I’m kind of obsessed with ice box cakes. There are so many! My family is partial to “Snake Cake” which is just our name for the classic ice box cake made with chocolate wafers and whipped cream. Smitten Kitchen makes a mean one too. It’s getting to be the time of year where ice box cakes are critical because you know I’m not roasting in my kitchen when it’s 90 degrees out to bake a cake.
The Charlotte Russe was invented in the 18th century by French chef Marie-Antoine Carême. It’s a classic icebox recipe – bavarian cream in a mold of ladyfingers. I saw this spinoff, the Raspberry Charlotte, on the season 16 premiere of America’s Test Kitchen. It looked like a challenge but I was inspired. It’s an ice box cake, yes, but has many parts that all individually take a long time to prepare. It’s worth the effort though because the results are beautiful and so delicious!
America’s Test Kitchen Raspberry Charlotte Cake (original ATK recipe here)
For the filling:
1.25 tsp. unflavored gelatin
2 tbsp. water
3 egg yolks (reserve whites for cake)
2 tsp. cornstarch
3.25 cups frozen raspberries
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. butter
1.75 cups heavy cream
For the jam:
1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
For the cake:
2/3 cup cake flour
6 tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg plus 3 egg whites (reserved from filling)
2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Fresh raspberries for decoration
It’s not yet quite summer but I’m ready for a light berry-based dessert. Plus, raspberries are so pretty – they look like little jewels!
Begin by making the raspberry custard base for the filling. Heat the raspberries, sugar, salt, and butter over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, butter is melted, and the raspberries have broken down into mostly liquid (5 minutes).
While the raspberries are cooking, prep the two other elements of the filling:
- Combine the gelatin and water in a small dish and set aside.
- Whisk the egg yolks (save the whites!) and cornstarch together in a separate small dish, also set aside.
When the raspberries are ready, it’s time to temper in the egg/cornstarch mixture. To temper the eggs: Take a spoonful of the hot raspberry mixture and slowly pour it into the bowl of yolks, whisking quickly and constantly. You have to do this slowly or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs.
When the volume has doubled, pour the tempered eggs back into the pot with the rest of the raspberry mixture. Stir continuously over low heat until the mixture has fully thickened (2-3 minutes).
When the custard is done, strain into a bowl with the gelatin mixture in the bottom. A fine mesh strainer works best to strain out all of the raspberry seeds. Stir thoroughly to incorporate in all of the gelatin and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Now, for the jam! In a small bowl mix together the gelatin and fresh lemon juice, and set aside for a few minutes so it came come together. In another bowl, microwave the storebought jam until it is warm and runny. Stir in the gelatin until it is fully incorporated, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Now for the cake batter. In a big bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl mix together the oil, whole egg, vanilla, and water. Pour the wet team over the dry team, and stir to combine.
Next, whip the reserved egg whites by hand or in a stand mixer until they form soft peaks.
Take 1/3 of the egg whites and mix into the cake batter. Once that is fully combined, fold in the remaining egg whites gently.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1-1.5 cups of the chiffon cake batter into the bottom of a greased and parchment lined springform pan. Pour the rest in a greased 8 inch square baking dish. Bake both for 10-15 minutes, until the cake is just baked, springs back when you touch it, but isn’t browned. When the cakes are done, cool completely on a wire rack.
When the cakes have fully cooled, pour 2 tablespoons of the jam mixture on each and spread evenly over the top.
Cut the square cake in half, and then in half again, to get four even strips. Place the cake round back into the springform pan and, with the pan unclipped, place the strips around/abutting the edge of the round.
Next, whip the heavy cream by hand or in a stand mixer until it forms soft peaks. Take 1/3 of the whipped cream and mix into the raspberry curd. Once that is fully combined, fold in the remaining whipped cream gently until the color is uniform and there are no streaks.
Spoon the raspberry bavarian cream into the chiffon cake mold and smooth over the top to completely cover the cake.
Finally, take the remaining jam and spoon over the top of the cake. Use a butter knife to create a marbled pattern and then top with fresh raspberries in whatever decoration you like! Chill in the springform pan in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours, or until the cake has completely set up (you can totally leave this overnight too).
After the cake has set up in the fridge, slide a knife around the interior ring to loosen from the springform pan before taking it off.
Cut into big beautiful wedges and enjoy!
I am so glad I made this cake! It’s super light, refreshing, and delicious. It’s not a cake that will weigh you down and, for that reason, it couldn’t be more perfect for summer. It’s so fresh and the flavors are so bright. You get so much real raspberry flavor, combined with the lemony jam and the light cake, it’s just absolute perfection. And the cake itself is a stunner to look at too!