Our strawberry rhubarb charlotte was inspired by one we had at Au Pied de Cochon this past June. We were so impressed by the delicious dessert that I adapted it for Tomiko’s unofficial birthday party over the Canada Day long weekend.
The tart rhubarb makes this strawberry rhubarb charlotte really special, since we can only get rhubarb during a few months the year. I added some gelatin to the rhubarb compote, and then folded that into the majority of the whipped cream to set in the fridge. Then I added a few whole strawberries and piped some of the reserved whipped cream over top. Due to it being July 1 long weekend, I was going for the red-and-white theme of Canada Day, but instead I got a Japanese flag. Oh well, at least it’s still applicable!
I used a store-bought sponge cake base, but you could make your own sponge cake for the strawberry rhubarb charlotte. The sponge cake and lady fingers soak in a weak simple syrup to soften them enough to trim without crumbling. I also reserved about half a cup of the cooked rhubarb to spread over the sponge base for a stronger hit of pure rhubarb. Even with all the rhubarb though, the strawberry rhubarb charlotte as a whole isn’t too sweet or too tart – in fact, I think it’s close to perfect!
For some variation, you could also switch out the rhubarb and strawberries with other seasonal fruits; Ontario peaches come into season in August and September, and they would be excellent in a charlotte (possibly just mashed and cooked enough to dissolve the gelatin). Cherries would also be delicious, as would cooked apple and raspberries. Try soaking the lady fingers in other syrups too – a fruit-infused syrup would add another depth of flavour, or one spiked with a bit of rum or brandy for adults.
Since this dessert needs at least a few hours to set, it is great for preparing ahead. I trimmed the sponge cake, trimmed and soaked the ladyfingers, prepared the rhubarb mousse, and assembled the majority of the charlotte the day ahead and left it, covered, in the fridge. I then added the strawberries and piped the reserved whipped cream just a couple of hours before serving so that the berry juice wouldn’t bleed into the cream. The gelatin sets the mousse and makes it really easy to cut into. Unfortunately, we served the charlotte in the evening and couldn’t get a good photo of the cross-section.
- For the base:
- 1 9-inch sponge cake base
- about 23 lady fingers
- For the rhubarb mousse:
- 3 cups chopped rhubarb
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1½ Tbsp gelatin
- ¼ cup water
- 3 cups whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 6 Tbsp sugar
- For the syrup:
- ½ cup water
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- For the topping:
- 2 cups strawberries, hulled
- Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
- Cut the sponge cake so that it is 1 inch smaller than the springform pan.
- Trim the ends of the lady fingers so that they will stand upright.
- In a saucepan, heat ½ cup of water with the sugar and 2 Tbsp lemon juice, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Over low heat in a medium saucepan, heat the rhubarb with ½ cup sugar and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Cook for 15 minutes or until rhubarb has softened. Remove from heat. Measure out ½ cup of cooked rhubarb and reserve. Scoop out ¼ cup of the syrup from the bottom of the pot and reserve. If there isn't enough syrup, top up with water to make ¼ cup.
- In a saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the ¼ cup rhubarb syrup and let bloom for 5 minutes. Add ½ cup of cooked rhubarb and cook, stirring constantly, until the gelatin has dissolved. Let cool and stir in the remaining ¾ cups cooked rhubarb.
- In a large bowl, whip the cream with the remaining sugar and the vanilla until stiff peaks form. Reserve 1½ cups and set aside. Gently fold in the rhubarb mixture into the remaining cream, using a spatula. Set aside.
- Quickly dip the large ladyfinger pieces in the syrup and place them upright, flat side inward, along the inner walls of the pan.
- Brush the remaining simple syrup over the sponge cake base. Spread the reserved ½ cup of cooked rhubarb over the cake base.
- Fill with the rhubarb mousse. Pipe the reserved whipped cream over the mousse and garnish with the strawberries, pressing them lightly into cream. Gently cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.