In moments of indecisiveness, inspiration can come unexpectedly. Sometimes, it just takes a good friend and a simple conversation to provide a little clarity that sparks an idea. That is how this cake – a combination of pavlova and cheesecake – came to be.
You see, the month of May is prime cake table ´kakebord´ time in Norway. With confirmations, weddings, celebratory parties, and, of course, 17 Mai (Norway’s Constitution Day), there’s no reason not to bake or at least indulge in the dessert conversation. There are traditional cakes, like kvæfjordkake, bløtkake, marzipan cake, kransekake. There are also newer favorites such as pavlova and brownies. One thing for is for sure, whether it’s chocolate, vanilla, meringue, marzipan, simple, extravagant, old or new, the most important thing is the love that is poured out and shared during the occasion and the cake is just a sweet indulgent that adds to memory.
I couldn’t quite settle on which recipe to share with you. I bounced between kransekake, marzipan cake, swill roll, and filled cupcakes – that would be very on theme. With the clock ticking, I felt like I needed to make a decision, but kept heading in circles. It was in the cool evening, surrounded by the rolling farm fields of Rollag, that inspiration finally hit.
I shared my dilemma with a dear friend. We chatted about traditions and cakes we like and didn’t like as much. She divulged that she loves the cheesecake with the wiggly jello layer on top. We then pondered why pavlova is so popular in Norway and how simple a swiss roll cake is, but at the same time so good. She stressed the desire for wanting to make something different than the usual. The cool breeze suddenly piercing through our jackets, reminding us we should head inside. The cake conversation ended as quickly as it started.
I left with a burning desire to provide her with a different cake recipe. As I replayed the conversation in my head, the cheesecake and the pavlova suddenly merged into one. A pavlova cheesecake. Simple and a marriage of two favorites.
The pavlova cheesecake, while new to my repertoire, is not a new combination. I found a few recipes as I researched; many from Australia that, along with New Zealand, claim pavlova as their national cuisine. This recipe, though, uses the Norwegian cheesecake I learned from my Norwegian mother-in-law: light, fluffy, and with a slight lemon tang. The balance of sweet meringue and creamy cheesecake is accentuated with fresh berries. A cake that was tested and well-received before I shared it with all of you.
Pavlova Cheesecake with Fresh Berries
For the pavlova:
- 4 large eggs at room temperature, separated
- 1 cup (200 g) caster/super fine sugar
For the cheesecake:
- 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) water
- 4 ½ ounces (125 g) lemon-flavored gelatin powder
- 10 ½ ounces (300 g) cream cheese
- 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) sour cream
- 1 cup (120 g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) heavy cream
Selection of berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 170°C.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the bottom of a 9-inch / 23 cm spring form pan and place the side of the spring form pan on top of the prepared baking sheet. Line the spring form side with parchment, using a little softened butter between the parchment and the pan to get it to hold.
For the pavlova, use an electric mixer on medium to whip the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar, whipping until stiff peaks form. Pour into the spring form, careful to keep it in place from sliding.
Lower the oven temperature to 250°F / 120°C.
Place the pavlova in the oven on the middle shelf. Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes, until firm and dry on the outside. Turn off the oven and if you have some time, let the pavlova cool completely inside the oven or take out and let cool at room temperature. Once cool, either leave on the tray as it is (make sure it fits in the refrigerator) or carefully remove the pavlova from the tray with the sides of the springform still attached to a serving platter.
Prepare the cheesecake filling once the pavlova has cooled. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the gelatin and stir until completely dissolved. Pour into a medium, heat-safe bowl and let cool completely. Add the cream cheese and stir to fully combine.
In a second large bowl, whisk together the sour cream and confectioners’ sugar. Add the cream cheese–gelatin mixture and whisk to combine.
In a second medium bowl, whisk the heavy cream until stiff peaks form then add to the batter and gently fold to combine.
Pour the batter over the pavlova and smooth the top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until set.
This cake is best served as soon as the cheesecake filling sets. It will last a day or two in the refrigerator, but the pavlova will begin to break down the longer it stays in the cold.
To serve, place on a serving plate (if you have not already done so) and remove the springform and the parchment paper carefully. Top with the seasonal berries. If you like, you can even serve it with this fresh berry sauce from my recipe for rice pudding ice cream.
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