One benefit of being married is that you get two of all the best holidays: Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. It’s simple math, really: twice the families, twice the food.
At Easter, there is barbecue, deviled eggs, and an egg hunt for the kiddos at the Parents of the Foodie Bride’s house and Sunday dinner, deviled eggs, and an egg hunt for kiddos of all ages at the Grandparents of the Foodie Groom’s farm. By sunset on Easter Sunday, me and my egg-dyed stained fingertips are all egged out.
Aside from the deviled egg buffet and adorable 2-ft tall children dragging around their 2-ft tall baskets, spilling one egg for every two collected, Easter marks the beginning of Pretty Food season.
Spring and summer offer the prettiest food of the four seasons, if you ask me – richly colored berries, vibrant green asparagus spears, and bright citrus mark the end of the cozy comfort foods of winter. After all, the real secret to pretty food photography is pretty food. And I can think of nothing that presents more beautifully in any season than a Charlotte Russe tied with a pretty ribbon.
The origins of the Charlotte Russe are a bit murky, either of French or British origin and named after either a czarina or a queen. While it’s not a real Charlotte as much as it is a Charlotte-inspired cake, the hint of citrus in the cake, sweetness of the frosting, and fresh spring berries combine to make a knock-out dessert on every level.
Orange Layer "Charlotte" with Buttercream Frosting and Berries
A pretty cake decorated with lady fingers and fresh berries.
- For the cake:
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 9 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cups whole milk
- 2 Tbsp Grand Marnier
- 1 Tbsp Orange zest
- 4 large egg whites
- For the frosting:
- 1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 lbs powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp Grand Marnier
- 1/4 tsp lemon extract
- For assembly:
- Ladyfingers (approx 36 for an 8-inch cake)
- 1/2 pint of blueberries
- 1/2 pint of raspberries
- 1/2 lb strawberries
- For the cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Spray bottom and sides of two 8-inch diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds; spray parchment. Dust pans with flour, tapping out any excess. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and 3/4 cups sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla, Grand Marnier, and orange zest. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beating until well blended between additions. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining sugar. Beat egg white mixture until stiff glossy peaks form, about 3 minutes. Gently fold egg white mixture into batter in 3 additions. Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth tops.
- Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack; remove parchment paper, turn cakes over, and cool completely. Level the cake layers, if necessary.
- For frosting: Cream cream cheese and butter on low until smooth. Turn the mixer off and add all powdered sugar at once. Turn mixer on "Stir" until the powdered sugar is mostly incorporated and increase speed to low. Add Grand Marnier and lemon extract; mix until smooth (approx 4 minutes). Thin the frosting with water or milk, if necessary (I added a couple Tbsp of milk).
- For assembly: Rinse the berries and pat dry. Cut the top from the strawberries and slice thinly. Spread approx 3/4 cup frosting on bottom layer, top generously with raspberries and blueberries, lightly pressing the fruit into the frosting. Top with second layer. Frost tops and sides of cake liberally.
- Sift powdered sugar lightly over the top of the ladyfingers. Pipe a line of frosting onto the back of the ladyfingers and apply to the side of the cake, allowing about 1-inch of the cookies to stick up over the side of the cake. Press onto the cake. Arrange remaining blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries over the top of the cake, as desired. Tie with a ribbon. Refrigerate overnight if not serving the same day.
Yields: 2-layer 8- or 9-inch cake
Estimated time: 1 hour
More pretty Charlottes:
Lemon Mascarpone Charlotte, courtesy of Tartelette
Pear and White Chocolate Bavarian Charlotte, courtesy of Tartelette
Berry Charlottes, from Nordljus
Strawberry and Raspberry Charlotte, by La Tartine Gourmande
It looks wonderful and I bet it tasted even better!
That’s a work of art! Beautiful pictures, beautiful charlotte!!
Wow! That is THE most gorgeous cake I’ve ever seen! I love it! And I love Easter — totally agree on the beginning of the “pretty food” season. Hope your Easter was amazing! (I’m sure it was with that masterpiece!)
first of all, nice reference to national treasure, an awesome movie. 🙂
secondly, and far more importantly, that’s one stunning cake. i’d love to see the innards, too! nicely done!
What a lovely cake! I have never eaten nor made a charlotte. I love the comment that pretty food makes good food pictures. So true, so true! Hope you had a great Easter!
This looks gorgeous! Love the ribbon. The photo of the child near the bench (2nd photo) is also beautiful 🙂 Happy Easter!
That is one of the most beautiful desserts I’ve ever seen! I bet it was delicious too!
That IS very pretty! I agree that it’s pretty food season, and all food can be made to look prettier now that the days are longer and there’s more natural light available for photos!
Oh my, that is one stunning cake. I have never made a charlotte either, but that could change, very very soon. Beautiful!
I agree with you, the spring season is the official start of “pretty” food season. And I personally love all the color and variety that spring brings. Charlottes hold a special place in my heart, I absolutely love them. Not only are they pleasing to the eye, but they are damn delicious.
Amazing! I love the presentation…it is really, really stunning!
This post definitely makes me feel like spring has sprung.
That is stunning! Beautiful colors, and I’m sure it was delicious!
Your charlotte looks so beautiful and delicious too! Sounds like you had a nice Easter. I’m definitely looking forward to all of the “pretty” foods spring has to offer, especially the berries!
Yay for pretty food! Your Charlotte looks beautiful!
Yay for pretty food season. Your Charlotte looks fab!
Wow…..I’m speechless. These are beautiful photo’s of a delicious looking cake! I’ve never made (or consumed) a Charlotte before. I think I may give it a try.
A lovely Spring dessert…gorgeous.
Shawnda, what a lovely cake! Sheer art. There is alot to learn for a novice like myself from yoou! Glad you visited my site which led me to yours:)
Beautiful cake! 😀 i have yet made a charlotte cake myself… i guess it is about time to do so!
What a beautiful dessert! Just lovely!
The ribbon is just perfect, looks lovely!
Wow – my jaw dropped. This is lovely! And the young ones..precious!
You are right – this is a gorgeous cake! What a way to welcome in Spring!
wow, that looks fricking amazing! beautiful cake, beautiful pics, beautiful kids! all these easter food posts are REALLY making me wish i celebrated easter. i guess i could just cook the food anyway…
While the cake looks absolutely amazing, I love love love that second picture. Is so rich. I love the greenness of the raling and the slightly out of focus background. Wonderful.
Wow. Your charlotte puts mine to absolute shame. So beautiful!
This is exactly the recipe I was searching for for our upcoming mother’s day brunch! I’m sure mine won’t be as beautiful as yours, since I have very little patience, and you obviously have much, much more.
this is so pretty! And I am looking forward to all the photogenic food that Spring brings.
I agree, it’s definitely the pretty food season starting up. Yours is just about the prettiest I’ve seen in a long time though. So perfect looking!!
Don’t you just love family and events like the holidays where you get to enjy each other and great food? I am so with you! The little ones are adorable and the Charlotte is spectacular! Great dessert to be shared with loved ones =D
Oh, so pretty! And I bet pretty delicious also. Hope you had a nice Easter!
I would pay a fortune for this in a fine bakery. Man oh man oh man. That is just the most gorgeous thing I’ve seen today. Picture perfect.
What a gorgeous dessert! I wish I could try a piece!
A wonderful dessert, and what cute babies, too! 😛 Thanks for sharing this!
I followed a link on Tuesdays with Dorie to your site, and I’m so glad that I did. Your creations are beautiful and your photos are outstanding. I can’t get over how pretty your Charlotte looks.
WOW. That’s divine… I must make that.
Gorgeous presentation! I bet it tastes divine too. I’ve never tried to make one of these, but it seems to be on my list to try…
That is gorgeous!
hey! your lady fingers are just beautiful! i am a studentchef and we my item on my final was a raspberry charlotte. this was my product: http://img717.imageshack.us/img717/4773/img0100l.jpg
what a beautiful charlotte! thanks for sharing! now is a great time to make one with all the fresh strawberries in season!
This is a stunner. What a perfect time to make this with all of the berries at their peak!
Your cake looks beautiful! I’m making a cake tonight also so I’ll be baking a Swedish Princess Cake. I hope it’s gonna turn out as pretty as yours.
This looks beautiful and I bet it tastes even better! I made ladyfingers last month and everyone guessed I was making a Charlotte Russe cake with them (I actually made a trifle). 🙂 Very impressive, and so summery!
This looks too perfect to cut into! Gorgeous!