Hazelnut and strawberry vacherin

This extra special dessert can also double up as a birthday cake with some indoor sparklers or birthday candles pressed into the top meringue layer.

Serves 8
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 11/4-11/2 hours


For the meringue
50 g (2 oz) hazelnuts
2 teaspoons cornflour
4 medium egg whites
225 g (8 oz) caster sugar

To decorate
300 ml (1/2 pint) double cream
100 g (4 oz) 0% fat fromage frais
150 g (5 oz) raspberries
400 g (14 oz) strawberries, hulled, chopped
50 g (2 oz) dark chocolate, melted
Few toasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts, optional


1. Preheat the oven to 110oC/225oF/ Gas Mark ¼. Line 2 large baking sheets with non-stick baking paper and draw on 3, 20 cm (8 inch) circles. Grill the hazelnuts until golden then finely chop or grind in a liquidiser or food processor until similar to breadcrumbs then mix with the cornflour.

2. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks and the bowl can be turned upside down without the egg whites sliding in the bowl. Gradually whisk in the sugar, a teaspoonful at a time and continue whisking once all the sugar has been added for a minute or two until the meringue is very thick and glossy.

3. Fold in the finely chopped hazelnuts then spoon the meringue into a large piping bag fitted with a 1 cm (1/2 inch) plain piping tube and pipe three meringue circles starting in the centre of each drawn circle or spoon meringue on to the paper and spread with a round bladed knife if preferred.

4. Bake for 11/4-11/2 hours or until the meringue circles can be lifted easily from the paper. Leave to cool still on the paper.

5. When ready to serve, whisk the cream in a bowl until it forms very soft peaks then fold in the fromage frais. Transfer one of the meringues to a serving plate, spoon over one third of the cream mixture then sprinkle with one third of the fruit and drizzle with a little of the chocolate. Cover with a second meringue then repeat the layers ending with fruit, extra hazelnuts if using and drizzles of melted chocolate.

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