Updated: Apr 18
Recently, my daughter, Cilia, and I binge-watched Samin Nostrat's Netflix series, "Salt Fat Acid Heat." If you haven't watched it, I highly recommend it. While watching the "Acid" episode, Mexican chef, Regina Escalante Bush, introduced us to Pavlova.
Pavlova is a merengue-based dessert. The outer crust of the merengue is crisp and chewy while the center is soft, marshmallow-y, almost custard-like.
Regina pours a thickened cream over the merengue and adds slices of citrus fruits. She grates some Mexican chocolate on top and drizzled a little honey.
"Can you make that for my birthday, Mom," Cilia said.
"I can try," I said.
I made a slightly different version, making one large merengue cake instead of individual merengue cookies. I whipped heavy cream and lightly sweetened it with powdered sugar. I used blackberries and raspberries as my acid (which worked like magic to cut through the sweetness).
I mean it when I say it's the easiest and most unique cake I've ever made, and that's fitting for a year when, because of COVID-19, we had to celebrate my daughter's birthday in a unique way - virtually.
I propped my computer to face the birthday girl. We sent a Zoom invite to aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. The lag-time made our chorus of Happy Birthday sound more like a tortuous take on singing in the round, but we laughed, and sang, and the people shut up in my house with me ate Pavlova.
4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pint heavy cream
2-4 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint of blackberries
1 pint of raspberries
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 9-inch circle on the paper. (I used the bottom of a cake pan as my stencil.)
In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. (Make sure no yolk is present.)
With the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar a little at a time.
Once the mixture becomes thick and shiny, shut of the mixer.
Gently fold in the vanilla extract, lemon juice, and cornstarch.
Gently spoon the merengue in the center of the circle, working outward until merengue covers the entire circle.
Bake for 1 hour. Take it out of the oven and let it cool on a wire rack.
In the meantime, in an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk 1 quart of heavy cream, 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar, and vanilla. Beat. Taste for sweetness and add more
powdered sugar if desired. Beat until cream is stiff enough to frost the top of the cake.
Once merengue is completely cooled, spread the whipped cream on top and add the berries.
I really only have two things to say. 1. I love the taste and texture of this cake. Next time I think I will try the chocolate and honey and maybe experiment with some tropical and citrus fruits. 2. When I baked this cake and let it cool, I assembled it and served it right away. It had such a strong sent of eggs that I didn't know if I could eat it. The solution, stick it in the fridge first. I'm not sure what chemical, scientific thing happens, but letting it chill completely in the refrigerator made the smell of eggs totally disappear.