New York City Food Guide | Charlotte Russe

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New York City Food

Charlotte Russe

Corned Beef & Cabbage



New York City Food Guide

Charlotte Russe

The Charlotte Russe or, as we said in Brooklyn, Charley Roosh, is a classic New York City street food. Rarely served in the home, it was bought to be eaten as a snack as you walked along the avenue (whichever avenue, it was always an avenue). Just a simple sponge cake topped with whipped cream and a cherry, the thing was a joy to kids because of its packaging: on top of a cardboard disk, the whole thing was inside a white cardboard tube with a scalloped edge. You started to eat the whipped cream from the top and, as you ate, you pushed the cardboard disk up from the bottom. More whipped cream, more licking. Finally, you got down to the sponge cake, usually a bit dry, but hey, a reward is a reward

Jim Says The Brooklyn Cookbook has a fairly straightforward sponge cake recipe that I found a bit too, uh, straightforward. Not bad, but it could be a packaged mix. They also included a brief blurb on an 1897 recipe by Mrs C E Hubbell. This produced a sponge that bit back and reminded me more of the Ebinger's bakery sponge cake, usually a day or two old when you got it in a charlotte russe. I also found it less complicated than a modern sponge cake: no separating eggs, no egg whites to beat and fold in, just mix and go

Serves Makes about 12 charlotte russe

For the sponge cake

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 T cold water
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 t lemon extract
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt

For the whipped cream and decoration

  • 1 cup heavy cream, well chilled
  • 2 T powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Chocolate sprinkles

Method Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch by 13-inch cake pan. Chill bowl and beaters for whipping cream

In a mixer bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth and lemon yellow in color. Mix in the cold water, vanilla extract and lemon extract

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold into the egg mixture. Stir by hand until flour is just incorporated, don't over mix

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack

In the chilled bowl, beat the cream on medium or medium high speed until it begins to thicken. Mix in the vanilla and, about 1/2 teaspoonful at a time, the powdered sugar. Beat cream just until it forms stiff peaks. Refrigerate until ready to use

To Serve Cut sponge cake rounds with a 3-inch cookie cutter. Unless you can find food-grade cardboard tubes, you're probably going to have to plop or pipe the whipped cream on the sponge cake rounds. If really necessary, throw on some chocolate sprinkles, but always top each serving with a Maraschino cherry


  • Cut off a very thin slice of the baked top -- the whipped cream sticks to the cake better
  • Piping is prettier than plopping, but not at all necessary
  • Before plopping on the whipped cream, try spreading on a thin layer of raspberry or strawberry preserves
  • Instead of cutting rounds, just cut the cake into squares -- no waste

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