Random Recipe #9: Chocolate & whisky charlotte

Dom mixed things up for this month’s Random Recipe challenge by pairing all the participants up so that each blogger randomly picked a book number and page number for their partner.  I was paired  up with the lovely Camilla from Little Macaroon, a Scottish expat currently living in Singapore.  Her blog is full of beautiful photography that desperately makes me miss expat life and discovering new cultures and countries!  It also really makes me miss living somewhere warm and sunny (grumble grumble)…  I picked book number six, page 124 for her which was steamed and roasted duck with honey and oyster sauce (how delicious does that sound?!) and you can read about the adventures involved in acquiring and roasting a 2.7kg duck here.  She randomly selected book number two, page 42 for me, which was a recipe for a chocolate and whisky charlotte from La Popote des potes.

A charlotte is a dessert that consists of a truffle-y custard or fruit mousse surrounded by sponge fingers.  I’m not sure how popular they are here in the UK, but in France they are quite widespread.  My mum, who loves both charlottes and chocolate, was super-enthusiastic when I announced what I had to try and make.  Luckily, she even has a charlotte dish which I was able to use, although you could probably make one in a large soufflé dish or something similar – the key thing is that the dish is deep enough for the sponge fingers to stand up in.  I’d never tried making a charlotte before, so I enthusiastically followed the recipe to the letter.  The results of my first attempt were… disappointing.  Oh, it tasted wonderful, but it wasn’t particularly presentable.  The sponge fingers didn’t fit snugly against each other, and the chocolate filling filtered through the resulting little gaps.  The sponge fingers were also clearly a lot less dense than the filling and rose up and came away from the edge of the dish, leaving some huge gaps between them (we forced them down a bit after the filling had set, but it wasn’t ideal in the presentation stakes – see the photo below).  What had come out of my fridge really didn’t match the photo in the book.  And even though it tasted good – rich, but deliciously chocolatey with a hint of whisky – I was disappointed.  This is a dessert that would be served to guests, so it is supposed to look nice – why hadn’t it worked properly?

Part of the problem may have been that sponge fingers in France (biscuits à la cuillère) are a bit shorter and fatter than the ones in the UK, so perhaps they fit together a little better, or are slightly denser.  A little hunt around Edinburgh didn’t turn up any imported French sponge biscuits, so I turned to the source of all dessert-related knowledge, Pierre Hermé’s Larousse des desserts to see if there were any helpful tips on making charlottes work.  All of his charlotte recipes involved soaking the back of the sponge fingers in an alcoholic sugary syrup to soften them so they could be pushed together.  This isn’t the first recipe that I’ve tried from Popote des potes that hasn’t quite worked, so out of frustration (and perhaps a little bit of spite), I refused to be thwarted and decided to make the charlotte again, but this time with the added step of dipping the sponge fingers in a whisky syrup.  I can be quite stubborn at times…

I was faced with a minor issue though: I’m currently on my own (my mum is on holiday), but the recipe serves 6-8 people and is difficult to split (8 egg whites and 5 egg yolks?  How unhelpful).  I was never going to be able to eat it all myself, but then realised that I could I make it anyway and give it to Craig and his family to test.  Genius idea!  (Though somewhat stressful in case it didn’t work at all…)  Craig helped out and did an excellent job of lining the dish with the sponge fingers and squeezing them together.  This time, the charlotte worked much better – hurrah!  Craig has reported back to say that his family all enjoyed it and thought it was absolutely delicious (phew!).  Even with the addition of the whisky syrup, the flavour of the whisky wasn’t over-powering, but was a lovely warming addition.  The closest thing to a criticism that I could get out of Craig was that it was quite rich, which is hardly a major issue, it just means you can’t wolf the whole thing down by yourself.

Chocolate & whisky charlotte

Serves 6-8
Adapted from La Popote des potes and Larousse des desserts

I used a charlotte dish because I had one, but I’m sure that a large soufflé dish could be used.  I used 12 year anCnoc whisky, a single malt from Aberdeenshire which is quite light and has notes of honey and fruit.  Use your favourite whisky, or whichever whisky you think would best go with chocolate.  This is a very rich dessert, so I wouldn’t recommend serving it after a heavy meal!  What is wonderful about it though is that it can be prepared in advance (although remember that it does contain raw eggs) and kept in the fridge until ready to serve.


For the lining:
Sponge fingers (the amount will depend on the circumference of your dish – we used about 18)
80ml water
100g caster sugar
60ml whisky

For the chocolate filling:
310g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
185g unsalted butter
8 egg whites
5 egg yolks
50g icing sugar
6 tbsp whisky
Chocolate shavings to decorate (optional)


1.  Mix the sugar and water together in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and allow to boil for about 5 mins to form a syrup.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Once fully cooled, stir in the whisky.

2.  Dip the non-sugar-coated side of a sponge finger into the syrup and place standing up in the charlotte dish, with the sugar-coated side facing outwards.  Repeat with the rest of the sponge fingers until the sides of the dish are fully lined.  If there are gaps between the fingers, pour a little bit of whisky syrup into the bottom of the dish and allow to soak up into the base of the fingers, before carefully squashing them together to close any gaps.  You may need to add a few more fingers – none of them should be able to move from side to side.

3.  Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmer water, until a smooth chocolate mixture has been achieved.  Remove from the heat.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites into firm peaks.  As they begin to firm up, add the icing sugar and continue to whisk for a few minutes.

5.  Stir the egg yolks and whisky into the chocolate mixture, before folding into the egg whites with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Pour the mixture into the prepared charlotte dish, cover with a lid (or tin foil) and refrigerate for at last 4 hours until set.  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings before serving.




Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

12 responses to “Random Recipe #9: Chocolate & whisky charlotte

  1. Lou

    Oooh nice recipe. I wouldn’t turn up my nose at either of them. I do see that your first one could have done with a trip to the orhodontist. 😉
    The sponge and the chocolate must be so comforting together.

    • Mel

      Ha ha, ya, the first one tasted delicious, it just didn’t look the part! The sponge fingers soften up (and go all spongy, funnily enough) which is really nice with the chocolate.

  2. good lord!… is this buy one get one free week or what?!?!… amazing amazing recipe and a great entry for random recipes… thank you so much for your dedication to the cause x

    • Mel

      Thanks Dom – it was a great challenge, as always! I think perhaps I’m a little bit too much of a perfectionist – if the challenge deadline wasn’t tomorrow and I had more people to cook for, I’d possibly have given it a third run to really get the sponge finger lining perfect. Too keen, perhaps…!

  3. The whisky syrup on the sponge fingers sounds just perfect. It’s many years since I made a charlotte but I’m sure that I always dipped the sponge fingers in something vaguely alcoholic. Nice random selection.

    • Mel

      Thanks! After the first attempt didn’t work that well, my mum said that she seemed to remember that the sponge fingers were usually dipped in alcohol as well. Not sure why the original recipe didn’t do that, since I don’t really see how it would work otherwise – very odd!

  4. Love that you chose to use anCnoc – our local whisky when we’re at home! Sorry I chose such a bugger of a recipe for you – but it looks like I might have kickstarted a charlotte obsession! Here’s to many more! x

    • Mel

      No way? That’s such a funny coincidence! Although, now that I think about it, not all that surprising since anCnoc is from Aberdeenshire… I’m actually really glad you picked this recipe, because I’d probably never have tried it otherwise and I do love a good challenge! (Particularly one where there’s food involved…) So thanks for choosing it (even though it was random!)

  5. Well done for sticking with it, and for being able to send the second version off untasted!!

  6. I think the sponge-soaking idea was an excellent idea, it certainly worked well. I might actually try making a Charlotte (or something as equally exciting) one of these days, hope you’re up for trying it! (No guarantees it will be nearly as tasty as yours!)

    • Mel

      Haha, thanks. Clearly it worked because of your sponge-soaking skillz… You know that I’m always up for anything involving food. You flatter me too much – I bet that whatever you end up making will be scrumptious! (It always is!)

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