We’re in the mood for dreamy desserts and our strawberry mousse pavlovas are at the top of the list! The crisp meringue shell, light strawberry mousse and fresh strawberries create an elegant holiday dessert that’s perfect any time of the year.
What is a pavlova? This elegant dessert was named for Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina who toured New Zealand and Australia in the 1920’s. The dessert has a large fluffy baked meringue shell, most often filled with whipped cream (looks like a ballerina’s tutu) and topped with fruit.
While most popular in New Zealand and Australia, Pavlova is gaining popularity all over the world. A New Zealand’s Pavlova usually features kiwi, while the Australian version uses passion fruit and occasional other tropical fruit. The Brittish Pavlova is commonly created with strawberries.
Other airy meringue desserts have been found dating back to the 1700’s. Researcher Annabelle Ulrtrech found that a dessert consisting of meringue shell layers, filled with fruit and whipped cream was made in Hapsburg kitchens of Austria during the 18th century. They called it “Windtorte” (soufflé cake).
IFT mini pavlovas
Although most pavlovas are filled with whipped cream with fruit on top, we’re changing it up a bit to fill our confection with strawberry mousse (which contains whipped cream) and fresh strawberries. We then garnish these strawberry desserts with sliced strawberries and whipped cream. You can make IFT pavlovas mini, like our recipe, or you can make one large traditional pavlova using our same pavlova dessert recipe.
How to make a meringue
- Start with room temperature eggs. To speed things up, place eggs in a room temp. bowl and cover with luke-warm water for at least five minutes.
- Separate the eggs and whip egg whites with an electric mixer (unless you prefer a good arm work-out with a whisk) until soft peaks form.
- Slowly add sugar, then continue mixing.
- Beat until meringue is glossy and peaks hold their shape. Add small amounts cream of tartar and cornstarch at the end.
Why add cream of tartar to meringue?
Cream of tartar is an acid. By adding just a bit of acid to the egg whites, the egg whites incorporate air easier. The acid helps keep the meringue from deflating. If you don’t have cream of tartar, you can add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice. Cornstarch in the recipe helps a meringue be fluffier.
How to form mini meringue shells
First, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Next trace 8 (4-inch) circles on parchment paper (or piece of brown paper bag) set on large cookie sheets. Gently spread a layer of meringue on each circle. Then, transfer mixture to a pastry bag with a star tip. Pipe 2-3 swirled layers of meringue around edge of each circle (see picture). You can also spoon meringue on your circle leaving a dip in the center. (We think it’s easier to get high sides with a pastry tip/bag.)
Baking the meringue shells
Place cookie sheet(s) holding meringue shells in the middle or lower middle section of your oven. Bake 35 minutes. Then turn off oven; let meringues sit 1-2 hours in the oven to dry out. Don’t open the oven door as moisture in the outside air can damage the meringue shells.
Can you freeze meringue?
Baked meringues can be made up to three days ahead and stored at room temp. in an air-tight container. There is controversy about whether you can freeze meringue. The problem is you don’t want the meringue to absorb moisture. Moisture can make your meringue sticky which makes it hard to cut and chew. It also takes away that nice crisp texture.
You can actually freeze meringue shells for about a month. Wait until the meringue is completely cool. Place the meringues in an airtight container. Layer with parchment paper if you need layers. To defrost, set meringue shells on a serving plate and let them come to room temperature before filling.
Strawberry mousse filling
To make the strawberry mousse filling, slice a cup of strawberries in lengthwise strips for garnish (see picture), and chop a second cup of strawberries. Next, add boiling water to gelatin mix and stir until dissolved. Add ice water to gelatin then refrigerate until mixture is very thick. Whip cream until soft peaks form, then divide in half and refrigerate. Next, whip cream cheese and gradually fold in thickened gelatin mixture and 1 cup chopped strawberries. Then gently fold HALF of whipped cream into cooled strawberry mixture. Remaining whipped cream will be for topping. Refrigerate 3-4 hours or until firm.
Serving the pavlovas
Spoon or pipe ½ cup mousse into meringue shells. Top with julienned sliced berries in a flower pattern just before serving. Add dollup of whipping cream to center of each strawberry flower and add mint leaves.
This is one of those magical desserts you and your guests will love. It feels fresh and light, and with a world where you can find strawberries all year, it’s a hit all year too.
Try some of our other meringue dessert recipes here!
- Chocolate Meringue Torte
- Lemon Raspberry Kiss Parfait
- Pumpkin Spice Meringue Cookie
- Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream
- Lemon Meringue Pie
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Strawberry Mousse Pavlovas
For mini Pavlova Meringue Shells
- 6 egg whites use room temperature eggs
- 1 ¾ cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¾ teaspoon cream of tartar or 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon cornstarch
For Strawberry Mousse
- 2 cups fresh strawberries divided
- ⅔ cup boiling water
- 3 ounce package JELL-O Strawberry Flavor Gelatin
- ice cubes
- ½ cup cold water
- 8 ounces fresh whipping cream
- 8 ounces cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese lower fat, softened
- 8-16 small mint leaves for garnish
For Mini Pavlova Meringue Shells
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large room temperature mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form (about 5 minutes.)
- Slowly add sugar to the egg whites and beat until sugar dissolves, then beat mixture with mixer on medium-high 3 to 5 minutes or until glossy, and stiff peaks form. Add cream of tartar and cornstarch just before you finish mixing.
- On parchment paper (or piece of brown paper bag); trace 8 (3-inch) circles.
- Gently spread a layer of meringue on each circle. Transfer mixture to a pastry bag with a star tip. Pipe 2-3 swirled layers of meringue around edge of each circle (see picture). You can also spoon meringue on your circle leaving a dip in the center. (We think it’s easier to get high sides with a pastry tip/bag.)
- Bake 35-40 minutes. Then turn off oven; let meringues sit in oven 1-2 hours to dry out. Don’t open the oven door. Meringues can be made up to two days ahead and stored in an air-tight container. Don't refrigerate or freeze.
For Strawberry Mousse
- Slice 1 cup strawberries in lengthwise strips (see picture); refrigerate for later use. Chop remaining 1 cup strawberries; set aside.
- Add boiling water to gelatin mix; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved. Add enough ice to cold water to measure 1 cup. Add to gelatin; stir until slightly thickened. Remove any un-melted ice. Refrigerate at least 30 min. or until mixture is very thick and will mound.
- Whip cream until soft peaks form. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla to final whipping. Divide in half and refrigerate.
- Whip cream cheese with electric mixer on low speed until softened. Gradually add thickened gelatin mixture and 1 cup chopped strawberries to cream cheese(save remaining strawberries for garnish.)
- Gently fold HALF of whipped cream into cooled strawberry mixture (reserve other half for garnish at end). Refrigerate 3-4 hours or until firm.
- To serve: Spoon or pipe ½ cup mousse into meringue shells.Top with julienned sliced berries in a flower pattern just before serving.Add dollop of whipping cream to center of each strawberry flower and add mint leaves.
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