Saturday, November 28, 2009

French dessert? No, it's from Brooklyn

Whenever the paper cups filled with cake, topped by a couple of dollops of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry were lined up behind the glass delicatessen case, my mother would come home with two as a special treat for her daughters. I still remember the delectable fun of pushing the cake from the bottom of the cup until you had a mouthful of whipped cream and cake.

Until this weekend, it had to have been at least five decades since I had a Charlotte Russe. I was visiting a couple who also recalled the days when a Charlotte Russe was a popular dessert in Brooklyn.

Though some will tell you that the original Charlotte Russe was made with Bavarian cream set in a mold lined with ladyfingers, the simpler Brooklyn version was, to us, la crème de la crème!

Though there are several explanations of how the original Charlotte Russe was named, it is generally credited to a French chef in the early 19th Century who named it in honor of his Russian employer.

The most meaningful historical fact to me, however, is that the Charlotte Russe gained popularity during the 1930s and 1940s throughout the five boroughs of New York City. If more elaborate versions appear today, I don’t think they could be any more luscious than the Charlotte Russe we enjoyed as children.