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Charlotte Royale is a spectacular cake that is two desserts in one. An outer shell of Swiss cake rolls hide a beautifully creamy filling studded with strawberries. It’s fancy enough for even the most special birthday, but the light texture makes it a great everyday dessert option. If you’re looking for something a little unique, give this classic European dessert a try!
Charlotte Royale cake, as its name implies, is a dessert so show-stopping, it’s suitable for royalty. Fortunately, we meager plebes and peasants can enjoy it too, as long as we’re willing to do a little work in the kitchen!
👑 What is Charlotte Royale cake?
First, a quick Charlotte primer: Charlotte cake, also known as Charlotte Russe cake, is a cream, mousse, or custard cake lined with ladyfingers or sponge cake inside the pan and ringing around the outside of the cake. It’s beautiful and elegant in its simplicity.
The Charlotte Royale takes this idea up a notch by surrounding the typical creamy filling with a whole other cake — Swiss cake rolls! It is typically formed in a bowl so it has a half-sphere appearance, but you can also use a deep cake pan or other shape when making it.
🍰 Charlotte Royale Components
This dessert is made from two main components: the Swiss cake rolls that forms the outer “shell,” and the creamy filling inside. There are many different ways to make a Charlotte Royale, but here’s what my recipe involves:
Swiss cake rolls
The actual “cake” portion of this cake is a light and springy sponge cake. The batter is divided between a sheet pan and a round cake pan. The thin sheet pan cake is rolled up with strawberry jam to create the beautiful Swiss rolls you see on the outside of the cake, while the round cake is used as the base that the rest of the cake sits on.
Charlotte Royale cakes can have a variety of fillings. One of the most traditional choices is Bavarian cream, which is a milk, egg, and gelatin mixture. I wanted something a bit more substantive, so my recipe calls for a blancmange filling, which is sort of like the love child of a mousse and a panna cotta.
It’s made with milk, cream, and almond meal, and thickened with gelatin. It has a fluffy texture like a mousse, with just a little wobble (like a panna cotta) and also a bit more substance, due to the finely ground almonds and strawberries that are mixed in. Please don’t be put off by the unfamiliar name–the blancmange is delicious, and worth the time it takes!
If you love the marriage of cake and cream as much as I do, you won’t want to miss my Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake, Raspberry Almond Spiral Cake, or Lemon Mousse Cakes in White Chocolate Shells.
🧾 What You’ll Need
Many of the things you’ll need to make the cake are standard pantry ingredients, but here are some tips and notes to help as you gather ingredients.
- Cake flour: Cake flour helps keep the sponge cake super light and, well, spongy. If you don’t have it, you can substitute all-purpose flour, just know that the cake might be a little denser.
- Egg yolks and whites: You’ll want to separate your eggs, and use 4 yolks for the recipe, and 6 whites. Looking for a way to use up those 2 extra yolks? Make Mai Tai Bundt Cakes or Almond Joy Boston Cream Pie!
- Cream of tartar: Cream of tartar adds stability to the whipped egg whites. It’s commonly found in the spices section of the supermarket, and lasts for ages in the cupboard. But if you don’t have it, it can be omitted.
- Heavy cream: I always prefer heavy cream or manufacturing cream with a high fat content–it whips up better, is thicker, and is more stable. But any kind of cream that will whip up can be used.
- Gelatin: This recipe uses powdered unflavored gelatin (like Knox brand). It’s often found by flavored gelatin in markets. Unfortunately I haven’t tried it with gelatin replacements and can’t say how they would work.
- Almond flour: Almond flour is made from blanched almonds, finely ground into a powder. You can substitute almond meal, which is typically a little coarser, or trying making your own by running almonds through a food processor until very finely ground.
- Freeze-dried strawberries: Freeze-dried strawberries are mixed into the cream filling. They rehydrate and become soft, while still keeping a strong strawberry flavor. I don’t like using fresh berries since they can add too much moisture to the filling, so freeze-dried is a great substitute. You can omit them if you don’t have them.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the Swiss roll cake and cream filling! (Links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)
- Sheet pan: To make the cake roll, a portion of the sponge cake needs to be baked in a 12×18–inch rimmed baking sheet or cake pan.
- Cake pan: The base of the cake is baked in a round 9-inch cake pan.
- Mixer: You will DEFINITELY need some kind of mixer to whip the egg whites and cream. I love and recommend my KitchenAid stand mixer, but a hand mixer will also work–just allow a little extra time when mixing.
- Bowl: Traditionally, this dessert is formed in a round bowl. A 3 or 4 qt bowl is a great choice.
Here’s an overview of how to assemble this Charlotte Royale. Full printable instructions are included in the recipe card down below.
Make the Swiss roll cake
- Bake the cake in a round pan and a rectangular baking sheet. Once cool, spread a generous layer of jam all over the top of the sheet cake.
- Roll the cake into a spiral, peeling back the parchment as you go. Wrap plastic wrap around the roll and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours–this makes the cake much easier to cut and you’ll get cleaner slices.
Cut the cake into thin slices
This might be the most visually satisfying part of the process–making all the Swiss roll pieces! Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the roll into thin pieces, around 3/4-inch thick or less.
Arrange the cake slices
- Line a bowl with plastic wrap, extending it up and over the sides. Press the cake slices into the bowl, right up next to each other, covering the bottom and sides of the bowl. The cake slices can be squished together to get the most even coverage—the goal is to have as few gaps between cake slices as possible!
- When you get to the top of the bowl, you can cut the slices to fit the top of the bowl, re-roll them so they’re smaller, or otherwise manipulate them to get an even layer at the top of the bowl.
Add the cream filling
- Spread a layer of whipped cream on the inside of the bowl—this will keep any of the filling from leaking through to the outside of the cake.
- Pour the blancmange filling into the center of the cake—it will be fairly liquidy. If there’s a large gap between the top of the filling and the top of the cake along the sides, you can either trim the cake, or fill the gap with more whipped cream.
Finish, chill, devour!
- Add the cake round on top of the filling (trim it if necessary.) Wrap the top with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 6-8 hours, or overnight, to set the filling.
- Ready to serve this beauty?? Place a plate upside-down on top of the bowl, then invert the bowl so the cake rests on the plate. Gently lift the bowl up, and peel the plastic wrap from the top of the cake. Voila!
💭 Helpful Tips
There’s an endless number of ways to switch up this cake!
- Jam: use different jam flavors–anything from raspberry to cherry to mango-peach would be great!
- Fruit: swap out the strawberries and add other freeze-dried fruits instead. (I don’t recommend using fresh fruit as it can impact the texture of the filling.)
- Other recipes: there are some great Charlotte Royale recipes out there, including this chocolate raspberry version, two-tone strawberry version, and a classic from Mary Berry!
Make-Ahead and Storage Instructions
This cake is a good make-ahead option, since it is designed to be kept refrigerated. You can prepare it in advance, and keep it well-wrapped in the refrigerator for up to a week. It should not be frozen.
Charlotte Royale Cake
For the Cake:
- 4.25 oz cake flour, (1 cup)
- 7 oz granulated sugar, (1 cup), divided use
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 fl oz vegetable oil, (1/2 cup)
- 2 fl oz water, (1/4 cup)
- 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 TBSP vanilla extract
- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 13 oz strawberry jam, (about 1 1/4 cups)
For the Filling:
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 oz powdered sugar, (1/2 cup)
- 1 TBSP unflavored powdered gelatin
- 3 TBSP cold water
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2.6 oz almond flour, (3/4 cup), can use almond meal or finely ground almonds instead
- 3.5 oz granulated sugar, (1/2 cup)
- 1 TBSP vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract, optional
- 1 1/4 cups freeze-dried strawberries, coarsely chopped
To Make the Swiss roll cake:
- Prepare your pans: Line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and spray the parchment with nonstick cooking spray. Spray a 12×18-inch rimmed baking sheet (half sheet size) with nonstick cooking spray. Line it with parchment, spray the parchment, and dust it with a light layer of flour. Don't skip this step or you won't be able to roll the cake properly!
- Preheat the oven to 325 F.
- In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the cake flour, part of the granulated sugar (¾ cup or 5.25 oz), the baking powder, and salt.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk together the oil, water, yolks, and vanilla extract.
- Place the egg whites in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin to whip them on medium speed. When the whites are frothy, add the cream of tartar and continue whipping.
- Once they start to hold soft peaks, slowly add the remaining ¼ cup sugar, a spoonful or two at a time, until it's all added. Beat the whites on medium-high speed until they're glossy and hold firm peaks.
- Add the yolk mixture to the dry ingredients, and stir them together with a spatula until smooth.
- Gently fold a third of the beaten egg whites into the cake batter, trying not to over-mix and deflate the whites. Add the rest of the whites in two batches, stirring delicately.
- Scoop 1 1/2 cups of batter (6 oz) into the 9-inch round pan, and spread it into an even layer. Pour the rest of the cake batter into the sheet pan and gently smooth it into an even layer.
- Bake the cakes at 325 F for 14-16 minutes, until they are a light golden brown and the cake springs back when lightly pressed. The two cakes might be done at different times, so watch them both carefully. Cool the cakes on a wire rack until they are at room temperature.
- Once cool, spread the strawberry jam in a thin layer on top of the entire surface of the sheet cake.
- Beginning at the long end nearest to you, start rolling the cake into a spiral, peeling the parchment off the back as you roll. Once it is a tight spiral, wrap cling wrap around the roll and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours. This chilling time will make the cake much easier to cut and will give you cleaner slices. The cake can be refrigerated overnight if desired.
To prepare the cake bowl:
- To assemble this recipe, you'll need a 3 or 4 quart round bowl. The exact size of every bowl will vary, so it helps if you're flexible during the assembly process! Line the bowl with plastic wrap, extending up and over the sides of the bowl.
- Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the Swiss roll into slices between 1/2 inch-1 inch thick. If you're using a smaller bowl, you can make thicker slices, but if you're using a larger bowl, you'll need more pieces so you should err on the side of thinner cake slices. My bowl is about 3 1/2 quarts and my slices were about 3/4-inch thick.
- Press the slices into the bowl, right up next to each other, covering the bottom and sides of the bowl. The cake slices can be squished together to get the most even coverage—the goal is to have as few gaps between cake slices as possible! When you get to the top of the bowl, you can cut the slices to fit the top of the bowl, re-roll them so they're smaller, or otherwise manipulate them to get an even layer at the top of the bowl.
To make the cream filling:
- To make the filling, whip the cream and powdered sugar together until they form firm peaks. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream on the inside of the bowl—this will keep any of the filling from leaking through to the outside of the cake, since it's fairly liquid when you pour it in before it sets. Refrigerate the remaining whipped cream and the cake bowl.
- Combine the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl, and whisk them together. Let the gelatin sit and absorb the water, for about 5 minutes, then microwave for 15-20 seconds, until melted and liquid.
- Combine the milk, almond meal, and granulated sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer, stirring while the sugar dissolves. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the melted gelatin.
- Fill a bowl or sink with ice water, and place the bottom of the saucepan in the cold water. Whisk while the milk cools until it is no longer warm to the touch. You want it to remain liquid, so don't cool it so much that it starts jelling together, but it should be fairly cool to the touch when you're done. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, if using, and stir well.
- Fold the remaining whipped cream into the cool milk mixture. Stir in the freeze-dried strawberries, then pour the filling into the cake bowl—it will be fairly liquidy at this point.
- If there's a large gap between the top of the filling and the top of the cake along the sides, you can either trim the sides of the cake, or fill the gap with more sweetened whipped cream.
- Finally, press the 9-inch round of cake on top of the filling, trimming it if necessary. Cover the top with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 6-8 hours, or overnight, to set the filling.
- To serve the cake, remove the plastic wrap from the top. Place a plate upside-down on top of the bowl, then invert the bowl so the cake rests on the plate. Gently lift the bowl up, and peel the plastic wrap from the top of the cake. This cake is best serve chilled, and it can be kept in the refrigerator, well-wrapped, for up to a week.
Our recipes are developed using weight measurements, and we highly recommend using a kitchen scale for baking whenever possible. However, if you prefer to use cups, volume measurements are provided as well. PLEASE NOTE: the adage “8 oz = 1 cup” is NOT true when speaking about weight, so don’t be concerned if the measurements don’t fit this formula.Click here to learn more about baking measurements and conversion.
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About Elizabeth LaBau
I’m Elizabeth, but you can call me SugarHero! I’m a former pastry chef turned blogger, cookbook author, and baking instructor, and I consider myself sugar’s #1 fan. Learn more from my About page, or connect with me on social media:
Oh gosh nevermind on my previous question. I’m sorry, I just got myself confused.