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Say ‘good afternoon’ to Charlotte Cake! If you’ve never met she’s a mousse-filed sponge topped with jelly and berries named after the daughter of George IV – the bumbling Prince who extravagantly buys socks in ‘Blackadder’. I first saw the recipe in one of my Granny’s cookbook and to me it perfectly represents quintessential England. It’s best enjoyed in the garden with a cup of Earl Grey (preferably with ‘God Save The Queen’ playing in the background).

For the sponge fingers
4 eggs separated
juice of ½ a lemon
80g caster sugar
80g plain sifted flour
40g icing sugar

For the mousse
4 free-range egg yolks
50g caster sugar
125ml Muscat sweet wine
1 tbsp lemon juice
150ml whipped cream

1.5 kg berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries etc)
100g caster sugar
8g gelatin sheets

 For the jelly
300ml berry puree
100ml water
40g caster sugar
2g gelatin

To make the sponge

  • Heat the oven to 190 °C.
  • On two pieces of baking parchment draw the round base of an 18cm cake tin with a push out bottom or releasable sides. Then draw a 25cm in width rectangle at least half the circumference of the cake tin.
  • Whisk the whites with the lemon juice to soft peaks, then slowly adding the sugar and whisk to stiff peaks. Turn the speed of the mixer down and slowly incorporate the yolks. Gently fold in the flour by hand.
  • Put the mixture in a piping bag and cut an 1cm hole. Pipe a continuous line back and forth along the width of the drawn rectangle and pipe the rest like a coil, starting in the middle of the circle base and moving outwards. Make sure that each line of the sponge mixture touches the next.
  • Sieve the icing sugar over the sponge and bake for around 10 minutes until golden brown.
  • Leave to cool before peeling away from the baking paper. Cut the rectangular sponge lengthways down the middle and wrap both pieces around the edge of the tin ensuring a tight fit where they meet. Make sure that the rounded edges point up and the definition of the fingers face outwards, i.e. touching the tin. Then place the circular sponge into the bottom of the cake tin allowing a small overlap with the sponge walls.

To make the mousse

  • The first stage is to make a sabayon. Crack the eggs and weigh out the sugar and lemon juice into a metal bowl.
  • Whisk until pale then add the Muscat wine and whisk over a pan of simmering water until light and fluffy. This will take around 5 minutes and will be ready when the mixture has doubled in size and falls in a ribbon.
  • Once you’ve reached the ribbon stage remove from the heat and whisk over a basin of cold water until cool.
  • Lightly whip the cream to soft peaks and fold it into the egg mixture. Place in the fridge.
  • In a large pan gently bring the fruit and sugar to the boil, stirring regularly. Once the fruit is soft blend until smooth and pass through a fine sieve using the back of a ladle. Place the fruit juice back in the pan and bring to the boil. Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water and once soft drain and whisk into the juice off the heat. Remove 300ml for the jelly and leave both to cool.
  • Once cold fold the fruit juice into the sabayon (you’ll need about 600ml) to form the mousse. Pour into the lined cake tin and place in the fridge to set. This will take between 2 and 4 hours.

 To make the jelly glaze

  • Boil the 300ml of berry juice again and off the heat whisk in the gelatin. The aim to have a very light setting soft jelly. Leave to cool and then pour over the mousse. Here I like to put fresh fruit in amongst the jelly. Place in the fridge again to set.
  • Finish by arranging fresh fruit over the top and a generous dusting of icing sugar.
  • Be very careful when un-molding. The cake is very delicate.
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