• Serves: Makes about 4 dozen cookies
  • Baking Temp (degrees F): 375
  • Views: 15879

Recipe by Sarah Phillips © 2000 Sarah Phillips

Variation: Hearts and Strawberry Roses Charlotte - uses Heart Ladyfingers

Ladyfingers and photo by odetteganda, Premium Member © Sarah Phillips
Heart Ladyfingers from Hearts and Strawberry Roses Charlotte Recipe

Known in Italy as "Savoiardi", Ladyfingers are sweet, little, fairly dry, tongue depressor-shaped Sponge Cakes, but are they can also be referred to as cookies. Ladyfingers are used to make charlottes, tiramisu, and other desserts or filled and eaten as is. They rely heavily upon eggs for their characteristics; separately beaten eggs and egg whites are folded in with flour and sugar.

Ladyfingers can be made at home or purchased in bakeries or supermarkets. I like the Forno Bonomi Ladyfingers Brand. 

If making an foam cake intimidates you, a Ladyfinger recipe is much more forgiving recipe to start with and the results are a delightful treat for afternoon tea, or even as an ingredient in a fancy dessert presentation. Once you taste homemade Ladyfingers, you will never search them out at the local grocery store again.

If you wish to use Ladyfingers in the classic Italian dessert, such as the Espresso Tiramisu to keep homemade ones from getting soggy, be sure to dry them first. Just let them sit out overnight until they are dry and more crisp, like a crouton and then use them. This should help them from getting soggy.

Photo and Cheesecake Charlotte by odetteganda, Premium Member © Sarah Phillips

odetteganda, Premium Member, Says: "Here's the cheesecake that I was talking about the other day. I made a 'strawberry cheesecake charlotte.' LOL! The bottom layer is the Cream Cheese Pound Cake, the filling is the Dulce de Leche Swirled Cheesecake, Strawberry Swirled Cheesecake Variation and with the Ladyfingers on the side."

6 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar, divided; 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar or 1 teaspoon lemon juice

5 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract **For more lemon flavor you can add the zest from 1 lemon to the egg yolk mixture

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour; spoon into measuring cup and level to top
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups (1/2 pound) powdered sugar, sifted; scoop into measuring cup and level to top and then sift.

1. Preheat the oven and prepare the baking pan: Position a shelf in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
You’ll need at least two, preferably four UNGREASED* noninsulated cookie sheets or sheet pans. I prefer to pipe ladyfingers onto parchment paper (not waxed), not Silpat Mats.

*They can also be piped onto plain ungreased baking sheets, but you will have to take great care to remove them once cool AND the clean up is more substantial.

2. Beat the egg whites: In a dry, clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, with the mixer on medium-low speed, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar.

Continue whipping until the foam is white and opaque.

3. Increase the mixer speed to high and add the 1/2 cup sugar slowly at the side of the bowl, beating constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites become firm. When they are, the egg whites will become glossy, smooth and the beaters should show ridges as they move through the mixture. Stop the mixer and lift the beaters; you can pull the whites into straight peaks. Scrape whites into a clean bowl and set aside.

4. Beat the egg yolks until they ribbon: In a mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and the lemon extract, on medium to medium-high, for 3 minutes until the yolks are thick and pale in color. The yolks will "ribbon". That is when you raise the beaters, the mixture should fall in a ribbon pattern that sits on top of the swirl for seconds before sinking.

That's why it's called making the ribbon.

5. Fold beaten whites and yolks together:
Sarah Says: Fold very carefully so the whites don't lose their volume.

Add a small amount of the whites to the yolks and stir with your whisk to lighten the yolks. This will help the whites to fold more easily into the yolk mixture.

Add about half of the remaining whites to the yolks and fold with gentle strokes. Use a rubber spatula that fits easily into your hand. My favorite is a 13-inch heavy spatula.

Cut through the center of the whites and pull the spatula against the bowl's edge and towards you. Bring it up and "fold" the mixture from the bottom of the bowl over the mixture in the center. Then turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat until you only see slight streaks of white. Add the remaining whites and repeat. You will need to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times to keep the mixture from climbing up the sides.

6. Fold flour into the yolk/whites mixture:
Sift about half of the flour with the salt, over the top of the yolk/whites mixture and fold with a gentle hand. Cut through the center and bring the spatula towards you, turn the bowl and repeat. Be sure to touch the bottom of the bowl and to bring any flour pockets to the surface and turn the bowl a quarter turn after each "fold".

When you just start to see fine streaks of flour in the egg whites, add the second amount of flour and repeat. The finished batter will lose its gloss, but will be light and airy and the interior texture will resemble a sponge. You should see no wisps of flour remaining.

7. Pipe ladyfingers:
To prepare for piping the ladyfingers, place a medium (about 1/2-inch) plain round tube into a fairly large pastry bag. Fold the top back over one hand and spoon the mixture into the center. It is full when you still have a large amount of bag left over your hand. Pinch off the top with your fingers and roll the bag up. Twist to close.

SARAH SAYS: To pipe the ladyfingers, you just need to pipe a short, straight line. The batter is soft, so you do not need to apply a lot of pressure, gravity usually helps you out here. If you are not confident of piping evenly shaped fingers, measure and draw lines on the BACK of the parchment paper. You draw on the back so no marks come off on the little cakes.

Start with the tip of the tube above the surface and not touching. Hold the bag perpendicular to the cookie sheet. Gently squeeze the top of the bag with your piping hand (Right for righties, and left for lefties), use your other hand to guide the tube. Pipe the batter about 1/2-inch apart.

To finish the finger shape, simply stop all pressure and draw the tube back up along the surface of the finger and stop in the middle. Lift the pastry bag straight up.

Sarah Says: If you wish to use the ladyfingers in a dessert presentation where they finish the sides of a cake (like a Charlotte) you can simply pipe them very close together. They will then bake together into a long strip.

Then you just need to trim the bottom and use the whole strip to line the sides of your pan for your dessert. After baking and when cooled, sift powdered sugar over the cookies.

8. Bake: Before baking, sift a generous amount of powdered sugar over the ladyfingers and allow to sit on your counter for about 3 minutes.

The sugar will be absorbed into the batter and before baking sift a light amount over the top a second time. This is what creates that classic crisp crust on the ladyfinger.

Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking. You are looking for the finished product to have light golden edges, but not overly brown. The top will be firm to the touch and some powdered sugar may remain on the top.

Remove cookies still attached to the parchment paper and let cool on a wire cake rack. When cooled, sift a generous amount of powdered sugar over the top. Then, remove.

Ladyfingers stick to the parchment. If you try to remove them with your hands they can tear. Simply take a butter knife and run under the cake to free it from the paper.

If you have a large amount of leftover powdered sugar on the paper simply shake off into a bowl and use it for the next tray of cakes.

Finished Ladyfingers are good enough to stand on their own. For a simple presentation, cut in half horizontally and spread a small amount of your favorite citrus curd or jelly and sandwich them together. My favorite is Lemon Curd or Raspberry Jelly. You can also fill them with pastry cream. Sprinkle with sifted confectioners' sugar before serving.

Ladyfingers are best the day they are made. When I include them in a cookie or sweet assortment I bake the Ladyfingers right as I am gathering all the other cookies and sweets. They are the final item to be included on the tray. This way they are fresh and at there best for eating.
Ladyfingers can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container. They may also be frozen to extend their useful life. 

Hearts and Strawberry Roses Charlotte - uses Heart Ladyfingers