Mother’s Day Recipe: A Refreshing, Rustic Mocha Pavlova

Motherhood is the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary. It’s an act of infinite optimism.

—Gilda Radner

This weekend, across America and around the world, families and individuals will take time to celebrate the women who have “loved them into being,” as Fred Rogers so beautifully described it. For many of us, our Mother’s Day celebrations on Sunday will look rather different from those we have experienced in recent years. In this season of uncertainty, it seems more appropriate than ever to reflect on the faithful (and often faith-filled) optimism of our mothers and mother figures and to consider how our lives have been shaped by their belief in us.

We see moms and mom-types every day at Axum Coffee Co. At our downtown Winter Garden locations, we often talk to mothers who come in with their little ones before or after a walk along the West Orange Trail. We love when we get to serve women and their grown children as they gather together to share lunch or a coffee date, and it always puts a smile on our face when we can offer some liquid energy to a group of moms enjoying some much-needed time away from their kids.

Our work in the community through our partnership with Love Made Visible, a local nonprofit serving the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in our community and around the world, as well as our relationships with other local groups, has brought us face-to-face and heart-to-heart with yet more of these incredible women. We have been inspired by the tireless care of foster and adoptive mamas, and by the network of aunts and grandmas and teachers and administrators and neighbors and other loved ones who are mothering with all their heart but without the title.

Their strength, bravery, and, to quote Gilda Radner, “infinite optimism” has inspired us and spurred us on to be our best, both in our individual lives and as members of a community that functions like a family.

Share Love. Share Dessert.

Whomever you will be celebrating on Mother’s Day this year, we at Axum Coffee Co. want to help you set the table. In addition to making the morning easy with our Mother’s Day Brunch Take-Home Bags (available for order in our mobile app under “Packages”), here’s a rustic, forgiving take on a fancy dessert to help you share your love, along with some coffee and chocolate.

A pavlova is a dessert made from egg whites, sugar, cream, and air. The egg whites and sugar are beaten to form stiff peaks and baked into a meringue that is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, sort of like a giant macaron. Once it’s cooled, it is topped with freshly whipped cream—we weren’t kidding about air being an important ingredient—and garnished with berries. It is light, cool, and refreshing. It’s also gluten free, which makes it a great choice for those with food allergies.

In its most authentic form, a pavlova consists of a single, perfect layer of thick meringue topped with cream and fruit. However, we prefer this more rustic variation, in which the meringue is baked in two rounds and stacked with whipped cream, like a cake. It makes a great presentation, and it’s a lot less fussy than the original version.

If you have a whisk and the time and patience to let the meringue layers cool completely you can do this. Here’s what you need to know before you get started:

  1. Make sure your egg whites are at room temperature before you begin, and clean your bowl and beater/whisk well to make sure there isn’t any grease or oil residue left behind from your last baking adventure. Grease will keep your egg whites from reaching stiff peaks.
  2. We brewed Axum’s Brazil coffee beans for this recipe, and it was divine. The rich nutty, chocolate notes in the coffee pair beautifully with the chocolate and berries. We used espresso in ours, but you can use strong French press coffee too.
  3. Nearly everyone has over-beaten egg whites at least once in their journey as a home baker. If today happens to be your turn, don’t throw in the towel—or throw out your meringue. Just add another room-temperature egg white and stir it in carefully with the whisk. It should return to stiff peak stage.
  4. Resist the urge to open the oven while the meringue is baking or during the first hour after you turn off the oven. The cold air rushing into the oven will cause the egg whites to deflate.
  5. If your pavlova cracks (ours did!) or falls apart, move on to Plan B or Plan C. Plan B is to cover the cracks with the coffee cream and/or let the whipped cream hold the broken layers together. Chances are, no one will know. Plus, after they taste how good it is, no one will care either. Plan C is to pile the meringue, cream, and berries into individual glasses and serve it that way. It will taste the same—delicious!—and still present well. We promise.
  6. The meringue itself will store well in an airtight container for up to 24 hours, but once you put the cream on it, it needs to be eaten right away. If you plan to make it and serve it on the same day, make sure to budget time for the meringue to cool fully in the oven before you take it out and assemble the layers.

Ready? Good. It’s time to put on your apron, turn The Great British Baking Show on for some inspiration, and channel that “infinite optimism” we were just talking about.

Mother’s Day Rustic Mocha Pavlova

This recipe is inspired by Sneh Roy’s Coffee and Cream Pavlova over at Cook Republic. You can find the original recipe here.


1 espresso shot of Axum’s Brazil coffee (or 1 ounce strong coffee brewed in a French press), divided

¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate6 egg whites at room temperature

1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

1 ¼ cup granulated sugar

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. white vinegar

2 ½ tsp. vanilla extract, divided

2 ½ cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup powdered sugar

Sliced fresh berries, for garnish


Preheat oven to 300◦ F.

Cut two sheets of parchment paper and draw a seven-inch circle on the underside of each one. Place the sheets on two clean baking trays and set aside. (Make sure the trays will fit in your oven side by side rather than on different racks. They will bake unevenly if they are stacked.)

Pour half of the coffee over the chocolate chips and microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is just melted. Set it aside to cool while you start the meringue.

Add the room-temperature egg whites to a large bowl and whisk until frothy before adding cream of tartar. (We recommend a stand mixer or hand-held mixer for this, unless you’re in the mood for a serious arm workout.) Whisking constantly, begin to add the granulated sugar a little at a time. The egg whites will begin to take on a glossy sheen, and the sugar will start to dissolve. When the egg whites have formed stiff peaks (here’s how to know what that looks like) and you can barely feel the sugar in the meringue when you rub some between your fingers, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Add the cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla, and mix briefly.

Add 1/3 of your meringue to the cooled coffee-and-chocolate mixture and combine thoroughly. Then transfer that mixture to the bowl with the rest of your meringue. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites carefully. It’s alright if you can still see some ribbons of white meringue, but the majority of the meringue should now be mixed with chocolate.

Next, divide the mixture between the two circles you made on the parchment paper-lined sheets. We like to drop the meringue in the center of the circle and use a spatula or spoon to spread it out. It doesn’t have to be perfect. However, if perfection brings you joy, you can use an icing spatula to smooth the edges or even make ridges around the outside of the circle.

Place pans side-by-side in the hot oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 250◦ F. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Turn off the oven, crack the door, and allow the pavlova to cool for a couple of hours or even overnight.When the meringues are cool, you can make the whipped cream. Beat the cream, powdered sugar, remaining half the espresso (or 20 ml of strong coffee), and remaining 1 tsp. of vanilla in a bowl until it has doubled in size and reaches the consistency of whipped cream.

Place the first meringue round on your serving plate and cover it with half of the whipped cream. Place the second meringue round on top of the whipped cream, like you would do with the second layer of a cake, and spread the remaining whipped cream on the top.

Arrange the fresh berries over the cream before taking a moment to step back and admire your handiwork. If you’re feeling extra fancy, we also really love this dessert with a sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts and a generous drizzle of chocolate-hazelnut spread, but it’s fantastic with just the berries.

Be sure to let us know if you try this recipe! Snap a picture and tag us in it on social media. You’ll find us @AxumCoffee on Instagram and Facebook.

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