Do you have a cooking or baking bucket list? On my ever-growing one is gourmet pasta, multiple types of dim sum, and French entremets. Admittedly most of the things left on my list are a tad complicated and/or time consuming, so I’ve resigned myself to the reality that I probably won’t get to them for another decade or so (i.e. when the littles are more self-sufficient, at least).
While 7-layer entremets may have to wait, I’ve been able to tackle a couple other “fancy” cakes that are a little less complicated. The latest was this mango charlotte, which featured alternating layers of sponge cake and mango mousse surrounded by ladyfingers and topped with a mango glaze. The result was a beautifully light, sophisticated cake bursting with mango flavor. I’m eager to try this again with different fruits (raspberries? blackberries?); as it is definitely a nice alternative to a typical American-style layer cake.
Most charlottes call for a classic genoise as the cake portion. I used a Japanese genoise, which is a little sweeter and more m-m-moist than its European counterpart. To be honest, sponge cakes aren’t my forte but I’ve had good success with this one. The keys, I’ve found, are to whisk the eggs for a long time on a low speed (to build structure) and to fold in the flour with a slotted spoon (it’s faster and more efficient than a spatula). I tend to err on the side of undermixing, but don’t be like me unless you want failed batches of genoise with a) rubbery bottoms (from not mixing in the fats evenly) or b) flour bits (self-explanatory).
The star of the show is the fruit, though; I think I used about 7 medium-sized whole mangoes to make this cake! So you really do need to find very ripe, flavorful mangoes for this cake. Look for ones that have a little give when you gently squeeze them; and smell strongly of mango when you give them a sniff. If anything, err on the side of over-ripe!
While the mousse and glaze should be prepared right before using, the cake and ladyfingers can be baked in advance (freeze if you’re not using the same day). If you’re pressed for time, store-bought ladyfingers will do just fine as well.
Mango Charlotte Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake
For the ladyfingers
Makes about 3 dozen; freeze the extras or snack on them! | Adapted from The Cake Bible
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 150g caster sugar
- 10g vanilla
- 1 T warm water
- 150g sifted cake flour
- 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
- Icing sugar, for sifting
For the Japanese Genoise
Adapted from Natalie Eng
- 173g cake flour, sifted
- 255g eggs (approx. 5 large), at room temperature
- 195g caster sugar
- 23g glucose
- 45g unsalted butter
- 68g whole milk
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the Mango Mousse
Adapted from Joe Pastry
- 567g (20 oz., about 4 medium-large) ripe fresh mangoes, cut into chunks (note: you will need additional mango (some pureed, some cut into chunks for the mirror glaze and filling; I recommend cutting up a couple extra mangoes and setting aside for that purpose)
- 85g sugar
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 3 1/2 tsp. powdered gelatin
- 2 c heavy cream, chilled
For the Mango Mirror Glaze
Adapted from The Little Epicurean
- 57g mango puree
- 57g water
- 28g sugar
- 1 1/2 gelatin sheets (silver strength), bloomed
- 2 to 2 1/2 dozen ladyfingers (4-inch tall), bottoms trimmed
- Simple syrup
- ~1 c fresh mango chunks
- Fresh berries for garnish (optional)
- White chocolate curls for garnish (optional)
- 9×3 cake ring (or springform pan)
- 9-inch cake board
- Acetate (can also use parchment paper or plastic wrap)
Make the ladyfingers
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (you may need 3 if your pans are small).
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the yolks and 1/2 c sugar on high for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is very thick and ribbons when dropped from the beater. Lower the speed and beat in the vanilla and water. Increase the speed to high and beat for another 30 seconds, or until thick again. Sift the flour over the yolk mixture without mixing in and set aside
In another large bowl, beat the whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/4 c sugar, beating until very stiff peaks.
- Add 1/3 of the whites to the yolk mixture and use a slotted spoon or spatula to fold until all the flour is incorporated. Gently fold in the remaining whites.
- Transfer some of the batter to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe 4 inch lines (“fingers”), leaving about 1/4 inch between each. (They will bake into each other, forming continuous strips.) Continue piping until you have used all the batter.
- Sift powdered sugar completely over the fingers. Once the sugar has dissolved, sift a second coat on.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until light golden brown and springy to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Remove from the sheets while still a little warm (to prevent cracking) using a long, thin spatula or pancake turner. Cool completely on racks before using or store in an airtight container. (Note: If you aren’t using that day, I recommend freezing the fingers for longer storage as they do stale. They defrost quickly, so just pull them out about an hour before you want to assemble the cake.)
Make the Japanese Genoise Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottoms of two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pans and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, heat the eggs, sugar and glucose, whisking constantly, over a bain marie until the mixture reaches 45-50C. Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer and mix on high speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and keep whisking for an additional 7 minutes. This allows the air bubbles to be even and small hence making it more stable so you will not knock so much air out when you fold in the flour.
- In a saucepan (or in the microwave), heat the milk, butter and vanilla essence until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm. Mix about 1 cup of the egg mixture into the butter mixture and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Sift the flour in three parts into the egg mixture, folding each part in with a large slotted spoon (my preferred tool) or a silicone spatula before adding more flour. You want to fold gently but also ensure the flour is completely mixed in; otherwise you will have lumps in your cake. Once the flour is well incorporated, pour the butter mixture into the egg batter and fold it in until it is well incorporated. Do not overmix, but again make sure the butter mixture is well incorporated; otherwise the bottom of your cake will be rubbery. The batter should still be fluffy and almost as if it’s heaving.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top, the cake springs back when lightly pressed, and the cake is pulling away from the sides of the pan. Rotate the pans after about 20 minutes for even baking (don’t open the oven sooner or your cakes may collapse). Transfer the finished cakes to a wire rack. Cool for about 10 minutes in the pan; then turn the cakes out and finish cooling them completely on the rack.
Prepare the cake pan
- Line your cake ring with acetate and place a cake board on the bottom. Trim the tops and bottoms of the cakes. Place one cake round in the center of the cake ring and brush liberally with simple syrup. Place the ladyfingers around the edge, fitting them in tightly to ensure there are no gaps (you may have to trim the edge of the last one to fit neatly). Set aside while you prepare the mousse.
Make the Mango Mousse
- Whip the cream to soft peaks and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
- Combine the mango chunks, sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor and process until smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a medium bowl. You should have ~2 cups of puree.
- Heat about one third of the mixture in a small saucepan or in the microwave until warm but not boiling. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface and stir to combine completely. Stir the warmed mixture back into the rest of the puree. Cool the mixture back to room temperature, stirring occasionally. When the mango is cooled, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Gently but thoroughly fold the mango mixture into the cream. Use immediately.
Continue assembling the cake
- Evenly spread about a cup of mousse over the first cake layer, making sure to go right to the edges. Sprinkle the mango chunks evenly over the mousse. Spread on another ~1/2 cup of mousse (or enough to cover the mango chunks). Place the second cake layer on top and press down to ensure it’s level. Brush liberally with simple syrup. Evenly spread on another cup of mousse, leaving about an inch from the top for the mirror glaze and garnish. Refrigerate until mousse is set, at least 4 hours or overnight.
Make the Mango Mirror Glaze
- Heat the water, sugar, and puree in a small saucepan until warm but not boiling. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the bloomed gelatin. Transfer mixture to a glass measuring cup (preferably with a spout for easy pouring) and cool until just slightly warm, stirring occasionally. Use immediately.
Glaze and finish cake
- Remove the chilled cake from the fridge. Pour the glaze evenly over the top of the cake. Return the cake to the fridge to set completely (about 1/2 an hour).
- Remove the cake ring and acetate. Garnish top with fresh berries and white chocolate curls, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.