Of all the desserts to love, I think I love meringue most of all. Crispy then chewy, sweet and melty…if you nibbled the clouds in heaven, I bet you’d find that they’re made of meringue. In summer, I like to make pavlova – with fresh berries and whipped cream layered over a meringue base. It’s easy and elegant and I can’t imagine a better dessert for summer. Sometimes, though, you want to do something a little over the top, so taking inspiration from the mermaid cupcakes that have been popping up all over, I made individual mermaid pavlovas.
I know there is a great name for this dessert waiting just outside my reach – mer-maid-ingue? Nope. I haven’t figured it out yet, so I’ve just been calling it Mermaid Meringue when my little ones ask me what I’m making. They taste just like a traditional pavlova, but with the fun of a swirl of whipped cream colors inside and the bonus of white chocolate mermaid tail poking out. I hope you give them a try!
Meringue is super easy to make, but it is a little finicky. I’ve never had a batch go wrong when I follow these tips:
- Don’t make meringue on a very humid or rainy day. It will absorb too much moisture from the air won’t form correctly.
- Make the meringue portion in advance so they have plenty of time to dry out. I usually make them the night before I’ll be using them. After turning off the oven, I keep them in the cooled oven overnight.
- If any trace of fat or soap is left on your mixing bowl or whisk, your egg whites won’t form stiff peaks. So be sure to use a non-porous bowl (like glass or stainless steel, not plastic) and wipe down the surfaces with a paper towel and some vinegar or lemon juice. It only takes a few seconds and can make all the difference.
- Make the mermaid tail decorations and meringues first and then whipped cream just before you’re ready to assemble and serve.
- white chocolate
- food pigment powder
- 4 egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- a touch of blue food coloring gel
Whipped Cream Filling
- ½ cup whipping cream
- ½ tablespoon confectioners sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- pink, blue, and green gel food coloring (optional)
To Make the Meringue:
- Preheat the oven to 250° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Crack and separate the eggs one at a time and transfer them to your mixing bowl individually. If even the tiniest bit of egg yolk sneaks it’s way in to the whites they won’t whip up correctly.
- Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer if you’ve got the upper arm stamina) begin mixing the egg whites on low speed.
- Add in the cream of tartar and salt.
- Turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the whites are foamy and have just started to turn white.
- Slowly begin to add the sugar one spoonful at a time. If you dump all of the sugar in at once, it will knock the air out of your meringue and it will go flat.
- After about 8 minutes with a stand mixer (a bit longer with a hand mixer) your mixture should be nearly complete. Add in the vanilla extract. If you are using food coloring, add it now and mix until incorporated.
- You can tell your meringue mixture is ready when it’s glossy and holds its shape in stiff peaks. (To double check, you can tip the bowl upside down and the mixture shouldn’t budge.)
- Spoon (or pipe) dollops of the mixture onto the prepared parchment paper. Using the back of a spoon, create an indentation for the toppings. Each meringue should be about 4 inches across.
- Use a toothpick to create “waves” on the surface of the meringue.
- Place baking tray in the oven and bake for one hour.
- After one hour, pull out the baking tray and see if you can easily pick up a meringue without it sticking to the parchement paper. If not, continue to bake, checking every 10 minutes or so. Once the meringues can be easily picked up, turn off the oven and let meringues cool in the oven for at least another hour – I usually leave them overnight to be safe.
To make these Mermaid Meringues instead of just very colorful little pavlovas, you’ll need a mermaid tail poking out. The easiest way to make them is with melted chocolate and a mold. I used this mold, but I think this is the one that’s been used more often for the mermaid cupcakes that are popular online.
Melt white chocolate in the microwave, fill the mold, tap it gently on the counter to release air pockets, and put it in the refrigerator to set for about thirty minutes. After popping the candies out of the mold, add color using pigment powder with a fluffy brush. (Alternatively, you could melt colored chocolate disks according to package directions and swirl them into the mold.)
- Pour whipping cream into a bowl and beat with a stand or hand mixer.
- Add in confectioners sugar and vanilla extract.
- Beat until soft peaks form.
- Separate the whipped cream into three small mixing bowls and add a different color food dye to each one. Fold in the food coloring until well incorporated.
- Spread the whipped cream in stripes onto a piece of plastic wrap so that each color is slightly overlapping the one next to it.
- Fold over the top and bottom of the plastic wrap to create a roll of whipped cream.
- Twist one end of the plastic wrap and trim off the excess.
- Place the plastic wrap roll into a piping bag and squeeze a few dollops out until you can see all three colors coming out
Just before you’re ready to serve, pipe a generous dollop of the whipped cream onto the meringue. Add a few berries (I used blueberries and blackberries), then pop in a mermaid tail. I also added a few pastel sprinkles for an extra dose of ocean magic.
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