This is a great dessert which is relatively easy to make. If you can make meringue, toffee and crème pâtissière, you can create this rustic spectacular! I call it a pavlova stack, as the meringue layers are like mini pavlovas.
The base of the dessert is 3 layers of pavlova/meringue. They are stacked on top of each other with a filling of crème légère and burnt salted caramel sauce. You can top the pavlova stack with almond praline shards. You could be very precise in making the cake – piping the meringue and piping the crème légère. Or go rustic and free form and just spoon everything on, smoothing out a few rough edges here and there.
Here are the recipes for the component parts: pavlovas, crème légère, burnt salted caramel sauce and almond praline.
6 egg whites
300g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 120 degrees C, 100 Gas 1⁄2. Don’t cook these pavlovas on fan-forced setting.
Place a sheet of baking paper on 2 baking trays. Draw a circle on one sheet, 20cm/8 inches in diameter. Turn the baking paper over so that you can see the pencil marking on the other side. Draw 2 smaller circles on the other sheet of baking paper, 15cm/6 inches and 13cm/5 inches in diameter. Turn the paper over so you can see the circle markings. You should be able to fit the 2 smaller circles on one baking sheet.
Do not grease the baking paper!
Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Gradually beat in sugar, a teaspoon at a time, until very stiff. Stir in vanilla and vinegar.
Spoon the mixture onto the 3 paper circles. You can “anchor” the baking paper down by putting a small dob of meringue under each corner of the paper.
Place baking trays in the oven. Bake for 1.5 to 1.75 hours, depending on your oven. The pavlovas should be quite dry, but still white – if they are brown they have been cooked too long.
Turn oven off, leave in oven a for further hour or you could leave until quite cold.
Crème Légère – Crème légère is crème pâtissière combined with whipped cream. The result is a light, custardy cream great for filling puff pastry items like eclairs or for filling cake layers.
500g full fat milk
6 free-range egg yolks
120g caster sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract/paste
60g salted butter
Put the milk into a saucepan over a medium heat till just simmering. While the milk is heating, place egg yolks, cornflour, sugar and vanilla in a bowl, and whisk till combined and you have a smooth paste. Add half of the just simmered milk into the egg mixture and whisk this just to combine. Essentially, you are tempering the eggs, so that they don’t scramble by adding all the hot milk at once. Then add all this mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, whisking, or stirring with wooden spoon, until the the mixture has thickened considerably. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and leave to cool.
To make the creme légère to sandwich the pavlovas together, combine half the crème pat with 300mls whipped cream. The cream must be whipped past soft peaks stage until it is quite stiff – but be careful it doesn’t turn to butter! The idea is that the cream is stiff enough to incorporate the custard.
Burnt Salted Caramel Sauce
200g white sugar
90g salted butter, in small pieces
1 tsp salt
Heat the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until the sugar turns into a tea coloured liquid as you continue to stir. At this stage the toffee/caramel flavour is achieved. If you take the liquid to a slightly darker brown colour, you will achieve that “burnt’ flavour – but beware it is really easy to actually burn the caramel!
Now add the butter very carefully – the caramel will bubble up. Stir the caramel until the butter is completely melted.
Pour in the cream while continuing to stir. The mixture will bubble when cream is added. Allow the mixture to boil for about a minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt.
Allow to cool before using. The caramel will thicken on cooling and thicken even more in the fridge. To ensure the caramel sauce is pour-able for the pavlovas, VERY carefully microwave to warm up on low heat. Or you could sit the container in a bowl of hot water to warm up.
Heat 1/2 cup of caster sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Be careful not to stir the sugar – tilt the saucepan to help melt the sugar. Cook for several minutes until the sugar turns a deep caramel tea colour and take off the heat. It’s a fine line between toffee that’s cooked and toffee that’s burnt! *
Pour onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Quickly scatter over a handful of almond flakes.
Leave to cool and harden. When completely cold, break up the praline into jagged shards.
To Assemble the Stack:
Place the largest pavlova on serving plate. It’s best to place with the bottom on the plate, and nice side up – I forgot with this layer and turned the pavlova layer the wrong way up. Smother with about half the crème légère. Drizzle or spoon over, according to taste, a couple of tablespoonfuls of the burnt salted caramel sauce.
Place the middle sized pavlova on top as the next layer. Spoon about quarter of the crème légère over this layer, and drizzle or spoon a tablespoon – or more – of the caramel sauce. Put the remaining pavlova on top.
At this stage you can refrigerate for a couple of hours until ready serve. There is no reason for not serving the pavlova stack as is – see photo below. It looks pretty good!
However, to make it utterly delicious and decadent, when you are ready to serve, pile on the remaining crème légère, drizzle with more caramel sauce and decorate with the almond praline shards.
*Tip for cleaning the praline saucepan: fill the pan with water and heat on the stove top till just boiling. Turn off heat and leave for a few minutes – the hardened toffee should hopefully dissolve making the pan easy to clean.