This is a variation on a French classic, but few people know that it was quite possibly the English who first made it, in honour of Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, so it’s another case of a perfect international blend of culture and tradition that I love.
You can use shop-bought lady fingers, but making them from scratch is much more rewarding, and since this recipe produces more than you actually need, you get to enjoy them any time of the day. They also go well with zabaione, and they are happy to be frozen.
Recipes by Melissa Forti
Photographs by Danny Bernardini
Charlotte al cioccolato (chocolate Charlotte) recipe from The Italian Baker
FOR THE LADY FINGERS
- 6 eggs, separated
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 180g (¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons) caster (granulated) sugar
- 180g (1¼ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
- Icing (confectioner’s) sugar, for dusting
FOR THE CHOCOLATE FILLING
- 500g (1lb 2oz) good-quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
- 1 litre (4 cups) double (heavy) cream
- Good-quality cocoa powder, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F.Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in the large bowl of a stand mixer (or use a large mixing bowl and an electric hand-held whisk) and whisk until frothy, then add half the sugar in small additions, whisking until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until pale. Gently fold the whisked egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then gradually fold in the flour to make a smooth, airy mixture.
Fill a piping bag fitted with [a] 2-cm/1½- inch plain nozzle with the mixture. Pipe fingers 9cm/3½ inches long, leaving space between each as they will expand during baking. Dust with icing sugar and bake for 10 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges. Leave to cool on the sheets.
To assemble, sprinkle a little icing sugar onto the base of a 20-cm/8-inch springform cake tin. Stand the lady fingers vertically around the edge, so each one is just touching the next. Refrigerate.
Place the chocolate and a quarter of the cream in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally. Put the remaining cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a mixing bowl and use a hand-held electric whisk) and whisk it till barely thickened. Add the chocolate ganache to the thickened cream and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the tin, inside the lady finger border, and put back in the fridge to set.
Once set, remove the sides of the tin. Tie a ribbon around the base if you wish. Dust with cocoa powder and add any decorations you like, such as berries, whipped cream or edible flowers.