Pavlova would have to be my favourite Christmas dessert. This version is not only a great end to your Christmas feast, it’s also a spectacular addition to the table!
Prep time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 1 ¾ hours, plus cooling time
Cooking oil spray
Cornflour, to dust
12 egg whites
3 cups (660g) caster sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
900ml thickened cream
750g-1kg strawberries, hulled, halved or quartered if large
1 tablespoon icing sugar
Preheat oven to 120°C (100°C fan-forced). Spray four large oven trays and line with baking paper.
Draw six circles on the sheets of baking paper, one each of 25cm, 22cm, 20cm, 16cm, 13cm and 9cm. Place baking paper on prepared trays, fitting circles on trays, allowing about 4cm space between each circle as meringues will spread while baking. Lightly grease the circles; dust each with a little sifted cornflour.
Beat half the egg whites, half the sugar and a pinch of salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for 10 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and meringue is smooth and glossy. Fold in half the vanilla extract.
Spread meringue evenly between the 22cm, 20cm and 13cm circles, leaving a 1cm border inside the edges. Each meringue should be about 2cm thick. Using the back of a spoon or palette knife, make peaks on the edge of each meringue.
Bake meringues for about 1¾ hours or until dry to the touch and crisp. Rotate trays halfway through baking. Cool meringues in the oven with door ajar for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer meringues on baking paper to wire racks to cool completely.
Beat the remaining egg whites, sugar and vanilla. Place 1 cup of meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large plain tube. Pipe a 6cm peaked meringue for the Christmas tree top on one of the baking trays. Use the back of a teaspoon to form peaks. Spread remaining meringue evenly over the remaining 25cm, 16cm and 9cm circles, once again making peaks at the edges.
Beat the cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form.
To assemble just before serving, remove baking paper from all the meringues. Place the 25cm meringue on a cake stand or plate. Spread with some of the whipped cream. Arrange strawberries around the edge of the meringue with points facing out. Arrange 6 strawberry halves in the centre of the meringue for support.
Carefully place the 22cm meringue on top; spread with some whipped cream. Arrange strawberries around the edge of the meringue with points facing out. Arrange a few strawberries in the centre. Repeat with remaining 20cm, 16cm, 13cm and 9cm meringues, cream and strawberries. Position the piped peaked meringue.
Dust with sifted icing sugar.
To serve, separate the layers before cutting into pieces.