By Nikoletta Nikolaou
I made my mum’s classic Cypriot dessert yesterday, which we call “Charlotta". It’s a bit like a trifle, with a sponge layer soaked in Cypriot brandy, a variety of “glika tou koutaliou” (spoon sweets) scattered on top of the sponge, a spiced custard layer, then topped with aromatic fresh cream, more spoon sweets and crushed nuts. This is my mum’s staple dessert. She makes it for every dinner party and all of my cousins ask for it whenever there’s a gathering so I thought this would a perfect dish to share with you all in lead up to Mother’s Day next week.
400g approx sponge cake (homemade or shop-bought)
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons brandy or chosen liqueur (optional)
100g approx spoon sweets - QUINCE - BERGAMOT - FIGS
1 cinnamon quill
the zest of one lemon
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornflour
3 tablespoons sugar
300ml thickened/double cream
½ teaspoon rose water
2-3 tbsp crushed nuts
Spoon sweets to decorate
1. Cut the cake into 1.5cm slices and line the bottom of a large shallow serving bowl or trifle dish.
2. Mix ¼ cup of milk and brandy in a small bowl and drizzle over the sponge.
3. Finely chop the spoon sweets QUINCE - BERGAMOT - FIGS and scatter over the sponge.
4. In a saucepan, heat 1-litre milk with the lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla on a medium-low heat. Bring just to the boil and remove from the heat to cool slightly, then pick out the cinnamon and cloves.
5. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour for about 5 minutes until pale.
6. Gradually add a ladle of warm milk into the egg mixture, while whisking. Repeat with another ladle before pouring the mixture into the pan. This will help avoid scrambling your eggs.
7. Cook gently on a low heat until thickened, whisking continuously.
8. Pour the cooled custard over the sponge, cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge to set for about an hour.
9. When you are ready to serve your Charlotta, whisk the thickened cream and rose water until soft peaks are formed then spoon and smooth it over the custard.
10. Decorate with spoon sweets, crushed nuts and your most artistic flair.
Thanks to Nikoletta for this delicious recipe, and if you'd like to see more of her traditional Cypriot recipes, then head to https://www.nikolettaskitchen.com.