This is indeed prodigious: a billowing, regally magnificent mega-meringue, marshmallow within, crisp and almost candied at its sugary edge, dolloped with whipped cream, lychees and passionfruit and drizzled with a vividly red, vibrantly sharp raspberry sauce. I do think the raspberry sauce (coulis to those who remember the 1980s) makes a difference: I love the note of Christmas that the lucent redness brings, and the way, when you cut into it, you get a streak of winter raspberry ripple.
Serves 14 generous slices
For the base:
- 8 egg whites
- 500g caster sugar
- 4 tsp cornflour
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the topping:
- 650ml double cream
- 10 passionfruit
- 10 fresh or canned lychees, drained if canned
- 300g raspberries (frozen are fine)
- 25g icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and draw a rough 25cm diameter circle on it; I pencil round a cake tin that size.
Whisk the egg whites until satiny peaks form, then whisk in the sugar, a table-spoonful at a time, until the meringue is stiff and shiny.
Sprinkle the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract over the egg white, and fold in lightly with a metal spoon. Mound the meringue on to the baking parchment within the circle and, using a spatula, flatten the top and smooth the sides.
Put in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 120°C/gas mark 1/2. Cook for an hour. Then turn off the oven and leave to cool completely. Once it's cool, take the meringue disc out - and you can keep it in an airtight container for a couple of days or freeze for a month.
When you are ready to assemble the pavlova, invert the cooled meringue disc onto a large plate or a stand you can serve it on, and peel off the baking parchment.
Whip the cream until thickened but still soft, and pile onto the meringue - on the squidgy part that was stuck to the baking parchment - spreading it to the edges in a swirly fashion.
Cut the passionfruit in half, and scoop out the seeds, and any pulp and juice, into a bowl. Peel the fresh lychees (if using) over the bowl to catch any juice, then remove the stones, tear the lychees into pieces and let them drop into the passionfruit. Tear the drained, canned lychees (if using) likewise, and drop them in, too.
Leave the passionfruit and lychees sitting in their bowl for a moment, while you liquidize the raspberries with the icing sugar in a blender.
Dollop the cream-topped pavlova with the passionfruit and lychees, and their juices, then zig-zag some red, red, red raspberry sauce over the top, putting the rest in a small jug for people to add to their slices as they eat.