My strawberry elderflower pavlova is the perfect spring dessert with its crispy shell and sweet marshmallowy center topped with tangy, spiked elderflower whipped cream, and juicy strawberries.
When I stepped out to the garden last week, I saw clusters of elderflowers blooming brilliantly. Their heady fragrance was so beautiful and reminded me of a special spring dessert that I’ve been wanting to share with you, my strawberry elderflower pavlova. The pavlova has a crispy outer shell with a marshmallow center, topped with elderflower whipped cream, and sweet strawberries.
The Swiss Meringue Method
For this pavlova, I used the Swiss Meringue method which is the most stable compared to the French and Italian. With the Swiss meringue method, 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.
Tips for Making the Perfect 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.
What to Serve the Pavlova With
With my strawberry elderflower pavlova, I’m keeping the filling and fruits simple. Pavlova tends to be sweet so I added creme fraiche to the whipped cream to give it a little tang and spiked it with elderflower cordial. Labneh or mascarpone is a great substitute if you can’t find creme fraiche. I also added some elderflower cordial and sugar to the fresh strawberries and let them macerate for half an hour. Macerating strawberries enhances their natural sweetness and amplifies the berries’ natural flavor. If your strawberries aren’t sweet, add a little more sugar to the cordial and fruit. Feel free to switch out the strawberries for other berries like raspberries, blackberries, or mulberries.
WHEN TO ASSEMBLE PAVLOVA
I like to assemble the pavlova nests close to serving time so the moisture from the whipped cream and macerated strawberries don’t affect the texture of the pavlovas. Once the pavlova nests are assembled, they will stay nice and crisp for a few hours. If you leave the assembled pavlova nests in the fridge overnight, they’ll absorb moisture from the surrounding and become soft. Unassembled pavlova nests can be stored in an airtight container for 72 hours.
Grab a spoon, crack into its crisp shell, and you’ll hit a sweet marshmallowy center topped with tangy, spiked elderflower whipped cream, and juicy strawberries. My whole family demolished this pavlova in a matter of minutes. You should have seen the kids’ faces smeared with whipped cream and strawberry juice running down their chins. For them, a pavlova is one giant marshmallow that they can’t resist. This strawberry elderflower pavlova is a delightful spring treat that everyone will enjoy!
For more pavlova inspiration, check these recipes: rose water rhubarb Swiss meringue pavlova nests, Swiss meringue pavlova nests with lemon curd and blueberries, fig pavlova with orange blossom cream, earl grey pavlova with figs.
Strawberry elderflower pavlova
- 4 egg whites (125 gm)
- 1 ¼ cups caster sugar (225 gm)
- 2 tsps cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
Elderflower whipped cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup cream fraiche
- 6 tbsps powdered sugar
- ¼ cup elderflower cordial
- 1 lb strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 2 tbsps elderflower cordial
- 2 tbsps sugar
- 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. 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 5 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, making an indent in the center for the filling. Use an offset spatula to create swirls and swoops on the meringue.
- 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.
- Transfer the baked pavlova to a serving platter.
- Whip the creme fraiche, heavy cream, elderflower cordial, and powdered sugar together until thick and smooth and soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a large bowl, add strawberries and elderflower cordial and let macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- When ready to serve, top the pavlova with whipped cream and macerated strawberries.
- Decorate with edible flowers and serve immediately.