Retro Brooklyn; Searching For A Charlotte Russe

| April 6, 2013

As a young girl growing up in Brooklyn, spring was always a special time for me. Right around Easter, my favorite dessert Charlotte Russe, would magically appear at the corner candy store or bakery in our neighborhood. Part of my delight with Charlotte Russe was that it always showed up around my April birthday bearing my name—but I also love anything that is sweet and topped with gobs of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.

The boroughs version of Charlotte Russe in my formative years was very different from the upscale French version that I now make as a spectacular dessert for friends and family, with homemade ladyfingers and luscious Bavarian crème. As scrumptious as it is, it cannot hold a candle to the childhood delight of walking to Carmela’s candy store at the corner of Bay 26th Street and Bath Avenue, and seeing the simple deliciousness of my special birthday Charlotte Russe lined up on the counter.

This Brooklyn version was made from a thin, round, disk of sponge cake, fitted into a frilled cardboard holder whose center would be pushed up as to reveal more cake, as the topping of whipped cream and the cherry (always saved for last) was consumed.

Variations included sprinkles, flavored whipped cream, or a layer of jam over the cake, probably our boroughs version of “twinkies.”

Alas, for the last two or three decades, my beloved Charlotte Russe has become extinct, yet I can still taste that delicious cherry in my childhood memories.

Here is my homemade version, which can still spark my birthday smiles:

Charlotte’s Charlotte Russe

  • Lady Fingers
  • 1-1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup light agave nectar

Line up 8 festive paper cups and line the sides with the lady fingers and cut pieces of lady fingers to line the bottom.

Brush the ladyfingers with the agave nectar. Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff and with a piping bag, pipe in the cream.  Finish with a yummy maraschino cherry or chocolate sprinkles.  Enjoy!

Charlotte Goldblatt