Yesterday, the 23 of june was St Hansaften, or St Johns eve. It’s a celebration of summer, but originally it’s the birthday of John the Baptist, I learned yesterday. In Norway we celebrate the day as one of the longest days of summer, midsummer, often with large bonfires, and a barbecue.
We had planned a barbecue with my parents and some friends, and luckily the weather was great and everything was set for a beautiful night. There was sun, there were laughter, good people and good food. Lots of meat and sausages, the famous family recipe of potatosalad, wine, sweetcorn, foccacia and to top it off (if I might say so) my chocolate strawberry pavlova. And it was so light outside. It doesn’t really get dark these days of midsummer, and it’s so beautiful. I love it. A midsummer night’s dream anyone? Oh yes.
I made this cake for the first time a few years back. It was a hit with everyone, and now my mom requested me to make it for dessert. The recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s book Forever summer, but you can also find it here. I am a big fan of her, she is my favourite chef even though she’s not really one. The recipe is originally with raspberries, but I used strawberries since the rasberries aren’t in season yet. You can use whatever you like. Usually I don’t like meringue because I think it’s too sweet, but the cocoa takes off the worst sweetness, making it just perfect.
I love Nigella, I love strawberries and I love cake. What could possibly fail? And what better way to embrace summer in all its glory than to make this lovely pavlova? There is no other way I tell you. Summer is incomplete without this cake. Once you make it there’s no going back. Summer will never be the same without it. I make it a couple of times during summer, and then I wait till next summer, because this is not a winter cake. This is summer on a plate. And it’s always a huge success, whatever your audience is. Children and grown ups, girls and boys. Even the hesitant cake eaters cannot resist this. And it looks really impressive, even though it’s one of the easiest cakes I make. There will be wows, compliments and people asking for the recipe. Trust me. You want that? Ok. Let’s get down to buisness.
FOR THE CHOCOLATE MERINGUE BASE
6 egg whites
300g caster sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved
1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
FOR THE TOPPING
500ml double cream
2–3 tablespoons coarsely grated/chopped dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 180 C and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Beat the eggwhites until soft peaks form. Whisk in the sugar one spoon at a time until it turns stiff and shiny. Add the sifted cocoa, chopped chocolate and balsamic vinegar. Gently fold this together until everything is mixed thoroughly. Pour this onto the baking sheet making a rough circle with approximately 23 cm diameter. Put it in the oven and turn it down to 150 C. Bake for 1-1 hours and 15 minutes. When it’s done it should look crisp and dry on the surface, but with a slightly softer center underneath. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, letting the meringue cool completely inside the oven.
When you’re ready to serve whip the cream till thick, but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue. Then scatter over loads of strawberries, raspberries or whatever berries or fruit of your choice. Coarsly grate or chop the chocolate and sprinkle randomly over the berries.
Welcome to heaven.