Charlotte Aux Fraises (Strawberry Charlotte Cake)

Charlotte Aux Fraise, also known as a Strawberry Charlotte Cake, is a classic French mousse cake made with lady finger biscuits, Bavarian cream and fresh strawberries. This cake is a definite show-stopper but is much simpler to make than it looks. 

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • You can use store bought or homemade lady fingers.  
  • The cake is so light and refreshing, like a bright strawberry version of tiramisu. 
  • Recipe is customizable – can be made dairy free and/or gluten-free. 

If you like this cake, I think you’ll love my Fraisier Cake as well. It uses a similar sponge, fresh strawberries and crème mousseline. Also my chantilly cake, it uses angel food cake layers, fresh fruit and chantilly cream.

For more light and spongy cakes check out my Mango Chiffon Cake, Tiramisu Cake, Lemon Curd Cake, Peaches and Cream Cake and Honey Lemon Cake.

What is a Charlotte Aux Fraises?

Charlotte Aux Fraises is a popular French cake, made similar to Tiramisu, where lady fingers get layered with cream but with the addition of strawberries. The traditional cream used in a charlotte is Bavarian cream, although it can be made with similar creams like Creme Mousseline, mascarpone cream, etc. 

Lady Fingers are a popular Italian meringue cookie, also known as Savoiardi. They get their name from looking like fingers lol. 

They’re most commonly known as the cookie base to Tiramisu but they’re also often used in trifles and in layer cakes like this Strawberry Charlotte Cake. 

Make sure to check out that full post for more details on lady fingers but if you’re wanting to make this cake easier and quicker, you can use store bought biscuits as well.

The strawberry mixture is just fresh, diced strawberries mixed with a little bit of sugar to help draw out the natural juices. I added a tiny bit of elderflower liqueur because it just sounded good but it’s totally optional! 

For more classic base recipes, make sure to check out my baking basics page

Ingredients & Substitutions

  • Flour: I use all purpose flour in most of my recipes and I HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale, as flour is so often over measured. Cake flour also works well in this recipe. 
  • Sugar: I use granulated sugar for these cookies and for the bavarian cream and the strawberry mixture. I have not tested it with any other type of sugar but I assume a more “wet” sugar would compromise the structure slightly. I don’t recommend reducing the sugar in the batter at all, as they’re not even very sweet as the sugar adds to the texture.
  • Eggs: the lady fingers and the cream are egg based so I don’t recommend any substitutes. Make sure to use room temperature, large eggs, about 55-60g each.
    • Place them in hot water for a few minutes if they’re cold – this will allow the egg whites to whip up easier and quicker.
    • Unfortunately I have not made these cookies without eggs but I know some people have had success with using aquafaba for sponge cakes so try looking up a vegan lady finger recipe.
  • Vanilla: I usually just use a simple vanilla extract in cake batters.
  • Salt: I like to add a little pinch of sea salt but any salt works fine.
  • Milk: I use 2% or full-fat milk for the bavarian cream but dairy free milk also works. 
  • Butter: I added a tiny bit of butter to my Bavarian cream just because I like the hint of flavor and creamy texture. I use salted but unsalted works fine and dairy free works fine. 
  • Heavy Cream: I use 36-40% fat and make sure it’s cold when whipping it. If you have a dairy free whipped cream alternative that would work fine as well. 
  • Gelatin: you’ll need a little bit of gelatin to help set the Bavarian cream – I use just unflavored powder. 
  • Strawberries: I used fresh strawberries and I don’t recommend frozen ones. Dice them and let them macerate with a little bit of sugar and liqueur to draw out the juice from the strawberries. You’ll use this to drizzle on the lady fingers. 
  • Elderflower Liqueur: This is optional. I like the St. Germain brand but I’m sure any brand is fine. If you don’t want to use this, replace it with some lemon juice. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Lady Fingers

  1. Start by separating the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the egg whites with the sugar until it’s super thick and fluffy and holds stiff peaks, this can be between 3-5 minutes. 
  2. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat at medium-high speed until it’s combined, just a few seconds.
  3. Sift in the flour and salt and beat at medium-low speed, just until the flour is mixed in. Use a rubber spatula to fold the mixture a couple of times to scrape the bottom and edge of the bowl.
  4. Place the batter in a piping bag fit with a large round tip and gently pipe a layer of batter in a lined 8 inch pan (in the photos I piped it into my 9 inch springform dish but then I had to trim it to fit the lady fingers around it in the springform so it’s best to just bake it in the 8 inch pan). Then use the rest to pipe very even lines of batter (like eclairs) on a baking sheet, about 1-2 inches apart, depending on how large you make them. 
  5. Sprinkle the tops of each cookie with granulated sugar and bake for about 10-12 minutes, until they’re starting to look golden. Remove and allow to cool completely before assembling the cake (can leave them out at room temperature overnight). 

Bavarian Cream

  1. Bring the milk to a simmer. Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks and sugar aggressively for 1-2 minutes while the milk heats. 
  2. Stream the milk into the egg mixture, while whisking, to temper the eggs. Then add the egg mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat for 5-10 minutes, while whisking continuously (doesn’t have to be aggressive, just keep the whisk moving the whole time). 
    • The custard thickens just slightly. Pour the custard back into a large bowl and set aside for a second.
  3. Bloom the gelatin and then microwave it for 5-10 seconds. Mix and add it to the custard. Whisk the gelatin well with the custard and then cover the surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 2 hours until the custard feels somewhat set and still a little jiggly but not runny. 
  4. When the custard is chilled, whip the cream with the powdered sugar, just until stiff peaks form.
  5. Remove the custard from the fridge and use a whisk to mix it until it’s smooth again. This will disrupt the gelatin a little but it will set again when we put it back into the fridge. Make sure you whisk it until there are no more lumps and the custard is smooth again.
  6. Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the custard and whisk until it’s completely smooth. Add another 1/3 of the heavy whipping cream to the custard and now use a rubber spatula to fold it in gently. Repeat with the last 1/3. 

Strawberry Filling & Assemble 

  1. Dice the strawberries (while the Bavarian cream is cooling) and toss them with sugar and elderflower liqueur. Let that macerate for at least an hour or several hours. 
  2. Place the 8 inch cake round in a 9 inch springform pan or in an adjustable cake fold like I used in my fraisier cake. Trim the cake so it’s even on top and then poke holes into it with a fork. 
  3. Strain the strawberries from the juice and use at least ¾ of the juice to drizzle on top of the bottom layer of cake. 
  4. Assemble the lady fingers (trim them on one end if necessary) around the bottom layer of cake – make sure it fits snug so they stand up straight. 
  5. Place half of the strawberries on top of this bottom layer of cake.
    • If you’re using store bought ladyfingers, you can skip that bottom layer of cake and just assemble the lady fingers on the bottom, fitting them in the best you can to get the best coverage. To hold them together, you’ll want to do a thin layer of the bavarian cream first before topping with the strawberries. Other than this difference, everything else should be the same with the store bought cookies. 
  6. Pipe half of the Bavarian cream on top of the strawberries and use an offset spatula to smooth it out. 
  7. Place another layer of ladyfingers on top of the bavarian cream, fitting them in the best you can. Top with the rest of the strawberries and the rest of the Bavarian cream. 
  8. You can either decorate the top with fresh fruit, meringue or whipped cream. I did whipped cream with a few strawberries. 
  9. To make the whipped cream, beat together the heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla extract just until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of the cake and top with fresh strawberries and there you have it, a Charlotte aux Fraises!

Pro Tips for Strawberry Charlotte Cake

  1. Don’t substitute any ingredients if they’re not mentioned above.
  2. Don’t skip any steps, like sifting the flour, etc. 
  3. Be very gently and delicate when handling the finished batter, and certainly don’t over-mix it once the flour is all mixed in. The more you handle it the more air you lose from the batter and the cookies risk spreading more and baking flatter. 
  4. I always HIGHLY recommend weighing your ingredients, especially the flour, using a digital scale
  5. Don’t overcook the eggs for the cream, once it gives any resistance, remove it from the heat. If you overcook it slightly, whisk aggressively and place it in an ice bath while whisking. It’ll come back together but you may have to sieve out some egg chunks. 
  6. It is called a Charlotte aux fraises but feel free to use other fruits as well! Mango or raspberry (Charlotte aux framboise) would be phenomenal.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to know when Lady Fingers are done baking

The Lady Fingers will no longer look wet, they’ll have a light golden color, not a dark golden brown color. Then gently press your finger into it and it should be firm. If it springs back or your fingerprint stays indented, leave it a few more minutes.
Try not to open the oven until it’s close to being done though. 

Can I make this plant based?

Lady Fingers don’t use any dairy so that’s good to go but you can use dairy free butter, milk and heavy cream for the cream. I have not made these without eggs. I would look up a plant based/vegan lady finger recipe that uses aquafaba. 

Can I make this gluten-free?

All my cake recipes work well with a 1:1 gluten-free flour like Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur Flour HOWEVER, I have not tested this with Lady fingers however I do know some people have had success making my pan di spagna sponge with gluten-free flour so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work here. 

Can I make this in a different size pan?

Yeah if you make just lady fingers, you can assemble it in whatever pan you like, it could even be a trifle dish. 
I used a 9 inch springform pan and I liked the size of that but an 8 inch would work fine as well. 
You may be just a smidge short on lady fingers, cream and strawberries if you want to use a 10 inch pan so I would probably do 1.5x the recipe for that. 
If you have a 9×13 inch pan, you could also assemble this like a Tiramisu. 

What to do with leftover egg whites?

I’ve been saving up mine to make pavlova lol but you could skip the whipped cream and make a beautiful meringue to put on top of the cake instead. I would definitely try it that way next I make this.
If not, you could use the egg whites to make a batch of Swiss meringue buttercream and store it in the freezer for several months.
You could make my egg white chocolate chips cookies or macarons.

How to make ahead and store this cake

Lady Fingers can be made ahead of time or the day of. Store them at room temperature overnight.

The Bavarian cream custard can be made a day ahead of time and kept in the fridge until it’s ready to use. Don’t mix it with the whipped cream until you’re ready to assemble the cake. 

The strawberries can be prepared several hours ahead of time. 

Store the finished strawberry charlotte cake in the fridge for about 3 days. The lady fingers will likely get soggy and the strawberries may start weeping after a few days so it’s best within 48 hours. However,I highly recommend assembling the cake and letting it rest in the fridge overnight before serving. 

I don’t recommend freezing the cake. 

Thanks so much for reading today’s post, if you have any questions just comment down below. 

If you make this Strawberry Charlotte Cake, I’d love it if you left a star rating for me or a review letting me know how you liked it! 

As always, have a blessed day and happy baking!

Love, B

strawberry charlotte cake/charlotte aux fraise

Charlotte Aux Fraises (Strawberry Charlotte Cake)

Bernice Baran
Charlotte Aux Fraises, also known as a Strawberry Charlotte Cake, is a classic French mousse cake made with lady finger biscuits, Bavarian cream and fresh strawberries. This cake is a definite show-stopper but is much simpler to make than it looks. 
4.86 from 7 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 16 hours
Total Time 17 hours 25 minutes
Course Cakes
Cuisine Italian
Servings 12 slices
Calories 468 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

Lady Fingers (can use store bought too)

  • 6 large eggs (50-60 grams each) separated
  • 150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 240 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour spooned and leveled
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • granulated sugar for topping

Bavarian Cream

  • 1 cup (240mL) whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp (28g) salted butter room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 Tbsp (9g) gelatin dissolved + 2 Tbsp cold water
  • 1/3 cup (40g) powdered sugar spooned and leveled
  • 1 1/2 cups (13oz) heavy whipping cream cold

Strawberry Filling

  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh strawberries diced
  • 2 Tbsp (25g) granulated sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp (45-60mL) elderflower liqueur (or lemon juice)

Whipped Cream

  • 1/4 cup (30g) powdered sugar
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (240mL) heavy whipping cream cold
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • whole strawberries for topping

Instructions
 

Lady Finger Biscuits

  • Preheat the oven to 350F (177C) convection and line 1 large cookie sheet and an 8 inch pan with parchment paper.
  • Place the egg whites in the bowl of the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, at full speed, beat until they're frothy.
    6 large eggs (50-60 grams each)
  • With the mixer on medium speed, stream in the cup of sugar. Turn the mixer up to full speed and beat just until the meringue reaches stiff peaks.
    150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • Add in the egg yolks and vanilla and turn the mixer to medium-high speed, mixing, a few seconds, just until they're fully combined.
    1 teaspoons vanilla extract, 6 large eggs (50-60 grams each)
  • Sift in the flour and salt and turn the mixer up to medium-low speed, mixing just until the flour is incorporated.
    240 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Use the rubber spatula to gently scrape the bottom and edge of the bowl and make sure it's all combined.
  • Gently place the batter in a large piping bag fit with a large round tip and pipe a thin layer of batter into the 8 inch pan. Smooth it out and bake for about 18ish minutes, or until it no longer looks wet and is a golden color.
  • Meanwhile pipe identical lines of batter (just like eclairs) onto the cookie sheet. Try to let the piping bag glide and not press down as your piping so you don't deflate the air.
  • Sprinkle the cookies with granulated sugar (I do a generous amount because a lot of it falls off).
    granulated sugar
  • Bake on the middle rack (top rack if not convection) for 12ish minutes (rotate after 8-9 minutes if one side is getting darker) until they're dry and lightly golden brown.

Bavarian Cream

  • Place the milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat and allow it to come to a simmer.
    1 cup (240mL) whole milk
  • Meanwhile place the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk aggressively for 1-2 minutes while the milk heats.
    4 large egg yolks, 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • Remove the milk from the heat and stream half of it into the egg mixture, while whisking, to temper the eggs.
  • Then add the egg mixture to the saucepan with the rest of the milk and cook over low heat for 5-10 minutes, while whisking continuously (doesn’t have to be aggressive whisking just keep it moving the whole time).
  • The custard won’t thicken significantly but it should thicken slightly. To test if the custard is done cooking, it should coat the back of a spoon and when you draw a line through it (on the back of the spoon) the line stays separated. You can also use a thermometer and bring the cream to about 180F-185F.
  • Pour the custard back into a large bowl, add the butter and vanilla and mix just until they're all combined.
    2 Tbsp (28g) salted butter, 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • In a small bowl, mix together the gelatin and water until they’re combined. Let it set and then microwave it for 10 seconds. Mix and then add it to the custard. Whisk the gelatin well with the custard and then cover the surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 2 hours until the custard feels somewhat set and still a little jiggly but not runny.
    1 Tbsp (9g) gelatin dissolved

Strawberry Filling

  • While the Bavarian cream is cooling, dice the strawberries and toss them with the sugar and liqueur. This will help the strawberries release their juice.
    1 1/2 lbs. fresh strawberries, 2 Tbsp (25g) granulated sugar, 3-4 Tbsp (45-60mL) elderflower liqueur

Finish Bavarian Cream

  • Once everything is ready to go, sift the powdered sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with a hand mixer). Add heavy whipping cream and mix on medium-low speed until it thickens a little, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for just another 30-60 seconds, until the cream holds stiff peaks. Don’t over-mix.
    1/3 cup (40g) powdered sugar, 1 1/2 cups (13oz) heavy whipping cream
  • Remove the custard from the fridge and use a whisk or hand mixer to mix it until it’s smooth again. This will disrupt the gelatin but it will set again when we put it back into the fridge. Make sure you whisk it until there are no more lumps and the custard is smooth again.
  • Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the custard and whisk until it’s completely smooth. Add another 1/3 of the heavy whipping cream to the custard and now use a rubber spatula to fold it in gently. Repeat with the last 1/3.

Assemble

  • If you made the round 8 inch cake, place it in a 9 inch spring form pan and poke a bunch of holes into it with a fork. Strain the juice from the strawberries and drizzle it all on top of the cake layer.
    *If you're using store bought lady fingers, just assemble them tightly as a layer, the best you can. Cut them if you have to.
  • Assemble the lady fingers around the edge of the bottom layer.
    *If you created the bottom layer with just lady fingers, pipe a little bit of the cream on them to fill in the cracks so it stays together as one layer.
  • Spread half of the strawberries on top and then pipe half of the Bavarian cream on top of the strawberries.
  • Now place a layer of the lady fingers on top of the Bavarian cream, as tightly as possible and then top with the other half of the strawberries and the other half of the cream. Refrigerate the cake for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Whipped Cream

  • Sift the powdered sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with a hand mixer).
    1/4 cup (30g) powdered sugar, tiny pinch of salt
  • Add heavy whipping cream and vanilla and mix on medium-low speed until it thickens a little, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for just another 30-60 seconds, until the cream holds stiff peaks. Don’t over-mix.
    1 cup (240mL) heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • Pipe on top of chilled cake and top with fresh strawberries, gold foil and a dusting of powdered sugar.
    whole strawberries for topping

Nutrition

Calories: 468kcalCarbohydrates: 53gProtein: 8gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 210mgSodium: 120mgPotassium: 224mgFiber: 2gSugar: 36gVitamin A: 1032IUVitamin C: 34mgCalcium: 91mgIron: 2mg
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Recipe Rating




  1. Hello, might I ask how many store bought lady fingers approximately this recipe requires? Thank you so much, I love this account and cannot wait to try another recipe of Yours <3

  2. 5 stars
    Do yourself a favor and make this right now! This is seriously SO GOOD and so easy to follow! I went the extra mile and made homemade ladyfingers, which I must say where the best I’ve ever had! I also made the change to baking the bottom in a 6 inch pan and using a 7 inch cake ring for assembly. I still made the full batches of everything else, so then I assembled some super cute individual jars with the leftovers! I might honestly make this again in the future specifically for little individual cakes!