Romanian Diplomat cake or Charlotte torte with homemade custard, whipped cream, ladyfingers, and lots of fruit.
Romanian diplomat cake filled with custard, whipped cream, and fruit, one of the most famous cakes in Romania.
What is a Charlotte torte or cake?
Made after the art of a traditional Charlotte torte, this cake or dessert consists of a lining of ladyfingers filled with an amazingly luscious, creamy custard mixed with whipped cream and topped with lots of fruit, either seasonal fresh fruit or any canned fruit variety.
The Charlotte torte, dessert, or trifle has a very long history. Apparently at its very beginnings, the charlotte or charlet used to be a savory meat pudding eaten by the monks during the fifteen century in England. Later on a sweet version of the charlet was created, which consisted of layers of custard – charlyt, stale bread and fruit.
However, this dessert became really popular after being recreated by the famous nineteen century French cook Marie-Antoine Carême, the so-called “king of the cooks, cook of the kings”, who cooked for King George IV, Tsar Alexander I and Emperor Franz I of Austria.
He created a cake or dessert filled with Crème Bavaroise, which is a filling made with eggs and milk, stabilized with gelatin and mixed with whipped cream. He named the dessert Charlotte russe in honor of Tsar Alexander I.
What kind of fruit to use in a Charlotte?
- There are endless versions of a Charlotte russe recipe out there. The Romanian version, called Tort Diplomat is traditionally filled and topped with candied, dried, or canned fruit.
- I didn't use any candied or dried fruit for today's version, instead, I chose a mixture of canned fruit like pineapple and mandarins and fresh fruit – grapes.
- You could use any kind of canned fruit you like and almost any kind of fresh fruit as well.
- I saw many people using kiwi, but although I like kiwi, I did not have the courage to use fresh kiwi in combination with gelatin. Kiwi contains a protein-digesting enzyme that destroys gelatin, so I preferred not to put any kiwi in the cake. However, I assume you can't go wrong if you place the kiwi only on top of the cake and don't actually mix it with the custard.
- Strawberries, like in this wonderful Strawberry Charlotte, or any kind of berries are also a great alternative.
- But, for a really genuine Romanian Diplomat cake, candied fruit and exotic canned fruit are the best option.
Tips for making the cake
- Only dip the ladyfingers briefly in the fruit syrup, they should be only slightly wet and not soaked. If they are too wet, they will start breaking. You can use either the pineapple or the mandarin syrup for this purpose, it doesn't matter.
- Check the packet's instructions for the gelatin, regarding soaking time.
- Mix the bloomed gelatin into the warm custard and stir well to dissolve.
- Place a piece of cling film directly on top of the custard while it cools, this way it will not form a "skin".
- Let the custard cool completely before adding the whipped cream to it. However, it should not get set. If it does before you add the cream, the filling will get clumpy, as you will not be able to mix the two together smoothly. Check regularly to see if the custard is cooled.
Romanian Diplomat Cake (Charlotte Torte)
- 400 g/ 14 oz ladyfingers
- 2 sachets gelatin granules/powder 9 g/ 0.3 oz each
- 5 egg yolks
- 200 g/ 7 oz/ 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 500 ml/ 17 fl.oz/ 2 cups milk
- 1 small can pineapple
- 1 small can mandarins
- 1 handful seedless grapes
- 500 ml/ 17 fl.oz/ 2 cups heavy cream
- Drain the pineapple can and save the syrup. Pour the syrup into a wider bowl. Or you could drain the mandarins first and use their syrup instead, whichever you prefer.
- Dip each ladyfinger in the syrup, very shortly, they should barely get wet and not get soaked.
- Arrange the ladyfingers, standing and with the sugared side facing the outside of the form, inside the ring of a 24-26 cm/ 9.5-10.2 inch springform.
- After lining the springform with the biscuits, arrange some of them on the bottom of the springform as well. Break 1 or 2 ladyfingers and fit the pieces in the gaps, the whole base of the pan should be covered with ladyfingers.
- Chop the pineapple rings (or use already chopped pineapple). Drain the mandarins as well very thoroughly.
- Place the 5 egg yolks into a small pan. Add the sugar, corn starch, and vanilla essence. Whisk well until smooth. Slowly start adding the milk while whisking all the time.
- Turn on the heat and heat the mixture while whisking continuously until it comes to a boil, it will take about 10 minutes. Let bubble once or twice until slightly thickened. Set the custard aside for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime soak the gelatin granules according to the packet's instructions. In my case (Dr. Oetker gelatin granules) I soaked them in 10 tablespoons cold water for 10 minutes.
- Add the bloomed gelatine to the warm custard and whisk well to incorporate. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Place a piece of cling film on top (it will prevent the custard from getting a “skin”) and let it come to room temperature. It will take about an hour, don't let it stand longer than necessary or the custard will set and the finished Charlotte will get clumpy after adding the whipped cream. It has to be completely cooled, but not completely set.
- When the custard has reached room temperature, beat the heavy cream until stiff. Set 3-4 tablespoons of the whipped cream aside for the decoration of the cake. Fold the rest of the whipped cream gradually and carefully into the custard.
- Set some of the pineapple pieces, mandarins, and grapes aside for the decoration of the cake. Fold the rest of the fruit into the custard-cream mixture.
- Pour the filling into the prepared pan and arrange the remaining fruit on top.
- Pipe the remaining whipped cream on top of the cake as well.
- Place the cake in the fridge and let it get set overnight.