There’s something about bringing a pavlova to the table that feels like you’re passing a newborn baby to a waiting auntie who’s desperate to hold it.
I don’t know if it’s because they are always decorated like a delicate bunch of flowers or because they architecturally look like they would crumble if someone slammed a door three streets away, but there’s something precious about them that makes you cradle them.
I love deserts that look like they’re falling in on themselves. My Mocha Cloud Cake is quite possibly my favourite desert and it looks like something you put on your head for it to tell you what Wizard House you belong in. The romantic fragility of these deserts is so rustic, they definitely look homemade and that for me is key with cooking.
If a cake looks like it’s been iced for hours, it probably has and it definitely isn’t mine.
Now don’t be alarmed by the addition of lavender in this recipe. I bought a packet of lavender flowers from Tiger for £1 because I was toying around with a recipe for a lavender ice cream and needed to use up the leftovers.
One thing I learnt was that I hate lavender in food. I feel myself spitting out petals for weeks to come and nobody wants that. We are not horses.
However, I love the fragrance of lavender in food. That slight meadow hit that tastes like a Spring walk is something I love in delicate deserts, so I still wanted to introduce this note into the pav without drowning it in your nan’s bubble bath.
I can’t take credit for the entirety of this recipe. The base and theory is one of Nigella Lawson’s from her book ‘Simply Nigella’ (which I have a signed copy of and is my favourite book) but I have given it a purple twist by infusing the pav TWICE with the floral caress of lavender.
And don’t stress about bringing it to the table. Once it’s cooled it’s sturdy as a rock, despite the fact it looks like something a bride would carry down an aisle.
Preheat the oven to 160c and in a small bowl, add a heaped teaspoon of lavender flowers and the juice of two lemons. Leave to infuse.
Place a baking sheet on a baking tray and place a 22inch baking tin on the paper. Draw a circle around it, this will act as a guide for your pavlova shape when you turn it out later.
Start by separate six eggs. Whites in a bowl – yolks in a Tupperware box. Make Mayo of something. I separate eggs using my hands, cradling the contents of the egg from palm to palm, letting the white fall into the bowl until all I’m left with is a sunny yolk in my hand.
Now beat the whites until they form stiff peaks. I totally do this with an electric whisk but an enthusiastic forearm will get the job done.
Empty in 375g of caster sugar spoonful by spoonful. Boring, I know, but patience is key here. It has to be slowly done I’m afraid. Eventually the peaks will become super glossy an super shiny. It’s like a hairsprayed cloud. It’s so enchanting.
Now drop in 2 1/2 teaspoons of cornflour.
Place a sieve over the bowl and then pour into this two teaspoons of the lavender infused lemon juice. It’s this combination of lemon juice and cornflour which will keep the inside belly of the pavlova chewy and marshmallowy.
Grate in the zest of two lemons and stir together carefully, keeping as much air in the pav as possible.
Mound the mixture on to the baking tray into the circle you draw earlier, using it as a guide as you smooth the sides and the top with a spoon or knife to create the neatest circular shape possible.
Slide into the oven and turn it down immediately to 130c. Keep it in there for an hour and after the hour is done, open the door to let out the heat but close it again and keep it in there, with the oven switched off, for another hour or so.
Don’t worry, it will look like it’s cracked, broken and falling apart – it’s supposed to.
In the meantime, make your toppings.
Take a whole jar of lemon curd and beat together in a jar to loosen. Put a sieve over the bowl and pour in the leftover lavender infused lemon juices. Stir together.
Whisk up 300ml of double cream until it has double in volume.
Dry fry some bashed up pistachios and keep to one side.
When you are ready to eat the pavlova, take it out of the oven and put a plate gently on top of the pav. Turn it over and carefully peel off the backing sheet so that the flat bottom now becomes the surface.
Spread the lavender lemon curd, pushing out to the edges but not too much, you still want those rustic cracks to be visible. Now spread the cream on top, again pushing out to the edges but not too much as you want to see the cracks AND the lemon.
Now scatter over your toasted pistachios, slice up like a cake and serve.