Charlotte Russe

Charlotte russe is a dessert invented by the French chef Marie Antoine Carême (1784-1833), who named it in honor of his Russian employer Czar Alexander I (russe being the French word for "Russian"). It is a cold dessert of Bavarian cream set in a mold lined with ladyfingers. One etymology suggests it is a corruption of the Old English word charlyt meaning "a dish of custard." There is a lot of doubt surrounding the origins of the name charlotte. Meat dishes that were known as charlets were popular in the 15th century. Other historians say that this sweet dish took its name from Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), wife of George III. It is also possible that the dessert takes its name from Alexander I's sister-in-law, Charlotte of Prussia.

Charlotte russe is mentioned in the song "This Could Be the Start of Something (Big)" from the 1954 TV musical production The Bachelor, composed by Steve Allen and in the song "Captain Custard," performed by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the 1940 Paramount film Road to Singapore.

Charlotte russe also refers to a treat once popular in Brooklyn:

"The classic French dessert called charlotte russe is an elegant mold of ladyfingers, filled with flavored Bavarian cream. But to old-time Brooklynites, a charlotte russe was a round of sponge cake topped with sweetened whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles, and sometimes a marashcino cherry, surrounded by a frilled cardboard holder with a round of cardboard on the bottom. As the cream went down, you pushed the cardboard up from the bottom, so you could eat the cake...these were Brooklyn ambrosia." ---The Brooklyn Cookbook, Lyn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy, Jr. [Alfred A. Knopf:New York] 1994 (p. 386) [NOTE: this book contains memories and a recipe.]

The confection was also popular in The Bronx.

Charlotte russe is used as an example of the changing nature of tastes and personal preferences in Don DeLillo's novel Underworld (1997, Scribner, p 324): "They Liked to dance, were good together, used to go dancing but forgot, let the habit slip away through the years the way you forget a certain food you used to devour, like charlotte russes when they were popular."

See also



Charlotte russes are also mentioned in Betty Smith's "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". "There was a bakery store to one side of it which sold beautiful charlotte russes with red candied cherries on their whipped cream tops for those that were rich enough to buy."

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