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What Is an Eton Mess?
Eton mess is a gluten-free British dessert consisting of meringue, whipped heavy cream, and fruit, traditionally fresh strawberries or bananas. You can serve this British treat in a large bowl, similar to a trifle, or portion it into individual serving glasses or bowls. Some variations may also include ice cream.
Eton mess gets its name from Eton College, an elite English boarding school, where it was served as early as the 1890s at cricket matches. By the 1930s, the dessert was a common sight at the school’s “tuck shop”—a small store offering sweets and other snacks to students.
3 Tips for Making an Eton Mess
Eton mess is low-maintenance by design—the quality of each component is where it shines.
- Make the meringue in advance. You can make an Eton mess with store-bought meringue or whip up your own at home. Flavor fresh meringue with bright citrus zest or rich cocoa powder for a twist on the classic Eton mess.
- Keep the meringue shards large. The bits of crunchy meringue cookies in an Eton mess provide a textural contrast to the creamy, soft elements of the rest of the dish. Smash the meringue too fine, and it will get lost in the heavy cream.
- Use homemade whipped cream. Luscious, velvety, homemade whipped cream is light but substantial enough to suspend crispy meringue and heavy fruit. It has more body than whipped cream from a canister and will result in a more substantial Eton mess.
What Are the Differences Between an Eton Mess and a Pavlova?
These two classic meringue desserts embrace a kind of joyful destruction and edible chaos, but the pavlova is slightly more composed than the Eton mess. A pavlova is a baked meringue dessert finished with whipped cream and fruit. The low temperature and slow baking time create a chewy-crisp texture on the exterior, with a soft, marshmallowy center. The finished pavlova is topped with whipped cream and can be dressed with fresh fruit or lemon curd.
An Eton mess exists somewhere between a fruit-topped meringue pavlova and a fruit fool, a fruit purée folded into whipped cream. The British dessert, typically