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Charlotte (cake) facts for kids

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Charlotte aux poires et chocolat.jpg
Chocolate and pear charlotte, with the typical ladyfinger biscuits clearly seen.
Alternative names Ice-box cake
Course Dessert
Place of origin England?, France?
Serving temperature Hot or cold
Main ingredients Bread, sponge cake or biscuits; fruit puree or custard
Variations Charlotte russe

A charlotte is a type of dessert or trifle that can be served hot or cold. It is also referred to as an "icebox cake". Bread, sponge cake or biscuits/cookies are used to line a mold, which is then filled with a fruit puree or custard. It can also be made using layers of breadcrumbs.

The variant Charlotte russe uses a mold lined with ladyfingers and filled with Bavarian cream.

Classically, stale bread dipped in butter was used as the lining, but sponge cake or ladyfingers may be used today. The filling may be covered with a thin layer of similarly flavoured gelatin.


In 1815, Marie-Antoine Carême claims to have thought of charlotte à la parisienne "pendant mon établissement", presumably in 1803, when he opened his own pastry shop.

The earliest known English recipe is from the 1808 London edition of Maria Rundell's New System of Domestic Cookery:

A Charlotte.

Cut as many very thin slices of white bread as will cover the bottom and line the sides of a baking dish, but first rub it thick with butter. Put apples, in thin slices, into the dish, in layers, till full, strewing sugar betweeij, and bits of butter. In the mean time, soak as many thin slices of bread as will cover the whole, in warm milk, over which lay a plate, and a weight to keep the bread close on the apples. Bake slowly three hours. To a middling sized dish use half a pound of butter in the whole.

In Carême's 1815 Le Pâtissier royal parisien, he mentions many varieties of charlotte: à la parisienne, à la française, à l'italienne, aux macarons dávelines, aux gaufres aux pistaches, de pommes, de pomme d'api, d'abricots, de pêches, de pommes glacée aux abricots, de pommes au beurre, parisienne à la vanille, de pommes; he mentions à la russe as the name used by others for what he called à la parisienne.


There are many variants. Most charlottes are served cool, so they are more common in warmer seasons. Fruit charlottes usually combine a fruit purée or preserve, like raspberry or pear, with a custard filling or whipped cream. Charlottes are not always made with fruit; some, notably charlotte russe, use custard or Bavarian cream, and a chocolate charlotte is made with layers of chocolate mousse filling.

The Algerian charlotte is made with honey, dates, orange rind, and almonds.

The 19th-century Russian sharlotka is a baked pudding with layers of brown bread and apple sauce, and has since evolved into a simple dessert of chopped apples basked in a sweet batter.

Charlotte russe

Charlotte russe or charlotte à la russe is a cold dessert of Bavarian cream set in a mold lined with ladyfingers.

A simplified version of charlotte russe was a popular dessert or on-the-go treat sold in candy stores and luncheonettes in New York City, during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. It consisted of a paper cup filled with yellow cake and whipped cream topped with half a maraschino cherry. The bottom of the cup is pushed up to eat.

Charlotte royale is made with the same filling as a Charlotte russe, but the ladyfingers are replaced by slices of Swiss roll.


The earliest attestation of "charlotte" is in a New York magazine in 1796. Its origins are unclear. It may come from the woman's name. One etymology suggests it is a corruption of the Old English word charlyt, a kind of custard, or charlets, a meat dish.

It is often claimed that Carême named it charlotte after one of the various foreign royals he served, but the name appears years earlier.

Carême's preferred name for charlotte à la russe' was charlotte à la parisienne, and he says (in 1815) that "others" prefer to call it russe, so it is unlikely that he named it russe for Czar Alexander I as has been proposed.

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