Monday, July 10, 2017

Birthday Pavlova

On my second birthday, my mother was about two months pregnant with my little sister. As she tells it, even being near food was unbearable, so she asked a friend of hers to make me a birthday cake. Her friend, who is Kiwi, made me a Pavlova...  and I was done with cake forever. There was to be no other cake. I was a stubborn child  (shocking, I know) and I've had a Pavlova every year since- if not on my birthday, within a month or so. My mom even managed to (awesomely) send one to the me via some friends when I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2012. Our family takes tradition seriously.

Last year, I made my first one, and then my second and third, because it took me three tries. Now I have a new birthday tradition: calling my mother and apologizing profusely for making her learn to make meringue for a toddler.


So have you eaten a pavlova? I don't know what kind of meringue it is- in fact, I just recently learned that there are different kinds- but it's crispy crunchy on the outside and then soft and almost marshmallowy on the inside. It's like a sugar pillow with a sugar crust... and then you get to eat an inordinate amount of whipped cream and fruit. I know I'm biased, but I have also never seen leftovers. This year, in fact, I had to make two.


(And, for the record, BOTH of them worked. I am an adult and I can make my own damned cake.)





FINE I LIED. I did have to remake one... but only because I forgot it was cooling in the oven and turned it to 450 to make these potato wedges. It was perfect until then- my ADHD screwed it up, not my inability to bake things. And then we stayed up until 2:30am and ended eating the second one I'd made without photographing it, so I made another one the next day. Also I broke a yolk into one of the batches and I had to start again, and there may still be melted sugar on my oven floor. BUT STILL I AM 27 AND I AM A REAL ADULT I SWEAR!!!


Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go call my mother.


Becca's Birthday Pavlova

Adapted slightly from my mom's friend Alison

Note: my personal struggle with this cake is disproportionate- my celiac roommate has made a few, and my friend Kiks made me one on my 21st birthday on her first try. I think that means she is a wizard? Either that, or I'm just terrible at following instructions. Point is, don't be scared. Even all flattened it tastes good.


4 eggs

4 Tbsp ice water
1 1/3 cup sugar, divided
4 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Fruit! I use a package of strawberries, a package of raspberries, a package of blueberries and one kiwi, but you could really use any combination you want.

Preheat the oven to 375°F and cover a baking tray with foil. Separate the eggs, reserving the yolks for another use (I made this mayonnaise to go with my potato wedges). Mix the cornstarch with 1/3 cup of the sugar and set aside.


Place egg whites and ice water in a very clean bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form. With the mixer on its slowest setting, or while whisking by hand, add 1 cup of sugar very slowly. Still working slowly, add the sugar/cornstarch mixture, and then turn the mixer back to its highest setting and beat for at least 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and vinegar, and continue beating until most of the way there.


Pile meringue into the middle of the baking sheet, making a disk about 9" in diameter and at least 2" high. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the oven down to 200°F. Bake for two hours, then turn off the oven but leave the pavlova inside it- let it cool down with the oven. When it's no longer warm, peel the foil off the bottom carefully (or just say screw it and serve on a baking tray. I won't judge).


Shortly before serving, whip 2 cups of heavy cream.Spread over the pavlova, then cover in fresh fruit. Toddler Becca would explain that there is only one acceptable way of decorating it: a ring of strawberries around the outside, one in the middle, a very specific order of raspberries, blueberries and kiwifruit... but thankfully adult Becca is a tiny bit less stubborn.