Not so long ago I had a big birthday celebration for Baby Lemonade turning one. I made her a vanilla sponge cake with buttermilk frosting for daycare and she positively hated it. She is not easy to please when it comes to dessert so for our family celebration I decided to wow her with something really special hoping she would like it. How do you please a toddler who loves savory food and doesn’t care for sweets? I am still working on the answer for that but I knew that for her birthday she should have a cake with flavors that she likes: unsweetened whipped cream and a TON of berries.
I made a pavlova from a recipe I found on Joy of Baking and it was a huge success. Not only Baby Lemonade liked it but our next door neighbor mentioned that it would be a great dessert for passover. Plus, it’s GLUTEN FREE and quite frankly gorgeous!
Word to the wise: get all the elements of the recipe ready but assemble the pavlova last. I made it into a 2 tiered cake and it doesn’t keep very long… but it is so delicious that you’ll likely scarf it down quite quickly.
Fresh fruit – kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, passion fruit, peaches, pineapple, or other fruit of your choice
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (130 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7 inch (18 cm) circle on the paper. Turn the parchment paper over so the circle is on the reverse side.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and lemon juice on medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat, on high speed, until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks. (Test to see if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers). Beat in the vanilla extract. Spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)
Bake for 60 to 75 minutesor until the outside is dry and is a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)
The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days.
Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Whip the cream in your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the fruit in a decorative pattern, on top of the cream. Cover with the second disk of merengue and repeat the decoration. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.