When we were little, there was one pudding that my non-pudding-making mother would occasionally make: pavlova. We would watch it being made, placed carefully into a low oven. We were barely allowed to watch it whilst it cooked, so keen was the fear of cracking. When it came out, little fingers weren’t permitted to pry or poke. Then it was crowned with cream and accoutrements, and placed in the back porch – desperately tempting, and absolutely forbidden. I thought it was the most impossibly glamorous pudding.
We were never present for the grand unveiling. Pavlova was strictly a dinner party indulgence; we were pyjama’d and tucked in long before pudding was reached. But leftovers were always promised and, on the one occasion they were not forthcoming, the sense of betrayal was deep and longlasting.
I can’t quite shake off the glamour of these formative pavlovas, served when my mother was at her most beautiful: manicured and made up, in evening wear. This is my homage to my mother’s pavlovas, often made with soft, ripe fruit, but sometimes topped with chocolate and marshmallow: a filling that would fell the most stoic of little girls with longing.
It’s one of my favourites: an undulating crisp exterior hiding a marshmallowy base, filled with boozy, jammy cream, topped with rich, ever so slightly bitter ganache and ripe cherries. English cherries are particularly gorgeous this summer, and this pudding allows them to be the rightful star of the show. This is a great pudding for a supper with friends: it can be made entirely in advance, and with significantly less fuss than a black forest gateau proper. It also feels eminently more manageable to take a slice of meringue after a full meal than it does cake or hot pudding. And then maybe another one. No one ever declines pavlova.
It goes like this:
Black Forest Pavlova
Makes: A dinner plate sized pavlova (serves six)
Takes: 2 hours
Bakes: 1 hour 15
For the pavlova
3 egg whites
250g caster sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon cornflour
A teaspoon of lemon juice
For the ganache
80g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
For the filling
200ml double cream
4 tablespoons of morello cherry jam
A splash of kirsch or creme de cassis
A small punnet of cherries
1. First, make your pavlova. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Wipe the inside of a bowl with the lemon juice on a little piece of kitchen towel or baking paper to get rid of any grease. Beat the egg whites on low until little bubbles appear, and then whack the speed up to high; beat until they reach stiff peaks (the beaten whites will stand up on their own and not flop over at all).
2. Add the sugar bit by bit, each time beating the mixture back to stiff glossiness before the next addition. Add the cornflour and vinegar, and briefly rewhip. Spoon into a piping bag, if using.
3. Draw a large circle, the size of your desired pavlova on a piece of grease-proof paper (I draw round a dinner plate). Fix this to a baking tray with a couple of small blobs of meringue, which will stop it moving around. Spoon or pipe your meringue onto the paper in the outline of the circle, and then fill in the rest of the circle. Pipe or spoon blobs in a second layer around the outside of the circle to create a raised edge.
4. Place the pavlova in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 150 degrees C. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Don’t open the oven during this period. When the pavlova’s had its time, turn the oven off, and crack the door of the oven open, but leave the pavlova in there to completely cool.
5. Make the ganache by heating the cream in a small pan until it is steaming but not quite boiling. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and leave for 5 minutes. Stir the cream and chocolate gently until they are combined. Pour into a piping bag if you’re using one, and allow to completely cool.
6. Place the cream in a large mixing bowl and add the kirsch or creme de cassis. Whisk until it forms stiff-ish peaks. Mix through the morello cherry jam with a spoon until fairly evenly distributed.
7. Spoon the jammy-boozy-cream onto the pavlova base. Pipe or spoon on the ganache across the cream. Top with cherries.
8. Ta dah!
Icing on the Cake
We had this for breakfast, lunch and supper. It was still good after three days in the fridge, and I stuffed the final remnants into a tupperware , slightly smashing the meringue, and getting cream and chocolate all over me, and we ate it on a sunny Thursday evening, next to Regent’s Canal, and it was damn near perfect.