Mixed Berry Pavlova Layer Cake
Don't look so surprised. I know what you're thinking. A pavlova? What? Why?
Typically, the desserts you'll find on this blog fall under the categories of cookies, brownies, cakes, and occasionally pies. We don't usually get so fancy around here.
But it's Passover. Which means desserts with flour are prohibited. And I already posted a gluten-free chocolate lava cake recipe last week. And pavlovas are A - flourless, B - delicious, and C- beautiful. So really, you should be thinking, "Oh, a mixed berry pavlova layer cake! Of course!"
And just in case you have no idea what a pavlova is, it's a cake made up of layers of meringue discs filled with whipped cream and fruit. And topped with some more more whipped cream and fruit.
Pavlovas originated in Australia and New Zealand, which could explain why the first time I ever heard of or spotted this dessert was when I went to Australia. It could. Or it could be a very great coincidence.
Behold, three layers of chewy, marshmallow-like meringue discs. Or edible clouds. Both descriptions are accurate.
Filled with freshly whipped and lightly sweetened cream.
Garnished and filled generously with an assortment of berries.
I used blueberries and strawberries in my pavlova cake. I would have loved to fill my cake with raspberries and blackberries too, but unfortunately, every grocery store in the area was out of them.
But what's great about a pavlova is that it's an extremely versatile dessert. Customize yours any way you'd like.
Use any combination of fruits, sweeten the whipped cream to your liking, and garnish the cake however you desire. Chocolate curls, melted chocolate, fruit sauce drizzles, toasted nuts or coconut flakes, edible flowers - all are acceptable.
Though it may seem like this dessert is a trickier one to pull off, it's not really. The components are pretty simple.
Let's start with the meringue. If you've never made meringues before, I have a tutorial I posted a while back on making perfect meringues that you can check out to help you along the way.
The meringue recipe I use here produces meringues that hold their shape very well and are so amazingly perfectly chewy and perfect and amazing.
But unlike regular meringues which you pipe out into star shapes and bake off as individual cookies, here you simply spread the meringue batter with your spatula into three discs. It's okay if your discs are a little uneven or nonuniform. I like to think of it as "rustic."
No, seriously, I prefer a pavlova cake with a more rustic look to one where the meringue discs are piped out all exactly the same way.
As for the whipped cream, simply pour the heavy cream, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla extract into your machine and beat the mixture for two minutes until soft peaks form. Once the meringues have baked and cooled, spread a generous dollop of whipped cream onto the first layer, top with fruits, and repeat for the second and third layers.
Pavlova cakes are quite delicate and don't last very long. So if you want to make this dessert a day in advance, bake the meringue layers and prepare the whipped cream and fruit but don't assemble the cake until you're ready to serve it.
All the components of this dessert are light and airy and delicate and sweet. Meringues - light and airy and delicate and sweet. Whipped cream - light and airy and delicate and sweet. Fruit - okay, maybe not light and airy, but definitely delicate and sweet.
But there are definitely people out there that love this type of thing. And you may even be one of these people. You're gonna find some people, who when they hear what makes up a pavlova, will tell you it's their dream dessert. You know, the type of people who like the frosting better than the cake.
I can't say I will ever understand these people, but I don't judge (okay, I judge them a little bit. How do people eat that fondant stuff?? Eeeeek).
Ask around. Find a friend or family member that would love a mixed berry pavlova layer cake. Or maybe you would love a mixed berry pavlova layer cake. Make this for them. Or for yourself. You'll make their life. Or your own life.
mixed berry layer pavlova cake
Yield: 8" 3-layer cake
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-Berries of choice (I used 2 1/2 large containers of strawberries and 2 small containers of blueberries)
Preheat oven to 275 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Draw two 8'' circles on one of the sheets of parchment paper (spaced apart) and one 8'' circle on the second parchment paper. You can trace around an 8" round pan to get a perfect circle. Flip the parchment sheets over so the ink is on the other side.
Place the egg whites, sugar, and salt into the clean, dry bowl of your electric stand mixer (or any metal bowl) and place over a pot of simmering water, creating a double boiler. (Click here for a step-by-step tutorial on making meringues.)
Whisk mixture constantly over a low flame for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch (110 F).
Transfer bowl to machine fitted with a wire whip attachment and whip on high speed for about 6-10 minutes, or until you have a glossy meringue with stiff peaks.
Spread the meringue evenly into the 3 prepared circles with a spatula. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are dry and crisp on the outside and the edges can be lifted off the sheets. They should still be marshmallow-like on the inside.
Let the layers cool completely and firm up some more before assembling. Layers may crack on top - it's okay, they will be covered. Always be gentle when lifting the meringue layers as they're very delicate.
Whipped Cream: Clean out your machine bowl and whip attachment. Beat the heavy cream, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla extract with the wire whip for a few minutes until you get soft peaks. Be careful not to over beat or mixture will turn into butter.
Assembly: Place thickest meringue layer on cake board or serving platter so it can hold the weight of the other layers. Spread 1/3 of the whipped cream over the meringue. Sprinkle berries (if using strawberries, cut them up as desired) on top of the cream. Place second thickest layer on top and spread with cream and fruit again. Place last layer on top, spread with final 1/3 of the cream, and top with a generous layer of berries.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
On a completely unrelated note, anyone else?