From childhood, we are taught to share. We admire a generous spirit, and a commitment to serve all. Yet because we can never trust certain people not to hold back the larger piece of cake for themselves, we love individual desserts.
Actually, we love them for many reasons: A solo serving exudes an "I made this for you" specialness, and is almost invariably prettier than a slab of something, however luscious.
For mom on Mother's Day, or for any bridal or baby shower when "oohing" and "aahing" is in order, consider serving individual Lemon Charlottes, which combine tender homemade ladyfingers, tart lemon curd, a cloud of lemon mousse and fresh berries. The results are far more impressive than the actual labor involved, and isn't that how we all want our mothers to think of us?
Homemade ladyfingers similarly are marvels of humble beginnings. A simple meringue batter is spooned into a pastry bag, piped into long shapes and given a double-dusting of powdered sugar before baking. Store-bought ladyfingers -- if you can even find them -- are pale imitations of these moist spongecake batons, crackling with just the sheerest veneer of caramelized powdered sugar.
Ladyfingers first appeared in the late 15th century at the court of the Duchy of Savoy to honor a visit by the King of France, which is why they sometimes are referred to as savoiardi. Apparently they were especially popular with young members of the court; the fact that Twinkies pay homage to long tubes of sponge cake is merely coincidence.
Now, while we're all in favor of having the right tools for any task, we must note that it's not necessary to own eight metal charlotte ring molds. We bought a 3-inch mailing tube from an office supply store and cut it into eight 3-inch lengths with a serrated knife. Lined with strips of parchment paper, these work admirably and can be re-used.
Chilled for several hours, a charlotte holds together well (and remember, you're not sharing this with anyone). But we like the final touch of encircling each dessert with a length of ribbon, so your guests feel like they're opening a gift.
Which, of course, they are.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185