Recipes » Dessert Recipes » Charlotte Russe

Charlotte Russe

A light, creamy, combination of eggs, whipping cream and whiskey. A traditional Southern dessert typically served for Christmas holidays
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
A serving of Charlotte Russe in a crystal dessert dish.

Charlotte Russe is a creamy dessert combination of eggs, whipping cream, and whiskey. Traditionally served at Christmas and holidays.

Do you ever get a recipe in your head and you just can’t stop thinking about it until you make it? Even if it’s not the right time of year? Even if it’s a family tradition for Christmas and it’s nowhere near the right time of year?

A serving of Charlotte Russe in a crystal dessert dish.

No? Yeah, I thought that was probably just me.

For some reason, I got Charlotte Russe on the brain a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t stop thinking about it. If you’re not familiar with Charlotte Russe, then please let me introduce you.

This is an old, old recipe that is a tradition in our family. My Mama has made it every Christmas since I can remember. But the recipe goes back even further to her grandmother.

It’s rich. It’s creamy. It has whiskey in it. In a word, it’s ‘perfect.’ Just one quick caution – this recipe does contain raw eggs. Just wanted you to know in case that’s a health concern for you. Me? I figure the Jim Beam cancels out any risk :-)

Mama’s Words of Wisdom

When I asked Mama to email me her recipe she also sent me some notes about the preparation. Here, I’ll let her tell you in her own words:

“You cannot be in a hurry when you make this. Treat each step like you are handling a baby. Very gently.

You can pour it all into a trifle bowl, parfait glasses, or a flat casserole dish so it can be cut in squares. I have layered it with fresh peaches, fresh raspberries, and cherry pie filling. Have used fresh strawberries, but the strawberries and whiskey don’t seem to compliment each other.

My grandmother used to make this every Christmas and Thanksgiving. She would cut it in squares and place a cherry on each piece.

You had to be over 12 years old before you were served any because it had whiskey in it. Since I was only 10 when she died, I never got to taste it. Maybe that’s why I always make it for the holidays.”

So, summoning up all the gentleness I could muster, I set out to make Mama’s recipe for Charlotte Russe.


  • It’s a classic, southern heritage recipe.
  • It’s creamy, dreamy, and all things good.
  • Because – Bourbon.

Ingredient Notes

  • Whiskey (You want something nice and smooth. My personal preference for this recipe is Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.)
  • Ladyfingers (Find these packaged in the bakery or baked goods section of your grocery store.)

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

How to Make Charlotte Russe

Let’s Go Step-by-Step

I always like to show you the photos and step-by-step instructions for my recipes to help you picture how to make them in your own kitchen. If you just want to print out a copy, you can skip to the bottom of the post where you’ll find the recipe card.

Make the Milk and Gelatin Mixture

Pouring a packet of gelatin into milk in a small saucepan.

You start out by stirring together milk and gelatin and letting it sit a few minutes to soften. Then, over low heat and stirring constantly, melt the gelatin. It only takes a few minutes and you use very low heat.

Let the milk and gelatin mixture sit until it’s room temperature and then proceed with the recipe.

Beat the Egg Whites

Large mixing bowl containing beaten egg whites.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set them aside for now.

Whip the Cream

Large mixing bowl containing whipped cream.

In another large bowl, beat the whipping cream and then set that aside as well.

Beat the Egg Yolks

Large mixing bowl containing whipped cream.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks, gradually adding the sugar, until you have a fluffy, pale yellow mixture.

Stir the milk and gelatin mixture very gently into the egg yolks and sugar. Be sure they’re thoroughly combined.

Add the Whiskey

A bottle of Jim Beam Straight Bourbon Whiskey and a measuring cup containing whiskey for the recipe.

Very gradually stir the whiskey into the egg yolk mixture. Of course, I used Jim Beam, a fine southern bourbon.

COOK’S TIP 
Mama says you can use whatever whiskey you like but not everything goes well with eggs and cream. Jim Beam goes mighty fine in this. Just sayin’.

Fold the Mixture Gently

Now, gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites incorporating only a small amount each time. Fold in the whipped cream. Again, work very gently and with only a small amount of cream each time.

Pour into a Bowl

Cut glass bowl lined with ladyfingers and filled with charlotte russe mixture.

Line a bowl with ladyfingers. Pour the charlotte mixture into the bowl.

Cover loosely and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Garnish individual servings with a maraschino cherry or two :-)

Make it Ahead

I’m often asked if this recipe can be made ahead and the answer is definitely yes! In fact, it should be made at least one day before serving so that it has plenty of time to set. I think up to three days would probably be fine. Just make sure it’s covered well and refrigerated.

What About Leftovers?

You can store any leftovers just like you would other jelled desserts. Cover, refrigerate, and use within three days.

What Does It Taste Like?

The flavor of the bourbon is very prominent in this dessert, though not overpowering. It’s greatly tempered and mellowed by the cream and eggs.

A serving of Charlotte Russe in a crystal dessert dish.

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Recipe

A serving of Charlotte Russe in a crystal dessert dish.

Charlotte Russe

A light, creamy, combination of eggs, whipping cream and whiskey. A traditional Southern dessert typically served for Christmas holidays
5 from 8 votes
Print It Rate It Save
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 208kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs separated
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 envelopes gelatin
  • cup whiskey suggest Jim Beam bourbon whiskey
  • 3 ounce package Ladyfingers
  • Maraschino cherries optional garnish

Instructions

  • Stir together the milk and gelatin in a small saucepan and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Place the saucepan over low and cook, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool. Proceed with the recipe when the milk and gelatin mixture has cooled to room temperature.
  • In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside for now.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream. Set that aside for now.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks, gradually adding the sugar, until fluffy and pale yellow.
  • Stir the milk and gelatin mixture very gently into the egg yolks and sugar.
  • Very gradually stir the whiskey into the egg yolk mixture.
  • Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites incorporating only a small amount each time.
  • Fold in the whipped cream. Again, work very gently and with only a small amount of cream each time.
  • Line a trifle or other bowl with ladyfingers. Pour the mixture into the bowl.
  • Cover loosely and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  • Garnish individual servings with Maraschino cherries, if desired.

Notes

This recipe uses raw eggs. If you have any concern at all about consuming raw eggs, you might consider using pasteurized eggs.
Take care at each step of the recipe when folding ingredients to do so gently and carefully so as not to deflate the lovely airy texture of the Charlotte Russe.
The recipe should be made at least one day, and up to three, before serving so that it has plenty of time to set. Make sure it’s covered well and refrigerated until serving time.
Store any leftovers just like you would other jelled desserts. Cover, refrigerate and use within three days.
The flavor of the bourbon is very prominent in this dessert, though not overpowering. It’s greatly tempered and mellowed by the cream and eggs.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1 | Calories: 208kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 42mg | Potassium: 64mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 551IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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— This recipe was originally published on August 23, 2011.

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49 Comments

  1. Thank you for keeping this Southern delight alive. Our family has served it each Christmas (and on other special occasions ) for over 100 years. My aunt modernized the family recipe, maybe in the 30s from having to make the helmet in from ox hoofs. Charlotte is a huge tradition in my family and Christmas isn’t Christmas without this dish. (I’m 3rd or 4th generation making it and I’m almost 70). This recipe is very similar to my husband’s family recipe (Eufaula,AL) except no whiskey and made using cherry juice, chopped cherries, no egg yolks). My family recipe using a boiled custard which is congealed, then beaten and folded into whipped cream, then congealed a 2nd time. It’s a 2 day recipe because of time needed to congeal twice. We have used the whiskey (rum or bourbon), but mainly make with Vanilla. In recent years I have served a variety of liquors to splash on top or to sip along—armaretta is a delicious option. We seldom use the lady fingers but often serve with pound cake on the side. Our family is from the Gulf Coast (Alabama and Mississippi) Thank you again for posting this recipe. Have often looked online to see if any recipes for charollete were there and yours is the first I have found.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment! It’s my pleasure to keep this and other traditional recipes alive. I hope younger generations will also learn to appreciate them.

  2. I’m so excited to find this recipe. My great grandmother always made this for Thanksgiving minus the whiskey. For the last 20+ years I have had the honor of making it. This year I could not find my treasured recipe. Finding someone who knew what Charlotte is made my day. I have introduced so many people to this and could not bear the thought of Thanksgiving without it. This year we will add whisky- yummy. Thanks for saving Thanksgiving!

  3. A version of this was a traditional holiday dessert in my family in Arkansas! However, my grandmother’s recipe has been a bit hit or miss for my cousin and mother, so I thought I would try this one. I’m in Australia now, which means I have to convert a lot of recipes for ingredients available here, so could you tell me a little about the gelatin you’re using here so I can try to replicate or adjust? Do you know how strong it was and how many grams there are to an envelope?

  4. I assume you whip the heavy whipping cream before folding it into the recipe or are you adding it as liquid drizzle from the carton (no instructions are given in your recipe to actually whip the heavy whipping cream, just to fold it in)?

    1. Yes, the cream is whipped. As stated in step 4 of the recipe (and within the body of the post) “In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream. Set that aside for now.”

  5. It’s Christmas Day and I (not being the last minute kind of person, but, hey, it’s Christmas) thought, Hummmmm, ought to make Charlotte Russe. Went to my oldest cookbook – no luck. Went to the recipe file from a dear deceased friend – no luck. When all else failed, went to my sister’s website. EUREKA!!

    So, this may be enjoyed tonight. Or maybe later.

    Happiest Christmas to everyone.

    Miss P

  6. Sadly, we lost my mother’s recipe for Charlotte Russe a number of years ago. Your basic recipe may be the ticket for our family to come close to duplicating my mother’s dessert. In addition to your ingredients, our mother folded finely chopped pecans and finely chopped maraschino cherries into her confection. And yes, she served it to us at Christmas, too. Recently I have used pasteurized eggs in older dessert recipes that feature uncooked eggs, with good results, for those who are concerned about the safety of eating raw eggs. I find pasteurized eggs in cartons in the egg section of the grocery store. Each egg is printed with a “P” to distinguish them from ordinary eggs.

  7. We always had Charlotte at Christmas. One year my mother failed to completely dissolve the gelatin and she said it had pineapple in it. Forever I have had her recipe but today I cannot find it. I want to introduce this wonderful Southern dish to my grandchildren. Thanks.