I hate to admit but I think I am a lousy girlfriend. I need to call agony aunt for help. It is his birthday tomorrow and I hadn’t plan anything. No dinner planned. No present bought. I don’t even have a cake for him. 6 hours to midnight- I am still at work, too late for any plans now. The guilt was overwhelming. I really think I am the worst girlfriend.
I argued with myself. Food wise, He had it all. The extravagant dinners I spoils him with. The weekday pack lunch that makes him stronger. Our lovely date nights I insisted on. The house parties I surprise him once in a while. Hey, I actually did quite well. But sadly, I never bake him his own birthday cake. That the very least I can do. I know he hates chocolate cakes (good thing because I don’t have chocolate in the pantry!). He loves cheesecakes but these cakes can be temperamental. I don’t have time for that.
Okay, back to the drawing board. I need a simple quick fix! I turn to google, pinterest, gawker, bloglovin, everything to look for inspiration. I stumbled upon nigella’s pavlova. The dreamy cloudy pavlova shine like a ray of hope. 15 minutes top before the meringue hits the oven. The toppling of fresh fruits and fresh cream promised to cover any flaws. I texted my sister, she’s the queen of meringues. I asked her for baking temperatures. She said slow and low. 130°C for 1 hour if you are in a hurry but that will take on some colour. 100°C for 1 hour 45 minutes if you have time – for snow white meringues. I counter checked with smitten kitchen. Deb says 130°C for 1 hour 15 minutes. The inside should be mashmellow. They both sounds about right to me.
I burst thought the restaurant kitchen doors, excited to tell my chef about the pavlova idea, pleading him to give me a carton of cream for emergency. Just as I was packing my bag (to rush off to the fruit stall for the toppings) he came into the office shoving a takeaway box into my hand – his gooseberry puree which he was prepping for a menu. He said it will work very well the chocolate pavlova. Indeed. I smiled gleefully and couldn’t be more thankful.
Back at home, to the oven. I improvised my sister’s and deb’s, just to play safe. 130°C for first 45 minutes and lowering the temperature down to 100°C for second 45 minutes before turning off the oven and leaving the door slightly ajar to cool down. While the meringue is cooling, I whipped the cream, packed it in tupperware. Cook the gooseberry sauce, thicken it slightly with some corn starch (the sauce tasted phenomenon). Packed it up. Placing everything in a box (to hide incase his home) and transport the loot into my car to be assembled later. I whizzed back to our apartment just in time.
He didn’t know what I was up to, until I turned off the lights and present him with the pavlova and a candle. I sang him a birthday song. He made a wish, blow up the candle and cut the pavlova. On his last slice he said. “I want you to make me my birthday cake for every birthday.” I think I was happier than him when he said that. Mission accomplished!
2 heap tablespoon sugar
A splash of elderflower cordial
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Purée the gooseberries and everything in a blender until smooth. You can sieve the puree in a fine sieve to remove seeds. But I didn’t – It’s nice to have some crunch. Cook sauce until thickens to a syrup. Set aside to cool.
*You can substitute gooseberries for raspberries or strawberries. Use any berries you have on hand. Sauce can be made ahead up to 3 days or frozen if you want to keep it longer.
For the chocolate meringue base (For a 6 inch meringue base)
Preheat the oven to 130°C. Trace a 6 inch round pan on baking paper. Invert the baking paper so that the ink stays underside. Line the baking tray with the baking paper.
Beat the egg whites and vinegar on low until the egg white bubbles are uniform and satiny. Increase the mixer speed to medium and gradually add the sugar in a slow steady stream and beat until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sieve the cocoa over the meringue and continue beating until cocoa is thoroughly mixed in.
Mound on to outlined baking paper and smoothing the sides and top making sure the edges of the meringue are higher than the centre.. Place in the oven and back for about 45 minutes. Then turn down the oven to 100°C and continue baking for another 45 minutes, When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top. The inside will be marshmallowy. Turn off the oven and leave door slightly ajar to cool meringue disc completely.
You can make the meringue cake several days in advance. Make sure to store in an airtight container.
When you’re ready to serve, remove the baking paper and transfer to a plate. whip the cream until it just holds its shape. Pile the cream on top of the meringue and drizzle the gooseberry sauce over. Grate the chocolate then scatter the raspberries and blueberries.