Charlotte Cake

Strawberry Charlotte Cake

Summer is here and so is strawberry season.  I have been saving this recipe for strawberry time and I’m so excited that I finally get to share it with you!  Charlotte cakes are beautiful and light, but can be a challenge to make.  I learned some tricks from America’s Test Kitchen that makes the cake easy to make, without losing the beauty and elegance.

strawberries

A traditional Charlotte Cake is made with ladyfingers.  The problem with using lady fingers is that they can be dry, difficult to line up neatly, and the filling likes to ooze out between the ladyfingers and spoil the look.  America’s Test Kitchen came up with the brilliant idea of using a sponge cake instead of ladyfingers!  The sponge cake is light and flexible, making it easy to work with, but tough enough to hold the cake together.  The directions look long, but it comes together quickly.

Charlotte Cake

Charlotte Cake

Filling

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 large eggs, separated (save the whites for the cake)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup Quark
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Sprinkle gelatin over water in a large bowl and set aside.  Whisk egg yolks and cornstarch together in a medium bowl until combined.
  2. Combine strawberries, sugar, and butter in a medium saucepan.  Mash lightly and stir until no dry sugar remains.  Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until mixture is simmering and strawberries are almost completely broken down, 4 to 6 minutes.
  3. Remove strawberry mixture from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add 1/2 cup strawberry mixture to yolk mixture to temper.  Continue whisking constantly, add the tempered yolk mixture to the strawberry mixture in the saucepan.   Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick and bubbles, about one minute.
  4. Remove from heat, stir strawberry mixture into the gelatin until the gelatin is dissolved.  Fold in Quark.  Set aside, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and reaches room temperature.  While the mixture cools, make the jelly mixture and cake.

Strawberries with sugar and butter

Jelly Mixture

  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup strawberry jelly (or seedless jam)

Sprinkle gelatin over lemon juice in a small bowl and let sit until the gelatin softens.  Heat jelly in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until hot and runny, about 1 minute.  Add gelatin to jelly and whisk to dissolve.  Set aside.

charlottecake--6

Cake

  • 2/3 cup cake flour
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 egg whites (reserved from the filling)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8 inch round cake pan and an 8 inch square cake pan, line with parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment.
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Whisk oil, whole egg, water and vanilla into the flour mixture until a smooth batter forms.
  3. Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed in a stand mixer until foamy, about one minute.  Increase speed to medium high and whip until soft peaks form.  Transfer 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter, whisk gently until the mixture is lightened.  Gently fold the remaining egg whites into batter.
  4. Pour 1 cup batter into prepared round pan and spread evenly.  Pour the remaining batter into the prepared square pan and spread evenly.  Place pans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the upper middle position of the oven until cakes spring back when pressed lightly in the center, about 8-10 minutes.  Cakes should not brown.
  5. Let cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Invert cakes onto wire rack.  Remove parchment and invert again.  allow to cool completely.

lining the springform pan with cake

Putting it all together!

  1. Place round cake in the center of a serving platter.  Spread with 2 tablespoons jelly mixture.  Place ring from a 9 inch springform pan around cake, leaving equal space on all sides.  Leave clasp of ring loose.
  2. Using a sharp knife, trim 1/8 inch off all edges of square cake.  Spread square cake with 2 tablespoons of jelly mixture.  Cut cake in half.  Cut each half lengthwise into two pieces to make four equal size long strips.  Place cake strips around the round cake, jelly side in, taking care to nestle ends together neatly (see above). Fasten clasp of springform ring.
  3. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream until soft peaks form.  Gently fold cream into chilled filling until evenly mixed but still light and fluffy.
  4. Pour filling into the cake ring and spread evenly to the edge.  Drizzle the remaining jelly mixture on the filling.  Using a skewer or knife, swirl the jelly through the surface of the filling, making a marbled pattern.  Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or up to 24 hours.

Swirling the filling

To unmold, run a thin knife around the edge of the ring (just 1/2 inch down).  Release ring and lift to remove.  Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

charlottecake--7

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

 

What is going on in the kitchen?

The Cheese Shop has been open for more than a year now and sometimes I have to pinch myself because I feel blessed beyond belief.  I am also blessed by my wonderful crew.  My crew is like family to me, some actually are family to me.  The teamwork here is phenomenal!  Everybody enthusiastically pitches in with all tasks (except weeding the flower beds).  We team up to bake the muffins, cookies, and biscuits fresh every day.  Strong teamwork is vitally important because one person may start a batch of muffins, then get called out to help a customer so someone else will need to take over.  We occasionally have a mess-up like missing an ingredient or adding double the amount of salt (oops) but for the most part the system works beautifully.

There may be a little bit of goofing off too…

Goofing off in the kitchen
Elizabeth is starting to get almost as goofy as her Aunt.

One of our fabulous team members has her last day this Saturday.  We are like family here, so it’s hard to see any member of the crew leave.  I feel like a proud Mom!  Mars has been working the Saturday morning shift since we opened.  We will miss her bright cheery face and easy laugh.  Mars graduated from Whatcom Community College and is moving on to an exciting future.

Mars is baking
Mars is testing a recipe for plum upside down cake. It was much too dense so we will keep working on it!

The crew also helps out with testing recipes for posting here.  We have to make a recipe several times to get it right and we take copious amounts of notations.  A new recipe that we tested and LOVE is Strawberry Scones with Brown Sugar Glaze.

Strawberry Quark Scones

Strawberry Quark Scones

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking poweder
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup strawberries, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Appel Farms Quark*
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  cut in the butter until it looks like course bread crumbs.  Add the strawberries and toss until the berries are coated.

Whisk together the egg, quark, vanilla and milk.  Fold the quark mixture into the flour mixture to form a moist dough.  Add more milk if necessary.  Turn out the dough and pat it into a circle about 1 inch thick.  Cut the dough into wedges and transfer the wedges to a greased baking sheet.

Place the scones in the freezer for ten minutes to chill.   Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Let the scones cool before spreading on the glaze (recipe below).

Making Scones

Brown Sugar Glaze

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Once the sugar has dissolved then add the cream, vanilla, and salt.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool until thickened.

*I you don’t have access to quark, then you can substitute sour cream.

Why it pays to listen.

Part of the fun of marrying into the family business is the variety of jobs that I have had over the years.  In the last twenty or so years I have done pretty much every job imaginable.  I have packed boxes, baled Quark, made deliveries, done the bookkeeping and payroll, plus marketing and sales.  One of my jobs back in the late 90’s, was to manage our booth at the farmer’s market in Bellingham.

The farmer’s market in Bellingham opened in 1993 and I shared the task of manning our booth.  It was tiring work but I loved the camaraderie of the farmers. I loved the hot summer air rising from the blacktop parking lot.  I loved the sounds of laughter and smells of food around me.  The best thing that I got out of those days at the farmer’s market was from simply listening.  I listened to the customers, what they wanted, what they needed, and what we could do for them.  Those conversations and many more like it helped to shape our business and how we serve our customers today.

Jerry
Jerry is one of our wonderful customers who help to shape our business.

Feta was pretty exotic to most of the people I met at the Farmer’s Market back then.  That seems so surprising with how mainstream it is now.  Some shoppers had heard of it but most had never tried it.  At that time, “cheese” meant orange cheddar, even white cheddar was a tough sell.  Shoppers were hesitant to try new cheeses, and they weren’t sure how to react to feta’s rich, briny flavor and crumbly texture. Introducing people to a new cheese back then was pretty challenging but so much fun!

Feta
Feta

The latest trend in feta around here is matching it with fruit.  Feta and watermelon is fabulous!  Here is a favorite summer salad that pairs feta with strawberries.  Strawberry season here is coming to an end, but lots of places have ever-bearing varieties.

Strawberry Spinach Salad
Strawberry Spinach Salad

Strawberry Spinach Salad

  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 16 ounces strawberries, washed, hulled and slices
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta
  • 1 cup nuts, chopped and toasted (I used walnuts here. Pecans also work well, but my favorite is slivered almonds)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette

I would feel really silly telling you how to make a salad, so I will leave that part to your imagination.

Making salad at The Cheese Shop
This is what happens when put my daughter in charge of the photos.

Why you should get your local strawberries right now!

The beginning of summer for me is heralded by Boxx Berry Farm opening their doors.  When I was growing up, the only time I ever set foot on a farm was our annual trip to Yelm to pick strawberries for mom’s freezer jam.  I have fond memories of grimy knees, stained fingers, and the heady smell of berries warm from the summer sun.  I may have met the farmer that owned those fields, but I don’t remember him/her. I did hear stories of farmers: their hardworking life, patience, and general steady character.  Being constantly around farmers now, I have come to take these traits for granted, but it was brought home to me again as I visited Boxx Berry Farm the other day.  I parked out front and wandered through the patchwork quilt of fruit and vegetable fields, with dust from the road swirling around my ankles.

Alyssa working at the upick stand
The yield this year is small, but the berries are large, juicy, and sweet.

The u-pick stand was manned by Alyssa, the daughter of Roger and Vonda Boxx.  It’s been a delight to see her grow from the skinny little thing running around the farm to the beautiful woman she is now.  Roger paused in his own labors to greet me and we gazed down the rows of strawberry plants.  I asked him how it was going and he confessed that it’s a disappointing year.  They are expecting less than half their usual yield of strawberries.  The winter, though mild, was harsh on the strawberry plants.  But farmers are a stoic breed, he brushed the worry aside like brushing the dust from his shoes and shrugged, “there’s always next year.”

Because the harvest will be small this year, I am relishing each and every berry.  There’s nothing like the imminent danger of paucity to make you cherish what you can get, don’t you think?  I made freezer jam on Monday, just like mom’s, and today we are having Panna Cotta.  My son describes Panna Cotta as offspring from the marriage of gelatin dessert and ice cream.  Panna Cotta is light, creamy, and easy to make but looks absolutely elegant.

Panna Cotta

Strawberry Quark Panna Cotta

  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup lowfat quark
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Place half and half into a medium pan.  Stir gelatin in gently and set aside.

Blend quark, strawberries, seeds from the vanilla bean, and sugar in a food processor until smooth.

Heat half and half and gelatin stirring constantly until almost simmering, do not overheat or the gelatin will not set.  Remove from heat.

Fold 1/3 of the hot half and half into the strawberry/quark mixture, then gradually add in the remainder.

Divide into serving glasses, the number of glasses depends on their size and if you are doing layers or all one flavor.  For two layers, I like to tilt the glasses in a muffin tin (use crumpled paper towel to keep the glasses from sliding around) for the first layer then set the glasses straight for the second layer.  Allow to set for 4-6 hours before adding second layer.

Elizabeth cutting strawberries

Vanilla Quark Panna Cotta

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup lowfat quark
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Place half and half into a medium pan.  Stir gelatin in gently and set aside.

Stir together the quark and seeds from the vanilla bean, set aside.

Heat half and half and gelatin stirring constantly until almost simmering, do not overheat or the gelatin will not set.  Remove from heat.

Fold 1/3 of the hot half and half into the vanilla/quark mixture, then gradually add in the remainder.

Divide into serving glasses or carefully pour on top of the first layer.  Chill 4-6 hours before serving.