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saving the best for last

After a special cheesy omelet and a fresh dinner of whole wheat pasta, you’d think that my mom’s birthday celebration would be done by now. There is no way I would toss some dessert in the mix, right?

Oh ye of little faith. Do you know who I am?! Of course there’s gonna be dessert.

I just made sure to save the best for last.

For as long as I can remember, there has been only one or two cakes that my mom holds dear to her heart. One of them is the Chocolate Charlotte from the famed Sacramento Freeport Bakery. As a little girl, it was always a treat to go and visit all their cakes and sample as many things as my little tummy could handle. It’s been a while since I’ve been to that little sweet spot, but the memory of the my mom’s favorite Chocolate Charlotte lives on.

A light yet decadent chocolate mousse sitting atop a chocolate cake with ladyfingers circling the outside, this cake was both a treat for the eyes and the mouth. Every year I try to tackle the recipe but end up backing out because it seemed like too much work and finding a recipe for this cake is hard work. But this year I said it’s now or never.

I referenced a couple of sites to brush up on how to make a charlotte. First up, I visited Bea’s gorgeous site and found that we both share a deep love for this cake. She made it two times and the end results were completely swoonworthy. I decided to forgo the fruity route and should’ve mimicked the cake base but I decided to use lady fingers on the bottom instead. Well, this was my first mistake and now I know better.

The other site I looked at was Helene’s Tartelette. She made a wicked Pear White Chocolate Bavarian Charlotte and has some good tips as to assembling this cake. Again, I should have followed her lead by using gelatin in the cream to stabilize it but I decided to go my own route. Haha, silly Amanda.

Instead of a gelatin-firm cream, I used a Bitter Sweet Chocolate Mousse as my Charlotte’s yummy center, and poured bittersweet chocolate ganache on top. Lastly, I sprinkled sliced almonds on top to decorate and voila! The charlotte was complete.

While I could nitpick at the way I made this cake and think of ways in how I could’ve made it better, the birthday girl was happily satisfied. She groaned in delight as she sunk her teeth into the soft mousse and hard chocolate ganache. I made this cake in my mini springform pan as it is one of the richest cakes around but next time, I will make it grande because this madame aims to please. I did have trouble cutting into the cake though, due to the softened cream but that just meant I had to lick my fingers. Darn.

The bittersweet chocolate mousse was sublime, rich and creamy. I’d make this all by itself, and would probably devour the whole thing in one sitting. Damn that Martha, she knows my weakness now. The ladyfingers were a tad bit soggy after spending so much time in the fridge and because they were fresh from the store but it didn’t bother me too much. The solid ganache topping added a great crunch to the soft dessert, melting slowly in your mouth. This Chocolate Charlotte definitely topped off the whole affair and honestly, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate another year for a special lady.

Chocolate Charlotte
adapted from Helene, Dorie Greenspan, and Martha. Phew.

1 pack ladyfingers cookies
Bittersweet chocolate mousse, recipe below
Bittersweet chocolate ganache, recipe below
2 tablespoons of Frangelico
2 tablespoons of water

spring form pan (I used a mini sized one, about 5 inches)

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse:
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate 3/4 cup heavy cream

Bittersweet chocolate ganache:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

In a shallow dish, mix the water and Frangelico. Dip the ladyfingers in the liquid and quickly set them around the inside of a spring form pan lined with plastic wrap. Layer about 12 in a flower like patter at the bottom of the pan. Set aside in the refrigerator.

To make Mousse:
Finely chop chocolate; reserve. In a double boiler, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch, 2 to 3 minutes. Off heat, quickly whisk in chopped chocolate until melted and cocoa until smooth (mixture will be thick). Cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Whisk half of whipped cream into room-temperature chocolate mixture. Gently fold in remaining whipped cream with a rubber spatula. Divide mousse among four serving dishes. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
Remove mousse from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.

To make bittersweet chocolate ganache:
Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Working with a whisk or rubber spatula, gently stir the chocolate and cream together in a small circles, starting at the center of the bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motions. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don’t stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients- the less you work it, the darker, smoother, and shinier it will be.
If you are using the ganache as a glaze or as a filling for a pie or tart, use it immediately. If you are using it as a filling or a frosting for a cake, let it sit on the counter until it thickens to the desired consistency. You can refrigerate the ganache until it reachers the consistency you want, but in that case, keep checking on it- refrigerate it for too long, and it will thicken enough to be rolled between you palms and turned into truffle bottoms. This makes about 2 cups worth of ganache. If you are making a small one like me, you will have some leftover but I don’t think that will be much of a problem.

To assemble Charlotte:
Remove the mousse from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Carefully pour it into the spring form pan. Once ganache is ready, pour it slowly and carefully on top of the mousse. If you want, sprinkle the sliced almonds on top. Put the cake back into the refrigerator and allow to set overnight.
When ready to serve the cake, carefully unlock the spring form pan and slide the cake out. Put a plate on top, invert, remove the spring form bottom, the plastic wrap. Put a plate on top of what will be your cake bottom and invert again. Proceed with a steady hand, but do not worry, the mousse is set so you won’t smoosh it down.

Go ahead, and dive in!

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May 9, 2008 - 7:51 am

RecipeGirl - That’s just about the most beautiful birthday treat I’ve ever seen. Perfect! I’ll have a big, giant slice please… with a little espresso to boot :) Hope your Mom’s bday was happy!

May 9, 2008 - 9:20 am

scottish cow - that looks unbelievably good. and the photos are beautiful as well.

May 9, 2008 - 9:47 am

Celine -! it looks insanely tasty. <3

May 9, 2008 - 10:09 am

nicole - oh. my. GOSH! that looks *amazing*. the photos are so, so great – love the riboon. i wish i had a piece right now …

May 9, 2008 - 10:28 am

ann - This looks AMAZING. I might try it out for Mother’s Day! I love your blog, by the way. I find myself browsing through the archives, I’m so addicted.

May 9, 2008 - 11:06 am

kimberleyblue - That is one rich-looking cake! So moist!

Looks fantastic…yummmm

May 9, 2008 - 3:24 pm

My Sweet & Saucy - The photos of the inside of the cake are too much! What a gorgeous dessert!

May 9, 2008 - 4:23 pm

Jerry - Holy…. Drool! I’ll take a slice to go!

May 9, 2008 - 5:48 pm

Kate - Sigh. That looks amazing! Well-played, Amanda, well-played. :)

May 9, 2008 - 6:45 pm

Tartelette - Incredibly gorgeous! Well done! This would be a lovely Mother’s Day gift indeed!

May 10, 2008 - 3:29 am

Kristin at The Kitchen Sink - Amanda: This is really, really gorgeous. You definitely saved the best for last!

May 10, 2008 - 11:31 am

DessertObsessed - omg, these photos are so gorgeous! i love the addition of the ribbon!

May 10, 2008 - 3:31 pm

steph (whisk/spoon) - never mind those “mistakes”…it looks amazing!

May 11, 2008 - 6:16 am

Rebecca - That cake looks fantastic! I bet it was delicious and everyone loved it!

May 12, 2008 - 8:19 am

Denise - Absolutely breathtaking… I cannot wait to try a Charlotte. I can’t believe I have never had one of these or even known of their existance. DROOL…. SIGH….

May 12, 2008 - 9:19 am

Patricia Scarpin - That is a delicate, beautiful dessert, Amanda.

May 12, 2008 - 7:03 pm

Lynn - Wow, what a gorgeous and decadent dessert. Totally drool-worthy!

May 17, 2008 - 7:11 am

fivefingerfeast - How cute with the ribbon tied around it. Perfect for mother’s day! Mine got her favorite mac ‘n’ cheese from me.

October 11, 2010 - 8:50 am

Cheesecake Bars + Chocolate « Slow Like Honey - [...] Ingredients: For The Crust: 1 ¾ cups Graham Cracker Crumbs 3 tbsp. Sugar Pinch Of Salt ½ Stick (4 Tablespoons) Unsalted Butter, melted For The Cheesecake: 2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) Cream Cheese, at room temperature 1 ⅓ cups Sugar ½ tsp. Salt 2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract 4 large Eggs, at room temperature 1 ⅓ cups Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache [...]

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