Every so often I bake something that gets me thinking ‘wow.’ This pavlova was one such thing. I got the idea from Nigella, having recently bought one of her books and while ogling the pages (I mostly look at the photographs at first flick through) I saw a delightful looking coffee pavlova. I quite like Nigella, her cooking technique is simple yet stylish, she doesn’t mind admitting to cutting corners and is not snobby in her approach. Any of her recipes I have attempted myself have always turned out beautifully. This pavlova was no exception.
I have heard and read that some think meringue is difficult to make. I am not sure why, although it did make me slightly nervous to try it myself. My first attempt at meringue frosting for this cake had me scraping it off to make a second much nicer looking batch as it flopped with my constant prodding and shaping. The cake was my first entry in The Good Guys challenge as part of Voices of 2013, so it had to be as perfect as I could possibly make it (I was not going to miss out on the fabulous prize of a kitchen makeover through lack of effort). Despite this, I was not turned off making meringue, and haven’t found it difficult to master.
One thing I do when making meringue is ensure I use a clean bowl free of grease or fat. Apparently egg whites don’t like to peak if they come into contact with fat. So to play it safe, I wipe the inside of a glass bowl with cut lemon, then dry it. As a general rule, my clever friend Megan told me for every egg white you add 1/4 cup sugar, and this has worked well for me too. Aside from that, I think as long as your meringue turns a nice silky, white, glossy colour, you’re good.
My Mum is the pavlova queen, she makes them piled high with delicious fresh cut fruit. I will make a fruit one next, but for my first try I wanted to make it a chocolate flavour. And summer brings with it cherries, so of course they were piled high on top. There’s not much else to say about it except for little labour you wind up with quite the pretty creation. And delightfully delicious too!
Ingredients // Recipe inspired by Nigella Lawson
6 large egg whites
1 ½ cups caster sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
For the topping:
3 tablespoons icing sugar
500g fresh cherries
Cocoa powder and icing sugar for decorating
Preheat oven to 180C. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. If you want, you can trace a circle on each paper as a guide for when you are making the meringue circle shapes. Or you can freehand it, like I did. I made one layer slightly smaller than the other, which became my top layer. Spray one side of paper with cooking oil and place that side down to ensure the paper does not move on the tray (very important when you’re trying to smooth out the meringue).
Whisk egg whites in a bowl until soft peaks form. Add sugar a tablespoon at a time while continuing to whisk. Once all sugar has been added, continue to whisk for 5-10 minutes until meringue is glossy and smooth. You can essentially turn your bowl upside down and the meringue will not move (I actually tested this, and it worked). Gently fold in cocoa powder, balsamic and chocolate.
Using a spatula, pour the meringue onto both trays and shape into circles. You can smooth the mixture out but I wanted mine to look somewhat messy, so I left the little peaks and waves as they were.
Place into oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 150C. Bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hour, until meringue is crispy. Turn off oven and leave meringue to cool inside with door slightly ajar.
Note: Meringue can be made 4 days in advance, store layers separately in airtight containers.
To make the topping:
Whip cream in a bowl until peaks form. Add mascarpone and icing sugar to bowl and whip on low speed until slightly thickened and combined well. Do not over beat, as the mascarpone will curdle (learned that the hard way).
To assemble pavlova:
Peel paper off the larger of the two meringue discs and place gently onto a cake stand or large plate. Pour half of the mascarpone and cream mixture on top, smooth out to cover meringue.
Gently place second meringue disc on top of the mascarpone, pour remaining mascarpone on top and smooth out again. Dust with sifted cocoa powder.
Top with cherries and sprinkle the top with icing sugar. Cut, eat, and all hail Nigella!