Mango, Pineapple & Coconut Pavlova Cake
There may not be a dessert I love more than pavlova. Crisp meringue, lots of fresh fruit, and a little whipped cream. How can you go wrong? The history behind pavlova is up for debate, with both Australians and New Zealanders claiming credit. What is agreed upon is that the dessert was created to honor Anna Pavlova, the famous ballerina sometime back in the 1920's or 1930's. Read my post for more information on pavlovas.
The Pavlova Cake
Traditionally, a pavlova is a single-serving disc of meringue topped with fruit and whipped cream. I discovered Maggie Ruggiero's method of creating a pavlova cake by layering three large discs of meringue, fruit and whipped cream to create a visually stunning and dramatic dessert. I also like Maggie's trick of adding brown sugar to the meringue and a bit sour cream to the whipped cream, giving the pavlova both a little caramel goodness and a nice tangy contrast.
The Key to a Successful Pavlova
Making a pavlova is not hard. The key is achieving nice stiff egg whites. Read my post on How to Crack, Separate and Whip Egg Whites before starting your pavlova. Another tip is to make sure your bowl and whipping utensils are squeaky clean. Any residual grease will prevent your egg whites from stiffening up.
This tropical pavlova incorporates shaved coconut, fresh pineapple and mango. If you are lucky enough to have access to a passion fruit, you can add it to the fruit mixture for an extra pop of flavor. Read my posts on pineapple, mango and passion fruit for information on seasonality, nutrition, and how to prepare these tropical fruits.
If you love fresh pineapple, but hate cutting them, you will love this simple device that makes preparing a fresh pineapple no more difficult than opening a can.
I serve with a drizzle of coconut maple syrup, which is also seriously good on banana pancakes. If you have a little extra, put it in the fridge for breakfast. It won't go to waste!
Pineapple, Mango and Coconut Pavlova
Yield 12 servings
A stunningly beautiful "wow" dessert made of meringue discs, shaved coconut, fresh pineapple, mango, and a little whipped cream spiked with a bit of sour cream.
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 T + 1 t cornstarch
2 T + 1 t vanilla
1 T white vinegar
9 large room temperature egg whites
1 pinch of salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/2 cup sour cream, chilled
1 pineapple, trimmed and diced into 3/4" pieces
3 Ataulfo or Manilla mangos, or 2 larger mangos, pealed and diced into 3/4" pieces
1 - 2 passion fruits, optional
1 cup shaved unsweetened coconut flakes
- Heat oven to 275 degrees, placing racks in the middle of the oven. Cut three rectangles of parchment paper to fit the insides of three heavy-gage 18" x 13" cookie sheets. Butter the pans and place the parchment paper on top of the butter, smoothing the paper so it lies flat and sticks to the cookie sheets.
- In a food processor fit with a chopping blade, whirl the white sugar for about 1 minute. You are creating super-fine sugar that will dissolve more readily into your meringue. Add the brown sugar and cornstarch and whirl briefly to mix. Because these three ingredients are different weights, the mixture will not be completely uniform.
- Combine vanilla and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
- Add the egg whites to a clean, grease-free stainless steel or copper bowl. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt on medium speed until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture 2 - 3 tablespoons at a time. Increase your mixer speed to medium high and mix thoroughly after each addition of sugar. Once all the sugar has been incorporated, beat for another minute. Add vanilla and vinegar mixture and increase mixer speed to high. Beat for about 5 minutes until the meringue is stiff, glossy and holds high peaks. Divide the mixture into thirds in the middle of each parchment-lined pan. Using the back of a wooden spoon, smooth the meringue into equal sized disks about 1.5' high.
- Bake for about an hour. Test with your fingers to insure meringue is crisp on top. Turn off the oven and allow your meringues to sit in the oven for one hour after they are done with the door slightly propped open with a wooden spoon before removing. Don't fret if the meringues crack a bit as they cool.
- While meringue is cooling prepare the layers. Combine the chopped fruit in one bowl and set aside. Whip the cream to soft peaks using an electric mixer. Fold in the sour cream and beat again until the peaks are sturdy. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
- In a small saucepan, combine maple syrup and coconut milk. Whisk together over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Remove, cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- When meringue has fully cooled, remove the pans from the oven and set on the counter until ready to serve.
- Check the size of each meringue and stack largest to smallest. Lift the first meringue disk and gently peel off the parchment paper. Place meringue on a serving plate. Spread with 1/3 of the whipped cream, top with 1/3 of the fruit and sprinkle with 1/3 of the shaved coconut. Remove the paper from the second largest meringue and set it on top of the first meringue/fruit/coconut layer. Repeat as you did the first layer for the second and third layers.
- Drizzle with a little of the coconut maple syrup mixture, and serve immediately, passing the extra syrup for guests to add a bit more if they like.
The keys to stiff egg whites
Three things are needed to get stiff egg whites when making your meringue:
- Squeaky clean mixing equipment and bowls
- A stainless steel or copper mixing bowl
- Clean, room temperature egg whites, with not a bit of yolk
That said, even if your egg whites do not stiffen up quite as much as you like, your meringue will still be good, just not quite as airy and fluffy.
Pavlova meringue can be made in advance
The meringue discs can be made in advance and frozen, but I find this dessert turns out best when made the same day you are serving. Cooled meringue discs can sit out on the counter for several hours before serving.
Making meringue on a humid day
Creating stiff egg whites is harder on a humid day because the sugar absorbs the moisture in the air. In my book, a less fluffy meringue is better than no meringue, so go with the flow and don't worry about meringue perfection. Your guests will be glad you did.