A Cook's Plot

Puddings & Desserts

Cherry Eton Mess

As you probably already know, Eton Mess, the delicious mix of broken meringue, cream and - usually - strawberries, is said to have been invented when a pavlova was dropped just before a formal dinner at the famous public school. I found myself in a similar situation last weekend when I got a meringue case that I’d made as a dessert to take to our annual allotment barbecue out of the freezer, only to find something else had been put on top of it and it was in pieces. The trouble is, although they keep really well in the freezer meringues don’t freeze solid so they’re very fragile - I know that but had still plonked a tub of homemade ice cream on top of this one. Doh!

So - little shot glasses full of Eton Mess went to the allotment do instead of a big pavlova. They seemed to go down very well anyway so all was not lost, and I made them with cherry purée instead of the usual sliced strawberries - lovely with the meringue and cream.

Did you know that when you’re making a meringue, the humidity in the air that day will make a difference to how it turns out? If the weather is humid, the meringue will be more gooey on the inside than if if it’s a hot, dry day!


Serves 6-15

  • 3 medium-size eggs, whites only
  • 175g caster sugar
  • Big handful of cherries, stoned and chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150ml tub double cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar


First, make the meringue. Whisk the egg whites until just stiff with an electric whisk then slowly whisk in the sugar until the mixture is smooth and glossy and the beaters leave fairly stiff peaks when you lift them out.

Cut a piece of baking parchment the same size as a baking sheet and use a spatula to spread the meringue mixture in a circle on it. Put into a preheated oven at 130C (fan oven), then immediately turn down the temperature to 120C and cook for an hour. Next - and this is the really important bit - turn the oven off, leave the door very slightly ajar and leave the meringue in there for at least 5 hours (overnight is ideal).

Meanwhile, for the cherry puree, cut each cherry in half and cook in a pan over a low heat with the vanilla for about 15 minutes until soft then either use just as it is, or whizz with a stick blender until fairly smooth.

Whip the cream with the icing sugar, then break up the meringue and stir it in. Put a spoonful of the cherries into the bottom of each glass or bowl, then stir a little more of the cherry mixture through the cream and spoon into each one. Decorate with a sprig of mint.

Makes 15 little shot glasses or 6 dessert bowls.

A Cook's Plot Tip

Rather than breaking the meringue up for Eton Mess, you can of course use it for a pavlova, or alternatively this quantity makes six individual meringues (you'll need two baking-parchment lined baking sheets for these).

Meringues freeze really well - just remember to either freeze them in a rigid container or give them a whole shelf to themselves so they don't get damaged like mine did, if you want to use them whole!

Use the leftover egg yolks to make a lovely rich frittata (whisk them with a couple more whole eggs and cook with leftover veg and grated cheese in a deep frying pan until just set in the middle).

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