A pavlova is a cake with a baked meringue base. If you’re looking for a flourless chocolate cake with fresh fruit, this simple recipe from nigella.com is the answer. It’s a recipe with some quirky British-isms (e.g. “squidginess”) but the rest, like “sieved,” you can figure out. For ease of use, I converted the measurements from grams to ounces. I made one mistake and that was I used liquid egg whites instead of fresh egg whites. The reason why liquid egg whites is a bad idea is because they have impurities in them that prevent them from whipping up into a meringue. It still came out all right though the meringue wasn’t as light and as fluffy as it should have been. Nevertheless, the cake turned out slightly sweet and refreshing. Like eating a giant macaroon, a pavlova is the perfect summer dessert!
FOR THE CHOCOLATE MERINGUE BASE:
- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups (300g) caster sugar (superfine)
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved (sifted)
- 1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 2 oz (50g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
FOR THE TOPPING:
- 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream (at least 36% milk fat)
- 2 cups (500g) raspberries
- 2-3 tablespoons coarsely grated dark chocolate
- Prepare to bake. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180°C/gas mark 4) and line a large baking tray with baking parchment. You want to use a large tray in case the meringue spreads as it bakes. Gently rinse the raspberries and spread them to dry on paper towels. To chop the chocolate, I cut a big sheet of waxed paper and put the chocolate in the middle of it. Start with a corner and use a serrated knife to whittle the chocolate into pieces. After several cuts, turn the chocolate to another corner and repeat. The waxed paper makes it easier to tip the chocolate shavings into the bowl.
- Prepare the egg whites. [The Cake Baker’s Note: Make sure the bowl and beaters are free of grease and there is no yolk in the egg whites.] In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar one tablespoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle on top of the beaten egg whites the cocoa, vinegar, and the chopped chocolate. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the additions until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound the meringue on the prepared baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 9 inches (23cm) in diameter, smoothing the sides and top.
- Bake the meringue. Place the meringue in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300˚F (150°C/gas mark 2) and bake for about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Nigella says, “When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the centre you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers.” Thanks to Encarta, I learned squidgy means “soft, damp, and yielding.” Turn off the oven and open the door slightly to allow the meringue to thoroughly cool.
- Decorate the cake. Just before serving, invert the cooled meringue on to a big serving plate. Whisk the cream until soft peaks form and spread it on top of the meringue. Scatter or place the raspberries on top. Nigella writes, “Coarsely grate the chocolate so that you get curls rather than rubble, as you don’t want the raspberries’ luscious colour and form to be obscured, and sprinkle haphazardly over the top, letting some fall, as it will, on the plate’s rim.”
The meringue base is supposed to crack like this, showing just a hint of the rich chocolate inside. Next time I would use a darker chocolate, perhaps 70-80% cacao. As you can see that thin meringue base wasn’t able to hold up its half of the cake. Tip: Cut the cake with a serrated knife and use a sawing motion. Don’t press down.