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DNA 21 Charlotte Russe copy


The Quickie—Rochelle Escapes Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

The Quickie — Rochelle Escapes Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

French chef Marie-Antoine Carême (1784 – 1833) invented the charlotte russe. It was originally made with stale bread — later ladyfingers — cream and fruit and held together with a red ribbon. Like an egg cream, today, charlotte russes are hard to find. Holtermann’s Bakery on Staten Island is one of the last places where you can find one.

The version of the dessert that made its way to Ratchick’s Bakery in Brooklyn was a short frilly cardboard tube filled with a thin round slice of sponge cake at the bottom, whipped cream and a cherry on top. You pushed the bottom of the tube up, like a Push Pop, to enjoy this treat. The charlotte russe was a favorite in New York City during the 1930s,​’40s and​’50s. Then it began to disappear, except from the shelves at Ratchick’s Bakery — and so came my family’s fifteen minutes of fame.

Lights, Cameras, Action. In the early 1970s, Rose Ann Scamardella was a local news and features reporter for WABC-TV Eyewitness News. She called and asked to report on the soon-to-be-extinct charlotte russe. On the day of the interview, the bakery was spotless. My mother and sisters were all dolled up. They’d spent the morning at the local beauty salon getting coiffed and made up and looked so chic in their movie-star hair and makeup and immaculate white uniforms. 

Rose Ann put my mother in front of the camera and asked her,​“Who buys the charlotte russes?” As my sisters moved back and forth behind her, my mother leaned in as if confiding in Rose Ann and answered,​“To tell you the truth, Rose Ann, when the trains come back from the city, around five or six o’clock, the men, they come off the trains and come into the bakery for a​‘quickie’ charlotte russe before going home.” And there it was. Breaking news. The bump in sales was short-lived, and soon we said goodbye to the charlotte russe.