Melt in your mouth blackberry pavlovas with fluffy marshmallowy centers filled with whipped cream, tart blackberry sauce, and fresh blackberries. They are such a dreamy and sweet dessert.
Pavlovas are the perfect vessels for tart seasonal fruits, like blackberries, to offset the sweetness of the meringue. They're such a simple base to pile on different fruits or fruit-based curds and sauces to make an easy dessert without too much effort.
Pavlovas should have a hard and dry outer shell that melts away in your mouth, almost like cotton candy. The middle of pavlovas should be partly hollow - the perfect place to fill with whipped cream and fruit fillings. The other half of the middle is a delightful, fluffy, and chewy marshmallow layer that contrasts the hard shell.
I love pavlovas for their effortlessly organic and rustic shape with a few inevitable cracks. The freeform look of meringue plopped onto a baking sheet is beautiful. You can make pavlovas as large cakes by forming the meringue into larger rounds or you can make them small or mini pavlovas as I have here. I prefer mini pavlovas because they are less likely to crack and break, easier to handle, and they look so cute when there are a bunch of them.
How to make blackberry pavlovas
Whip the meringue
Prep: Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Whip egg whites: In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to whip the egg whites until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar and cornstarch and mix thoroughly.
Slowly add in the granulated sugar a little bit at a time, letting the mixer run in between additions. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl if any sugar gets stuck there.
Continue whipping the egg whites until it becomes stiff peaks. When you pull the whisk out and flip it upside down, the meringue tail should stand up on its own and gently bend over at the tip into a small hook shape.
Shape meringue: Use a spatula to plop down six mounds of meringue onto your lined baking sheet. Use the spatula to gently shape the meringue into round shapes but don't worry too much. The organic look works well here.
Bake: Place the baking sheet into the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 250°F. Bake for 1 hour or until the surfaces of the pavlovas are dry and hard and the bottoms can peel cleanly off the parchment. Turn off the oven and keep the oven door closed. Leave the pavlovas inside to cool like that for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Make the blackberry sauce
Meanwhile, in a small pan, bring blackberries, lemon juice, and water to a boil. Use a spatula to muddle the blackberries until it reduces down and thickens into a jammy consistency, about 5-7 minutes. If it's too thick and dry, you can add another tablespoon of water and stir thoroughly.
Push the blackberry sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl to remove the seeds. Scrape the outer bottom of the sieve to collect the liquid that doesn't drip down. Discard the seeds and excess pulp and set sauce aside.
Make the whipped cream
In another mixing bowl, use an electric mixer or whisk to whip together whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until it thickens and becomes soft peaks.
Assemble the blackberry pavlovas
When the pavlovas have cooled, use a spoon to crack open a hole on top of each pavlova to reveal an empty cavity inside. Spoon in whipped cream to fill the pavlova. Top whipped cream with a teaspoon of blackberry sauce and swirl with a chopstick or leave as is. Garnish with fresh blackberries.
Variations and substitutions for blackberry pavlovas
- Fruit - I've used blackberries since they're in season at the end of summer at the moment but these pavlovas are so versatile that you can substitute the blackberries with any kind of fruit. Tart fruits like citrus (lemon curd, grapefruit curd, orange curd) and raspberries work especially well since they balance out the sweetness of the meringue.
- Size - I've made mini pavlovas here but you can use the same meringue to make a 2 layer 8" pavlova cake by form the meringue into two 8" rounds on the baking sheet. You may need to bake for a few extra minutes and let them cool for longer due to the size. Layer the whipped cream, blackberry sauce, and fresh blackberries in between and on top of the two meringue discs.
- Vegan meringue - To make these pavlovas vegan, you can try using aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas) in place of the the egg white meringue. Aquafaba is supposed to whip up to almost the same consistency as egg whites. Note that this recipe was not tested with aquafaba so you'll have to look elsewhere for exact measurements and directions!
- Vegan whipped cream - To veganize the whipped cream, you can substitute with coconut cream. Chill a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight, turn it upside down before opening the can, and scoop off the solidified coconut cream on the bottom (now top) of the can. Please look up instructions for 'whipped coconut cream' for more detailed measurements and directions if you want to go this route!
Frequently Asked Questions
Pavlovas should be enjoyed immediately or within 1-2 hours after assembling with the fillings. The moisture from the whipped cream and sauce will start to disintegrate the sugar-based meringue within a few hours.
Pavlovas without any fillings or toppings can be stored wrapped or in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for 1-2 days.
Pavlovas without any filling can be frozen by keeping them in an airtight container (so that they don't get crushed) for up to 1 month.
When thawing pavlovas, do not get the pavlovas wet from their own condensation otherwise the meringue will get soft. Separate the frozen pavlovas on a wire rack and thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour. Use immediately.
Cracks in pavlova are natural but to prevent too many, avoid large and fast changes in temperature. Pavlovas should be cooled very slowly after baking by leaving them in the oven (turned off) with the door closed or cracked open for at least 1 hour until cool. You can make pavlovas at night so that you can just leave them in the oven overnight to completely cool while you sleep.
Cornstarch is added to pavlovas to stabilize the egg whites and prevent them from drying out when baked, creating soft and fluffy marshmallow centers. Cornstarch is not completely necessary if you don't have it on hand - they will still bake up fine - but it does make a difference in the texture of the pavlova and is recommended.
Pavlovas can get soft and sticky if either they weren't baked for long enough or there is too much moisture in them. Since pavlovas are a sugar-based meringue, too much humidity in the air or in the toppings will get absorbed by the sugar, making them soften and eventually disintegrate into syrup.
Other meringue-based desserts to try
- Blood Orange Pavlovas
- Heart-Shaped Chocolate Meringues
- Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons
- Robin's Egg Oreo Macarons
- Mandarin Orange Macarons
- Ferrero Rocher Macarons