Cocoa Cherry Pavlova Cake with Spiced Cream
It's E's birthday this past weekend. Last year I made him a meringata - an frozen Italian dessert that involves cream sandwiched between two layers of meringue. E thinks it's a "light" dessert. In fact, that's only one of the many binary terms E uses to describe food. "Light" or "heavy", "chewy" or "cakey", "too sweet" or "not sweet enough" are some of the usual comments I get. I'm not going to argue as long as he likes it.
For me, this pavlova is rich and satisfying, but not so dense that you can only eat a bite of it. The meringue cracks open at the slightest touch of a fork, but collapses into a chewy nougat-like texture as you chew. I considered lots of combinations of flavours, but opted for cherries which E loves.
We had a wonderful surprise dinner which involved lots of things dipped in melted cheese. Plus E had no clue that all his close friends would be waiting for him to get home on a Friday night so it was a total success! I don't know how long pavlova stays fresh because I assembled it right before serving, and everything was wiped clean, especially with the help of half a dozen bottles of champagne/wine over hours of laughing.
Cocoa Cherry Pavlova with Spiced Cream
Makes 1-8" double layer cake. Adapted from Tanya Zouev.
For the meringue:
8 egg whites
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dutch cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
For the topping:
2 cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-24.7 ounce jar of morello cherries (I used Trader Joe's brand)
1-16oz bag of frozen dark sweet cherries
½ cup chopped pistachio meat
orange rind of 1 orange
Prep work. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Place a sheet of baking paper on two large baking sheets and draw an 8″ circle with a pencil. Flip the baking paper around.
- Make meringue layers. Separate the eggs; prepare two bowls, one for the whites and one for the yolks, pour the whites into the bowl of your standmixer, making sure no yolks have contaminated it. With the whisk attachment, beat your egg whites at low speed, when it turns frothy, increase to medium speed, until it reaches soft peaks. Now add your sugar slowly along with the vanilla essence, one tablespoon at a time and beat at medium-high speed until it forms stiff peaks.
- Sift the cocoa powder directly on top of the meringue and fold gently, making sure you leave streaks of cocoa rather than fully incorporating it.
- With a rubber spatula, divide the meringue into the two rounds on the baking sheets. Place meringues in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 250˚F. Bake for 90 minutes then turn off oven, and only remove the meringues until the oven is completely cooled.
- While the meringues are in the oven, prepare garnishes. Drain the morello cherries and thawed dark sweet cherries into a colander with a bowl underneath to catch the syrup.*
- Pour the cherry syrup into a saucepan and over medium heat reduce it down to a thick syrup consistency, about 5-10 minutes. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
- In another mixing bowl, beat the cream until frothy, and add in the spices and vanilla extract. Continue beating until medium peaks form.
- Right before serving, assemble the cake. With a silicone spatula spread half of the cream over the bottom meringue, place cherries on the cream along with half of the chopped pistachios. Place the top meringue layer over the cream. Spread the remaining cream over it along with the cherries, nuts. Drizzle the cherry syrup over the entire pavlova and shave over some orange rind.
* You won't need all your cherries, but I like the look of two different kinds of cherries, especially since the morello cherries lose their colour in the syrup