This Earl Grey pavlova is a beautiful twist to the classic palvova with beautiful bergamot notes in the crispy shell and sweet marshmallowy center crowned by lightly sweetened whipped cream and jammy figs.
My obsession with Earl Grey started over a decade ago after discovering the London Fog at Le Marche St Georges, a lovely neighborhood cafe in Vancouver. Over the years, I’ve experienced with Earl Grey desserts like cake, babka, creme brulee, pots de creme, and ice cream. After many failures, I’m happy to add Earl Grey Pavlova to my ever growing list of Earl Grey desserts. The pavlova has a light and lovely Earl Grey flavor, crowned by lightly sweetened whipped cream and in season figs with a drizzle of Earl Grey syrup. This is the ultimate treat for the Earl Grey aficionados!
The Science Behind Pavlova
To achieve the perfect texture of pavlova, crispy on the outside, but fluffy, soft and marshmallow-like on the inside, you’ll need a few essential ingredients.
- Sugar: sugar molecules support and stabilize the proteins in egg whites. Superfine sugar dissolves more readily than granulated and is preferable. Make your own by processing granulated sugar in a food processor until powdery for two minutes. I found that a sugar ratio of at least 1 3/4 ounces sugar to one egg white will result in a stable pavlova.
- Cream of tartar: is an acid to help stabilize and give more volume to the beaten egg whites.
- Vinegar: is an acid used in place of cream of tartar to stabilize and give more volume to the beaten egg whites. I use white wine or distilled white vinegar. You can also use lemon juice in equal amounts instead of vinegar.
- Cornstarch: stabilizes and keeps the meringue from shrinking when baked.
How to Make the Earl Grey Sugar
The best way to infuse Earl Grey flavor into the meringue is using Earl Grey sugar. To make the Earl Grey sugar, combine 1 tablespoon of loose Earl Grey tea leaves with 2 tablespoons of sugar in a spice blender and process until fine. If you don’t have a spice blender, use a pestle and mortar to blend the ingredients together.
The Swiss Meringue Method
My favorite method for making pavlova is the Swiss meringue where egg whites and sugar are whisked over a saucepan of simmering water (or double boiler) to warm them to 170 degrees F allowing the egg white proteins to coagulate despite the high concentration of sugar, creating a more stable meringue. Then the mixture is whipped with an electric mixer into stiff, glossy peaks.
How to Shape the Pavlova
To shape the pavlova, drawn an 8-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper. Place the paper on a baking sheet. Flip the paper over and spoon the meringue over the drawn circle. Use a palette knife to smooth the sides and top. Then use the same palette knife, drag the side of the meringue from the bottom upwards into peaks. Repeat around the entire edge.
Essential Tips for Baking Pavlova
- Humidity is pavlova’s nemesis. The sugar in the meringue attracts moisture from the air, preventing it from drying and crisping properly and resulting in a soggy, sticky meringue. For the best results, avoid making the meringue on a humid or rainy day.
- Fat is the other enemy of pavlova. Even a trace can prevent the egg whites from whipping to their maximum volume and cause the whipped meringue to fall or deflate. A tiny bit of egg yolk that got into the egg whites, grease in your bowl or whisk, and natural oils on your hands can affect the result of the pavlova. To counter this, I use lemon juice to clean the bowl and whisk to get rid of any grease. Make sure everything that the egg whites touch is unscrupulously clean and dry.
- I like to bake the pavlova the night before and leave it to cool completely in the oven overnight. After testing different temperatures and baking times, I found that baking them at 225 degrees F for 70-75 minutes results in the best texture with the perfect crisp shell and marshmallowy center. You need to let the pavlova nests cool down in the oven for a minimum of 2 hours.
- Deflated pavlova: most likely a trace of egg yolk got into the egg whites causing the pavlova to be unstable. Unfortunately, this situation is not salvageable.
- Weeping: when liquid seeps out of the pavlova and forms a puddle at the bottom. This could happen due to undissolved sugar not integrated in the egg white structure, absorbing water, and causing weeping. Overbeating the egg whites will also cause them to lose their structure and unable to hold onto the sugar resulting in weeping. Whisking the egg white on low speed introduces the air slowly, decreases risk of over-beating egg whites, and allows the sugar to dissolve completely resulting in a more stable structure.
- Beading: overcooking leads to beads of moisture or liquid forming on the pavlova’s surface. Try increasing the oven’s temperature and decreasing the baking time to prevent the internal temperature from becoming too hot.
- Cracking or collapsing: opening the oven door as soon as it’s done baking and letting all the heat out will cause cracks to form on the pavlova surface. The sudden change in temperature will cause the center to shrink rapidly resulting in the pavlova cracking and collapsing. Allowing the pavlova to cool down gradually in the oven after baking will prevent the change in temperature. It’s also important to NOT open the oven during baking. If the pavlova has collapsed slightly in the center or has cracks, you can still serve the pavlova as long as it’s not weeping. The whipped cream will cover all the cracks and no one will notice.
- Brown or burnt pavlova: when the oven temperature is too hot, the pavlova can caramelize and have an off-white color. Reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees F next time you bake.
When to Assemble Pavlova
I like to assemble the pavlova close to serving time so the moisture from the whipped cream, Earl Grey syrup, and fresh figs don’t affect the texture of the pavlova. Once the Earl Grey pavlova is assembled, it will stay nice and crisp for a few hours. If you leave the assembled pavlova in the fridge overnight, it will absorb moisture from the surrounding and become soft. An unassembled pavlova can be stored in an airtight container for 72 hours.
Out of all the pavlovas I’ve made until now, this one is my favorite so far! The meringue has a subtle and lovely floral note. Paired with lightly sweetened whipped cream and in season figs, it makes a magnificent dessert. My Earl Grey pavlova makes the perfect centerpiece for any special occasions.
For more pavlova inspiration, check these recipes: red currant peach pavlova nests, strawberry elderflower pavlova, Swiss meringue pavlova nests with lemon curd and blueberries, fig pavlova with orange blossom cream, rose water rhubarb Swiss meringue pavlova nests.
Earl Grey Pavlova with Figs
Earl Grey Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea leaves
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 6 egg whites
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
Earl Grey Syrup
- 1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea leaves
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup mascarpone
- 6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- 1 pound fresh figs, halved or quartered if large
- To make the Earl grey sugar, process tea leaves and 1/2 cup of the sugar until leaves are finely ground.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper large enough to line a baking tray. Trace an 8-inch circle on the paper then place on baking tray, traced-side down.
- For the meringue, place egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer (or a heatproof bowl) set over a saucepan of gently simmering water to make a double boiler making sure the water does not touch the bottom.
- Using a large balloon whisk, gradually whisk in the sugar and Earl Grey sugar. Whisking constantly, heat the egg and sugar mixture until it reads 170°F on a candy thermometer and the mixture starts to froth and sugar dissolves.
- Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk the mix on high speed for about 7-8 minutes until stiff peaks form.
- Turn the mixer to low, add in the vinegar and corn starch, then whisk on high speed for another minute until well combined.
- Place a smidge of the meringue in each corner of the baking sheet to stick down the parchment paper so that it does not move when you are shaping the pavlova.
- Spread meringue mixture over the circle on the baking paper. Use a palette knife to smooth the sides and top. Then use the same palette knife, drag the side of the meringue from the bottom upwards into peaks. Repeat around the entire edge.
- Place the pavlova in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 225°F. Bake the pavlova for 70-75 minutes.
- When the pavlova is done baking, without opening the oven door, turn off the oven and allow the pavlova to cool in the oven for a minimum of two hours.
- Whip the mascarpone, heavy cream, orange blossom water, and powdered sugar together until thick and smooth and soft peaks form. Refrigerate for 2 hours to firm up.
- To make the Earl Grey syrup, combine Earl Grey tea leaves, water, and sugar in a small sauce pan over low heat until the volume is reduced in half. Strain the syrup and discard the solids.
- When ready to serve, remove the pavlova from the oven and place on a serving platter. Pile the whipped cream onto the meringue and top with fresh figs. Drizzle Earl Grey syrup over figs. Serve immediately.