Charlotte Russe sounds like a fancy Continental dessert, and it is. So how improbable is it that for a time — from about 1900 to 1960 — Charlotte Russe was one of the most popular street foods in New York. Of course it differed quite a bit from the classic version. “Charla droosh”, as interpreted by corner bakers in Brooklyn and the Bronx, was a thick round of spongecake baked in a cardboard mold, topped with a mound of whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles (sometimes) and a cherry. For kids growing up in New York in the first half of the 20th Century, it was very big stuff.
In fact charla droosh was so popular it inspired New York City’s most famous baking-related political takedown. The year was 1959, and political boss John R. Crews of Brooklyn was asked what he thought of New York’s relatively inexperienced mayor, Robert Wagner. Crews replied that Wagner was such a political lightweight that he could “tap dance on a Charlotte Russe” without leaving a dimple. How’s that for trash talk? Ouch.