Memorial Day is coming up this weekend and many of you will be hosting or attending Memorial Day BBQs and get-togethers. I wanted to throw this dessert recipe into the mix in case anyone still needed an easy, crowd pleasing dessert. Whenever I serve this dessert or bring to get-togethers I usually get a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” along with, “What is that?” This is a dessert that people notice and talk about, so be ready to answer questions. If you like creamy custardy marshmallowy desserts, highlighted with fruit in every bite, then you’ll like this one. It puts seasonal fresh fruit with all its vibrant colors and flavors onto center stage.This dessert has a pavlova base on which you layer custard, fresh fruit and whipped cream on top. A pavlova is a dessert that originated in Australia and named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova (in case someone asks). It is made primarily of egg whites, so it’s merengue-based with a soft center and crispy outside. The custard layer adds a sweet creamy element, the tangy fruit brings the flavor punch, and the pavlova adds a soft marshmallowy texture into the mix. Here try a bite.
Once you add the custard to the base, let your creativity take over and create your masterpiece! I had strawberries and pineapples on hand, so that’s what I used. Fruits that are a little tart, like any kind of berries, go especially well with this dessert. Pile on whatever fruit you like on top and have fun “making it look pretty.” Kids love this part, it’s like an edible art project for them which they then proudly get to share with everyone.
When I go to a get-together where the dessert will be on a buffet table, potluck style then I add a layer of cool-whip on top of the custard and below the fruit, it seems to hold better. Choose fruits that are a little less runny like blackberries or raspberries if your dessert will be left out. The crisp outer layer of the pavlova probably won’t be crispy anymore, but the dessert will still taste delicious. If I’m serving this at home, I usually whip up real heavy cream and add that on top of the custard below the fruit right before serving. Sometimes when I want just a little hint of whipped cream (keep things lighter), I add whipped cream from a can on top of the fruit sparingly (see pictures). This whipped cream won’t hold long, so this has to be done immediately before serving.
Another fun element is adding a splash of fruit “paint” (fruit puree) for that extra wow factor. Not too much though, one year my daughter added so much puree that it was a pavlova soup, thankfully it was still tasty. The magic is in the combination of all the parts coming together to form the perfect bite in your mouth.
Crowd Pleaser Pavlova
I usually double this recipe and serve as one giant pavlova to feed a crowd.
- 4 egg whites
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Preheat oven to 250°F.
- Brush baking tray with oil, dust lightly with sifted cornstarch (or use a tray with a silpat).
- Beat egg whites until soft peak forms.
- Add sugar gradually, beat until thick and glossy.
- Fold in vanilla, vinegar and cornstarch.
- Spread merengue onto tray in a circle about 8-9 inches in diameter (you want it on the thicker side).
- Bake 1.5 hours.
- Optional, if you want a very crisp outer layer, you can turn off the oven and leave overnight or at least for a couple of hours.
- Be careful when you remove the pavlova from the tray. Gently slide a spatula underneath (all around) until the pavlova is loosened from the tray, before moving to serving tray. If the pavlova breaks, piece it together on your serving tray and cover with all of your toppings. (No one will ever know!).
- Add custard (recipe below), whipped cream, fruit (however much or however little you want) and berry sauce on top. For best results assemble immediately before serving.
- 1 1/4 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup +1 tablespoon of sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of flour
- Combine milk and vanilla in a small pot and heat over medium heat until just before boiling point (should start to see small bubles on the edges, but not boiling).
- Beat egg yolks and sugar until light in color.
- Add the flour and fold in to the yolk mixure.
- Add a small amount of the scalded milk and temper the egg mixture (quickly stir after adding a small amount of milk). Stir in the rest of the milk.
- Strain mixture.
- Heat on medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.
- Let cool, lay plastic wrap over the custard to prevent a film from forming.
I made 2 pavlovas (regular and chocolate) with two types of custard (vanilla and chocolate) to bring to a Memorial Day get-together. I had my daughter and another girl assemble the dessert the way they wanted and the combinations they came up with were very tasty:
They added both types of custard to each pavlova base (1/2 on each side) then layered cool whip on top and finally added a mix of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. I thought they did a very nice job!!
For the chocolate custard, I melted in 1.5 oz of semi-sweet chocolate to the custard before cooling. This amount of chocolate had a nice not overly chocolate flavor.