Charlotte aux Fraise — French Strawberry Shortcake

In the article below, a friend of an employee serving with Young Life in France shares an incredible recipe to make with fresh picked strawberries!


When I moved to France four years ago, I learned very quickly to say yes anytime a French friend offered to share something they cooked or baked. French cooking really does live up to the hype! Recently one of my friends offered me a slice of her “Charlotte aux Fraise” that she had made for her family. A quick Google search informed me that “Charlotte aux Fraise” is Strawberry Shortcake (the cartoon character goes by that name as well).

When she brought the cake over, I was surprised to be met with a dessert that was closer to a delicious mousse than the cake I was used to.

A “Charlotte aux Fraise” offers a nice light alternative to the American version of the dessert, and is a great use for your homegrown strawberries.

8 Servings | 1 Hour Cook Time | 12 Hours Total Time

2/3 cups sugar
1 envelope (1 tbsp) powdered gelatin
4 cups strawberries
1 lemon
1 tsp. vanilla
26 ladyfinger cookies
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp rum (optional)

Step 1: Add 1/3 cup of water and 1/3 cup of the sugar into a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Mix in rum, if using.

Step 2: Prepare the gelatin by mixing it in a bowl with cold water according to instructions (approximately 1/2 cup water per 1 tbsp gelatin powder). Prepare the cream by pouring it into a mixing bowl and placing it in the freezer. (This will help it become whipping cream later).

Step 3: Juice the lemon.

Step 4: Wash the strawberries. Set 8 strawberries aside, and place the remaining strawberries in a mixer with the lemon juice. Blend to a puree.

Step 5: Add 1/4 of the strawberry mix into a small saucepan. On medium heat, mix in the gelatin and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Stir until everything is incorporated.

Step 6: Combine the two strawberry mixtures in a medium bowl. Set aside until they are at room temperature.

Step 7: Remove the cream from the freezer and whip until a whipping cream forms (about 5 minutes). Whip in the vanilla and put the mixture in the fridge.

Step 8: Fill the bottom of a larger mixing bowl with ice cubes, and place the bowl with the strawberry mixture inside. This will help cool the strawberry mixture. Mix the strawberry mixture until it thickens. As soon as it thickens, remove the mixing bowl from the bowl with the ice cubes and incorporate the whipping cream.

Step 9: Chop the 8 set aside strawberries into medium size pieces.

Step 10: Dip the ladyfingers in the simple syrup and arrange them around the bottom and sides of a high straight-sided 7” cake pan. If you do not have a high-sided pan, you can use a traditional cake pan and trim the ladyfingers to be the height of the pan.

Step 11: Pour 1/3 of the strawberry mixture into the cake pan. Top this layer with half of the chopped strawberries. Continue the next two layers in the same order.

Step 12: Cover in saran wrap and place in the fridge overnight.

Step 13: Serve with locally grown strawberries!



Olivia Swindler lives and works in Grenoble, France. Her first book “Cynthia Starts a Band” comes out October 2021. Follow along with Olivia’s reading and writing adventures on her website: or on Instagram @oliviaswindler.