Three-Layer Berry and Brown Sugar Pavlova


I’ve said this before and I can’t really explain it in logical terms, but when you live on the water, what you see when you look out your window at any given moment, seems to play a big part in how you view the world. Or more specifically, what type of mood you view it in. I know. It makes no sense to me either and I’m living it. But water, at least for me, can be very calm, warm, blue and therapeutic…. or it can be fierce, cold, gray and angry. That’s how I see it. It affects my entire day. Oh sometimes there’s an in-between, but when it seems to affect me most, is when the water is at one extreme or the other. I am happy to report, that after complaining the other day about the frozen gray lake I woke up to when I was so over-ready for spring, that the lake has actually finally broken up…the ice is gone… and now it’s looking

something more like this…



A couple of days ago, I even woke up to this…


… and these… early spring babies!




Aaaahhh…such a good thing.

So what am I getting at? I guess that recently I’m feeling pretty good and I’m pretty sure it has to do with the lake breaking and the sure sign that spring has finally arrived here in Madison… and it got me to thinking about…. Pavlova. I know… sorry segue but true…  I always think of Pavlova in the spring. This light and airy dessert originated in Australia. Or New Zealand. Depending on who you talk to. Both Aussies and New Zealanders have laid claim to this brilliant dessert and the only thing they can seem to agree on fully, is that it was originally invented in honor of the touring Anna Pavlova, a famous Russian ballerina who was known to be a “light and airy” dancer.


I love making this in the spring, before we start getting too deep into the heat and humidity of summer, which can be tough on meringue. I also love to use the big new fresh berries that first show themselves in the markets in spring.Throw in a little whipped topping and the combination is heavenly. It’s fun and kind of funky to make and here is a really special version from Gourmet from 2009 that takes it to a whole new (ahem) level, using three layers. It’s a beautiful, showpiece of a dessert and tastes every bit as good as it looks. It’s light, crackly, a little chewy, not too sweet and absolutely delicious. Perfect for spring.

Start out beating your egg whites until soft peaks form… and then finish whipping your meringue after adding sugar mixture. Bake and cool according to directions.







Three-Layer Berry and Brown Sugar Pavlova

Gourmet  | July 2009

yield: Makes 8 servings

active time: 30 min

total time: 2 1/2 hr

By its very nature, a Pavlova is a little wild—as proved by these three tiers of airy meringue, which crack and crumble to reveal marshmallowy interiors while the berries’ juices puddle all over drifts of whipped cream. And that playful mix of textures and flavors sure tastes delicious. Meringues aren’t usually made with moist brown sugar, but here it adds a deeper kind of sweetness. Baking them in cake pans, another unusual technique, helps these meringues crisp up


For meringue:

Confectioners sugar for dusting

1 cup superfine granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

3/4 cup egg whites (from 5 to 6 large eggs) at room temperature 30 minutes

For berries:

1 1/2 pounds strawberries, trimmed and quartered

1 pound blackberries

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For cream:

1 cup chilled heavy cream

1/3 cup chilled sour cream


Make meringue:

Preheat oven to 275°F with rack in middle. Lightly butter 3 (8-inch) round cake pans, then dust sides of pans with confectioners sugar, knocking out excess. Line bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper.

Pulse superfine sugar, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a food processor until well combined.

Stir together vanilla and vinegar in a small bowl.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more. Add vinegar mixture, then beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. Spoon meringue into pans (about 2 1/2 cups per pan) and smooth tops.

Bake until meringues have a crisp crust and feel dry to the touch, about 1 hour (insides will still be marshmallow-like).

Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringues in oven 1 hour. (Meringues may sink slightly and crack while cooling.)

Run knife along sides of cake pans and carefully turn meringues out of pans. Carefully peel off parchment (meringues will be fragile and the crust may crack further). Carefully turn right side up.

Macerate fruit while meringues cool:

Toss berries with sugar and let stand at room temperature until ready to use (up to 1 hour).

Assemble dessert:

Beat heavy cream with sour cream using an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks. Put 1 meringue on a serving plate and spread one third of whipped cream over it. Spoon one third of fruit (with juice) over top. Repeat with remaining meringues, cream, and fruit.

Cooks’ note:

Meringues can be frozen, individually wrapped, up to 1 month; thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature for at least 2 hours.

4 thoughts on “Three-Layer Berry and Brown Sugar Pavlova

  1. Oh my, Julie this looks even better than the ones I used to gorge on back in my homeland NZ! Thanks for the recipe.I’ll be trying to make this when the weather warms up here in Switzerland.

  2. First of all the pictures of the lake are so beautiful and so is the sunrise, when I finally get to live near water I will just ignore its mood and learn to carry my weather with me. After having a week at 65°F we woke up to another bout of snow….but I love the white roofs,it reminds me of Christmas, and I just spent some time taking photos. This dessert looks so delicious, like I said before you have some great recipes here!!! Thanks for always being at My Favourite Pastime, when I see your Gravatar, I feel happy. Have a great weekend! Hope the lake will behave itself…..

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