I could never be on one of those TV shows where they make designer cakes, because so many of mine are UGLY. Oh, I've made pretty ones, like that fancy fruit tart, but overall, I am not a cake artist.
Truthfully, I don't care. I hear a lot of those "Ace of Cakes" sort of cakes look great but don't taste that good. And my cakes DO taste good.
I get weekly e-mails from a cookbook site called Cookster, and this week happened to see a Pavlova by Nigella Lawson. Since I've made several of her cakes, I clicked on the photo and was THRILLED to see that her Pavlova looked cracked and crumbly the way mine usually do. And when I looked up the chocolate Pavlova I often make, there was even a mention of how to handle it depending on how cracked it had gotten!
So here's the Pavlova I made last night for JR's birthday today. It's ugly, sure. But take a look at that slice topped with berries and cream and know that the chocolate melts in your mouth and it tastes like heaven!
(based on a recipe in Nigella Lawson's "Forever Summer"
6 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp red wine or balsamic vinegar
2 oz chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
You can make this in a stand mixer or with a large bowl and a hand mixer.
Place the egg whites in the bowl and beat them until they form soft peaks (tips curl)
With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture stiffens into firm peaks (the tips won't curl over, but stand up)
Sprinkle the cocoa, the chocolate and the vinegar over the beaten whites and mix in quickly.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heap the batter on the sheet in a 9" circle.
You might want to draw it on first, or you may be able to find 9" round parchment circles.
This is the part I always find hard--a rubber scraper helps with this. It doesn't have to be that neat anyway. Smooth the top and the sides.
Place in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees F. Immediately lower the heat to 300 degrees F
Bake for 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours. The top will probably crack--DON'T PANIC!
Let it cool in the oven for a bit, then remove and let it cool fully.
To serve, turn it upside down onto a plate, peeling back the parchment paper.
This gets soggy if you cover the whole thing with whipped cream, so I prefer to serve out individual slices.
Top with whipped cream and fruit of your choice. The girls like strawberries, though raspberries are my favorite--they go beautifully with the chocolate!