be added to the cream filling.  Twenty seconds later, she realised her mistake, screwed up her face and said, “Oops, did I say 1/2 cup almond extract? Wow, what a dessert that would be! It should only be 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.”

“Oops, did I say 1/2 cup almond extract?”

Screen JC face

And finally, when Julia tried to unmold the cake and it got stuck, she advised her viewers to “never get upset” and to try again.”

“You see, never get upset. I’ll just go around this again (with the knife).”

JC unmolding

 “And there she comes, there it tis!”

JC final 2

When Julia finally unmolded her Charlotte Malakoff, you’ll notice that one of the ladyfingers broke off on the right side of the plate and that part of the cake looks a little scraggly. In typical ‘Julia style,’ she acted like nothing had happened and just kept on going: “And there it tis!”

So once again, Julia has taught us that mistakes are OK and even an important part of our learning experience.

The Dessert

Charlotte Malakoff is a very rich  dessert, with a crown of soft ladyfingers surrounding layers of whipped cream, butter, ground almonds and strawberries. As Julia says, “You have to pay in calories if you want an elegant desert like this.” It’s not very difficult to make, but it can be tricky to keep the ladyfingers in tact when you unmold the dessert. That’s why Julia had a bit of trouble and that’s why I added an outer layer of creamy filling on the bottom of my cake. This was to patch up some of the ladyfingers that broke off when I unmolded the dessert (there, I admitted it!)

Here are some essentials for this recipe:

  • use a high-sided cylindrical mold for this recipe, preferably 4 inches high. You can buy a charlotte mold at a specialty store, however I used a casserole dish with sides 3 inches high and 7 inches across.
  • Julia said you could even “use a high-sided plant pot for your mold because you want to have drama in your dessert.” (That might be taking it too far in my opinion!)
  • Your mold should hold at least 8 cups of filling. If you have filling leftover from the recipe, you can use it as frosting (icing) for the outside of your dessert (as I did).
  • You should have at least 24 ladyfingers for this recipe. You can buy them at some stores but it is best to make them yourself. As Julia says, “Store-bought ladyfingers are loathsome things, limp and soggy.” Insead, they should be dry and tender.
  • You do not butter your mold, but use a layer of waxed paper on the bottom. Next time I make this recipe, I will try placing wax paper also around the sides of the mold to prevent the ladyfingers from sticking to the sides and then breaking apart.
  • I added a few decorations to my Charlotte Malakoff: some whipped cream rosettes and a strawberry on top- I believe this adds some elegance to the dessert.

For the Ladyfingers:

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs separated
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (or cake flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • confectioner’s sugar to dust tops of ladyfingers

 Directions

  •  Pre-heat the oven to 400 F (205 C). Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
  • Using an electric beater, mix together 4 egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale in color. Beat in the vanilla flavouring.
  • Sift together the flour and baking powder together on a sheet of parchment paper.
  • Fold in 1/2 of the egg whites to the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Then fold in 1/2 of the flour mixture to the egg yolks. Repeat, adding the rest of the egg whites and then the remainder of the flour to the egg yolks. The mixture should be thick and airy.
  • Transfer the mixture to the a large piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round opening. Pipe the ladyfingers onto the prepared baking sheet, making them 4 inches long and 1 inch wide (you could also spoon them onto the tray). Dust the tops of the ladyfingers with confectioner’s sugar. Bake for 8 minutes until they turn light brown.
  • Remove from oven and transfer immediately to a wire wrack to cool.

Pipe ladyfingers onto parchment paper, about 4 inches long and 1 inch wide

Charlotte 13 of 13 (1 of 1)For the Charlotte Malakoff Cream Mixture

 Ingredients

  • 16 fresh strawberries (approximate)
  • 1/3 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 24 ladyfingers
  • 2 sticks butter (1/2 lb) softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/3 cups pulverised almonds
  • 2 cups chilled whipping cream

Directions

  • Hull the strawberries, wash and set aside. Combine 2/3 cup water and1/3 cup orange liqueur in a soup plate or other flat container. Dip each ladyfinger quickly into this mixture and let drain on a wire rack.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar until smooth using electric beaters. Add the orange liqueur, almond extract and pulverised almonds (I used my food processor to grind the almonds to a fine consistency).
  • In a separate bowl, whip the cream with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Gradually fold in the cream into the butter and almond mixture.(Julia folds her cream in by working the spatula from the outside of the bowl towards the center). The mixture should be thick and airy: do not over-mix.

Charlotte 5 of 5) (1 of 1)

  • Line the bottom of the mold with unbuttered wax paper. Line the sides of the mold with the ladyfingers placed closely together, rounded sides facing outwards.

Charlotte 4 of 4) (1 of 1)

  •  Fill the inside of the mold with 1/2 of the almond/cream mixture. Place a layer of strawberries on top of the mixture, heads facing down.

Charlotte 7 of 7 (1 of 1)

  •  Place a layer of ladyfingers on top of the strawberries, placing them closely together.

Charlotte 8 of 8 (1 of 1)

  • Add another layer of the almond/cream mixture, almost to the top of the mold. Add another layer of strawberries and finish with layer of ladyfingers. Trim the tips of the ladyfingers so they lie flat with the edge of the mold. (This will wind up being the bottom of your Charlotte cake, so it doesn’t matter what it looks like here)!

Tips of the ladyfingers have been trimmed.

Charlotte 10 of 10 (1 of 1)

  • Place a round piece of wax paper on top of the ladyfingers, cover with a plate and then add a heavy weight on top of the plate. (I placed a can of beans on top, while Julia placed a large glass of water).
  • Place in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight; this chills the butter firm so the dessert will not collapse when unmolded.
  • When ready to serve, remove the waxed paper and run a knife closely around the edge of the mold. Reverse onto a chilled serving plate and remove the remaining piece of waxed paper. Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream and strawberries.

Charlotte 12 of 12 (1 of 1)

 

 

Charlotte Malakoff
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For the Ladyfingers
  1. 4 eggs separated
  2. pinch
  3. 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. white sugar
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 1 cup all-purpose flour (or cake flour)
  6. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  7. confectioner's sugar to dust tops of ladyfingers
For the Cream Mixture
  1. 16 fresh strawberries (approximate)
  2. 1/3 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  3. 2/3 cup water
  4. 24 ladyfingers
  5. 2 sticks butter (1/2 lb) softened
  6. 1 cup sugar
  7. 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  8. 1/4 tsp almond extract
  9. 1 1/3 cups pulverised almonds
  10. 2 cups chilled whipping cream
For the Ladyfingers
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F (205 C). Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Using an electric beater, mix together 4 egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale in color. Beat in the vanilla flavouring.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder together on a sheet of wax paper.
  5. Fold in 1/2 of the egg whites to the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Then fold in 1/2 of the flour mixture to the egg yolks. Repeat, adding the rest of the egg whites and then the remainder of the flour to the egg yolks. The mixture should be thick and airy.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the a large piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round opening. Pipe the ladyfingers onto the prepared baking sheet, making them 4 inches long and 1 inch wide (you could also spoon them onto the tray). Dust the tops of the ladyfingers with confectioner’s sugar. Bake for 8 minutes until they turn light brown.
  7. Remove from oven and transfer immediately to a wire wrack to cool.
For the Cream Mixture
  1. Hull the strawberries, wash and set aside. Combine 2/3 cup water and1/3 cup orange liqueur in a soup plate or other flat container. Dip each ladyfinger quickly into this mixture and let drain on a wire rack.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar until smooth, using electric beaters. Add the orange liqueur, almond extract and pulverised almonds (I used my food processor to grind the almonds to a fine consistency).
  3. In a separate bowl, whip the cream with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Gradually fold in the cream into the butter and almond mixture.(Julia folds her cream in by working the spatula from the outside of the bowl towards the center). The mixture should be thick and airy: do not over-mix.
  4. Line the bottom of the mold with unbuttered wax paper. Line the sides of the mold with the ladyfingers placed closely together, rounded sides facing outwards.
  5. Fill the inside of the mold with 1/2 of the almond/cream mixture. Place a layer of strawberries on top of the mixture, heads facing down. Place a layer of ladyfingers on top of the strawberries, placing them closely together.
  6. Add another layer of the almond/cream mixture, almost to the top of the mold. Add another layer of strawberries and finish with layer of ladyfingers. Trim the tips of the ladyfingers so they lie flat with the edge of the mold. (This will wind up being the bottom of your Charlotte cake, so it doesn't matter what it looks like here)!
  7. Place a round piece of wax paper on top of the ladyfingers, cover with a plate and then add a heavy weight on top of the plate. (I placed a can of beans on top, while Julia placed a large glass of water).
  8. Place in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight; this chills the butter firm so the dessert will not collapse when unmolded.
  9. When ready to serve, remove the waxed paper and run a knife closely around the edge of the mold. Reverse onto a chilled serving plate and remove the remaining piece of waxed paper. Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream and strawberries.
Notes
  1. Use a mold with sides preferably 4 inches high with an 8-cup capacity. Depending on the size of your mold, you can add more layers of cream, strawberries and ladyfingers, if you have enough ingredients left over.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

 

 

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    [email protected] Tart
    November 26, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Hi Fran! I loved your notion of ‘spending an afternoon with Julia Child’! Your cake is truly spectacular – I am inspired!!! My guess is that it the way it tasted was worth the calories paid!

  • Reply
    [email protected] Riffs
    November 26, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    I remember watching that episode when it was first broadcast! It was Julia that got me interested in cooking, mainly because she got me interested in eating. Or rather, in eating food that I had never imagined before. We have a charlotte mold, so we should make this. And use your trick to hide the ladyfingers which I know we’ll mess up when we unmold!
    [email protected] Riffs recently posted…Roast Squash & Sweet Potato Chili with KaleMy Profile

  • Reply
    Colleen
    November 26, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Hi fran, I’m glad to hear that you also make mistakes like we all do, thinking of you lately as I’m getting ingredients ready for last yrs trifle recipe e for our neighbour bbcue, hope to have one in jan u can attend what date r u home again? Keep up with the cooking!

  • Reply
    Gourmet Getaways
    December 1, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    A 1964 recipe show! Isn’t that amazing?! And look at how you created that malakoff! I love ladyfingers!!!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx
    Gourmet Getaways recently posted…Caffera – Camera-Themed CafeMy Profile

  • Reply
    Sarah
    December 1, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    That looks so delicious! And I love how you wrote about Julia Child – you really made her personality come alive 🙂
    Sarah recently posted…The Unblogged Files: November 2014My Profile

  • Reply
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
    December 1, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    I LOVED watching Julia Child. It was always live and she managed it brilliantly. A few oopses and she kept right on going. I’ve found heaps of clips on youtube and they make me smile even today.

    What a gorgeous dessert, Fran!
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef recently posted…Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel ToppingMy Profile

  • Reply
    Juliana
    December 2, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Beautiful charlotte…and homemade ladyfingers? Amazing! What a elegant and delicate dessert…
    Enjoy your week Fran 🙂
    Juliana recently posted…Oden, a Japanese DishMy Profile

  • Reply
    Joanne T Ferguson
    December 4, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    G’day! How grand you got to spend time with Julia (via video) Fran!
    I used to stuck like glue on her black and white tv show!
    What a great recipe that you obviously have a lot of patience!
    Well done! Admire you! Cheers! Joanne

    • Reply
      Fran
      December 8, 2014 at 4:14 am

      Thanks Joanne or your comment. Yes, it does take a bit of patience or this recipe, even more patience required for my version (I placed icing on the sides of the cake and also piped whipped cream on top, which Julia didn’t do).
      Fran recently posted…Charlotte Malakoff- an afternoon with Julia ChildMy Profile

  • Reply
    Adrian (food rehab )
    December 8, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    ahh classic Julia. Love her. No one like her. And this cake…stunning job.

  • Reply
    Amira
    December 12, 2014 at 7:40 am

    I’ve never heard of Julia Child before!!! seems an interesting show for a lovely – all natural- lady. Gotta youtube her soon. I know my mom used to make something like this loooong time ago but do not remember what did she call it. Thanks for reminding me of such a delicious dessert.
    Amira recently posted…Okra Stew- This is how we eat our veggiesMy Profile

  • Reply
    Daniela
    December 15, 2014 at 2:55 am

    It’s so interesting and fun too to watch Julia the Great on video.
    And the Charlotte Malakoff is such a delight, pure temptation!
    Daniela recently posted…Warm Apricot Punch For Cold Winter DaysMy Profile

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