Eton Mess lives up to its name. A literal “mess” of broken meringue pieces folded into whipped cream, then topped with fresh fruit, it’s one of my all-time favorite desserts. It’s sweet enough to satisfy a sugar craving, but light enough that it doesn’t make you want to crawl under the covers into a food coma. The best part is that the meringue is tucked into the cream, so each bite has a crunchy surprise that complements the fresh fruit.
When considering which dessert to serve at our Memorial Day barbecue this year, it was the obvious choice. Since I don’t want to spend all day in front of an oven, it’s the ideal simple alternative to something that requires baking (a classic blueberry pie, for example). Best yet, it hits all the right color notes between the layered cream, blueberries, and strawberries – an Instagram opportunity waiting to happen.
Layered Eton Mess
Makes 3 servings
9 large strawberries
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
8 ounces heavy whipping cream
Several meringues*, plus 3 large meringues (about 3-inches in diameter at base)
2 handfuls blueberries
1. Hull and cut strawberries into bite-sized pieces, then toss with 3 tablespoons of sugar to allow them to macerate and release their juices for about 30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, add whipped cream to the base of a mixing bowl and whip on high speed until just whipped, about 3 minutes. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and whip until just combined. If it isn’t sweet enough, keep in mind that the meringues will make it even sweeter.
3. Using your hands, break up meringues into small, bite-sized pieces, then mix into the whipped cream using a mixing spoon. There should be enough that each bite gives you a piece of meringue, but just enough that they’re completely covered by the whipped cream.
4. Divide macerated strawberries equally between three parfait cups, then top each with a hearty dollop of the whipped cream-meringue mixture. Evenly divide the blueberries to cover each, then top each with a smaller layer of the whipped-cream meringue mixture. Top each with a large meringue.
The best part of having the meringue on top is the satisfying crunch sound it makes when your spoon goes through it – but not before you have a chance to snap a picture of it (it’s too cute not to).
*While you can usually buy store-bought meringues – I prefer those sold at Trader Joe’s – we couldn’t find meringues anywhere in Los Angeles (is there a meringue shortage in California?) so I made mine at home. You can do either, but if you choose to make them at home, here’s how: Simply whip together about 6 egg whites over high speed with 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar to help stabilize it, and add three times as much sugar as egg whites (so if you’re using 1/2 cup egg whites, add 1 1/2 cups sugar). Once it’s fluffy with stiff peaks, immediately dollop or pipe the meringues onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (to make the large meringues, pipe them into a muffin tin) and bake at 225° F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.