Back in the 60’s and 70’s no ladies’ afternoon tea gathering was complete without one “Charlotta” on the sweets table. Not a traditional Cypriot sweet but adapted to Cypriot ingredients.
The layers are: 1. sponge cake (sometimes left-over vanilla cake) 2. Cyprus spoon sweets like walnut, citrus, cherry, 3. Syrup from the sweets mixed with brandy, 4. vanilla pastry cream 5. Roasted almonds.
It’s traditionally layered in a big Pyrex dish. In this case. I created 2 layers since I assembled mine in a trifle dish. This was inspired by my foodie friend Myrna who makes the best “Charlotta” known to humans!
In the older days, the Cypriot version of the pastry cream was with less eggs, more corn flour. But eventually we came to our senses and make a more French style pastry cream using more eggs, less corn flour, for a richer cream.
I also use orange blossom water like my mom does. Some recipes call for rose water, some for nothing. When it comes to the sweets, use whatever you fancy. I particularly love (LOVE!) walnut, so I’m using a lot of it but feel free to use whatever you have at home or like the most. I think this recipe has been in our lives long enough to belong in the Cypriot food category 😉
- 1 x 23 cm round vanilla sponge cake (or left-over vanilla pound cake)
- 400 grams spoon sweets (walnut, cherry, quince, citrus), drained and sliced
- 90 grams syrup from the sweets
- 60 ml brandy
- 2 Tbs orange blossom water (optional)
- 100 grams roasted almonds, roughly chopped
For the pastry cream:
- 1 litre whole milk
- 250 ml cream
- 90 gr granulated sugar
- 60 gr corn flour
- 2 large eggs
- 4 large yolks
- 1 Tbs vanilla extract
- 60 grams unsalted butter
Slice the sponge in 1 cm slices. Drain sweets from their syrup and slice in bite sized pieces. In a bowl mix the brandy with syrup from the sweets and the orange blossom water if using.
Make the pastry cream: In a large pot, heat the milk and cream with half the sugar. In another large bowl whisk together the eggs, yolks, corn flour, vanilla and remaining sugar. When milk/cream is hot, pour half into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Pour remaining milk/cream mixture to the eggs and mix. Pass the mixture through a strainer back to the pot you boiled the milk. This will get rid of any cooked yolk bits. Stir cream over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Use a whisk to stir vigorously for a minute. Take cream off the heat and add the butter. Stir until butter has melted and cream is smooth.
Divide cream equally in two bowls.
Assemble the dessert while cream is hot: You can layer the ingredients for this dessert once or twice (as pictured here). You can assemble it in a round or rectangular glass pan, or in a trifle dish. I chose the latter.
Layer half of the sponge slices in the trifle dish. Drizzle with half the syrup/brandy mixture. Top with half the sweet slices and 1 tablespoon chopped almonds. Cover with half of the hot pastry cream (keep the other half covered with plastic wrap to prevent a skin form forming).
Repeat with remaining sponge, syrup, sweets, almonds and remaining pastry cream. Cover the surface of the cream with chopped almonds and maybe some sweet slices. Transfer “sharlotta” in the fridge to chill and for the flavours to meld. Serve cold.