"I'm partial to a retro dessert and you don't get much more retro than a ribbon-bound Charlotte. I remember making my first Charlotte aux fraises (strawberry Charlotte) when I was studying patisserie. It was a rather fiddly job, and the lengthy process began with piping our own sponge fingers before trimming them to equal size to fit the cake tin. I've decided to take a shortcut and use shop-bought ones here. A ripe, perfumed cantaloupe melon is a great match for summery-scented basil, one of the quintessential herbs of Provence." ~Rachel Khoo.
Preparation: 30 minutes
Resting time: overnight
Chilling time: 2 hours
18 g leaf gelatin
500 g ripe cantaloupe melon flesh
4 large basil leaves
30 sponge fingers
400 ml whipping cream
80 g sugar
200 g fromage frais
2 good handfuls of edible flowers (pansies, violets, nasturtiums, rose petals) and basil leaves
1 egg white, lightly whisked
3 Tbs sugar
First make the frosted decorations. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Trim the flowers, removing the stem and the sepals. Set aside one handful of the flowers and leave unfrosted.
Using the paintbrush, brush each flower lightly with egg white, then sprinkle with sugar, holding the flower by the back of its head, or as delicately as possible if using rose petals. Shake gently to remove any excess sugar and place each one on the lined baking tray. Coat the basil leaves in the same way. Leave to rest in a cool dark place overnight. They should feel crisp to the touch.
Soak the gelatin in a large bowl of cold water. Blend half the melon with the 4 large basil leaves until smooth. Pour into a saucepan, bring to the boil and then remove from the heat and leave to cool until warm to the touch. Squeeze the water from the gelatin and stir it into the cooled melon mixture until dissolved. Chill in the fridge.
Place the cake ring on your serving plate. If the sponge fingers have rounded ends, cut one end so they are straight. Line the fingers around the inside of the cake tin, making sure they sit tightly together (straight edge down). A second pair of hands may be required! Whip the cream with the sugar until it forms stiff peaks.
Chop the rest of the melon into small cubes. Beat the fromage frais into the cold blended cantaloupe and then fold into the cream with the cubes of melon. Pour into the cake ring and chill in the fridge for 2 hours. To serve, remove the cake ring and tie the ribbon around the cake. Decorate the top with the frosted and reserved fresh flowers and the basil.
20-22 cm cake ring, or springform cake tin with the base removed.
40 cm ribbon.
Credits: My Little French Kitchen by Rachel Khoo with photography by David Loftus (Michael Joseph, $39.99, hbk)
Photo Credits: My Little French Kitchen by Rachel Khoo with photography by David Loftus (Michael Joseph, $39.99, hbk)