Celebrate autumn with this elegant and luscious dessert: a crisp and marshmallowy spiced meringue layer draped with silky pumpkin-orange curd, then topped off with tangy cream cheese whip and crunchy candied pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin Pavlova is heaven on a plate and best of all - you can make all of the bits ahead of time and assemble it just before your guests arrive! (Skip to recipe.)
Autumn is here in all its rich and beautiful glory. And we have so much to be thankful for.
The leaves are turning, the garden is mostly harvested (just root vegetables left), our children are all following their dreams, we have good friendships, and health, and loving family. We are blessed with enough.
Enough is more than enough. Having enough is a blessing of abundance.
Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. And yesterday we celebrated.
It was a small gathering - just seven of us, but it was more than enough. It was family.
The sweet end to our celebration was this joyous Pumpkin Spice Pavlova - rich with fall flavours, light and sweet and sparkling with textures. The base is a marvel of crunchiness and light, fluffy chewiness at the same time. The sweet pumpkin curd layer is rich and silky, with a slight citrus tang and warm pumpkin pie spices, while the whip layer is like light, fluffy cream cheese frosting, not too sweet. It's all topped with a scattering of crispy candied pumpkin seeds.
My inspiration for this creation came from a brainstorming session with my daughter. We were discussing our Thanksgiving menu and she suggested a pavlova for dessert (she always does) and I was sighing and saying I think I should at least make a pumpkin pie, too (tradition, you know), but I'm feeling too lazy. She said why not combine the two? (She always has good ideas.) So we put our heads together and came up with this stunner of a pumpkin pavlova. It's a pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, and pavlova all wrapped in one beautiful package. And since we celebrate our youngest son's Thanksgiving birthday at the same time, it made a fantastic birthday cake, too!
Okay, so sometimes an idea that should be simple takes on a life of its own - or in other word, I'm not too smart. I did make three batches of the spiced pumpkin curd before I got the consistency just how I wanted it.
Could I have made a pumpkin pie in that time? Duh! Um - yeah! Would it have been as much of a hit as this pumpkin pavlova? Duh! Um - no!
The beauty of this luscious and elegant dessert is that you can make most of it ahead (even days ahead), then whip the cream a few hours before your guests arrive, and put it together just before dinner or dessert. (Plus it's a fantastic dessert if you have gluten-free guests coming.)
I'll let you in on a little secret - if you snaffle any leftover pieces (okay, that might not happen) and cover them loosely with plastic wrap or foil, then put them in the fridge, they are fantastic the next day, too - the meringue stays crispy, and the bit of moisture from the curd just makes the center more marshmallowy.
Pumpkin Pavlova is Fun to Make
It looks like there are a lot of stages, but really, they are quick to whip up, so this is a great dessert for entertaining. The pavlova looks elegant, tastes sensational, and you can make most of it ahead! You can make the meringue base layer 3 or 4 days ahead and save it in an airtight container. The pumpkin spice curd layer can also be cooked ahead and refrigerated. The candied nuts are quick to whip up and can be stored for days (just hide them deep in the pantry so no nibblers get at them!), while the cream cheese whip can be made a few hours before guests arrive. Then just put it all together before serving (takes about 2 minutes to assemble).
Whip up the meringue until it's thick and glossy and dusted with warm pumpkin pie spices.
Then plop it onto parchment paper and shape it into your perfect pavlova.
Bake it low and slow til the outside dries out to crispy perfection and the inside stays gooey and marshmallowy.
Now simmer up your silky pumpkin curd. It's got the sweetness from pumpkin, the tang from orange juice, and the richness of egg yolks, with loads of pumpkin pie spice.
Toast some pumpkin seeds in a coating of crunchy sugar - this takes 5 minutes in a skillet.
Whip up some luscious cream cheese whip.
Put it all together.
And cut yourself a slice.
Okay, don't do that. Try and resist. Save it 'til guests arrive.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you.
* * * * *
Kitchen Frau Notes: The timing of serving a pumpkin pavlova makes a difference to how it looks (though not its taste). From the time of assembling you have one to two hours before the curd starts to weep slightly, so you want to serve it before then. After the pavlova sits for a few hours, there may be a teeny bit of moisture weeping from the curd layer. However, the only thing this affects is the aesthetics - the meringue stays crunchy. If you put any uneaten pieces into the fridge (just lightly covered with plastic) the bit of liquid will reabsorb and the pavlova will still be great to eat the next day - just slightly more marshmallowy in the center. That's actually a good thing.
I always have a can of unsweetened frozen orange juice concentrate in my freezer. I take out a few tablespoons at a time and reseal it. I love the intense orange flavour to flavour all kinds of dishes: use in sauces, salad dressings, drizzle over cooked beets, stir into whipped cream, yogurt, stews, baking, etc.
for the meringue:
- 4 large egg whites
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar (preferably natural evaporated cane sugar)
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
for the pumpkin spice curd:
- ¾ cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 large whole eggs
- ¼ cup (57gms) salted butter
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (simple homemade version here)
- ¼ cup (50gms) sugar (preferably natural evaporated cane juice)
- ¼ cup (60ml) undiluted unsweetened frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
for the candied pumpkin seeds:
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ tablespoon (1½ teaspoons) butter
- ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon water
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
for the cream cheese whip:
- 4 oz/125 gms cream cheese (½ of an 8oz block), at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup (240ml) heavy whipping cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
Make the meringue base: (can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept in an airtight container)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Draw an 8 inch (20cm) circle onto a piece of parchment paper with a pencil or black marker pen. Use a small plate or saucepan lid that is about that circumference for a tracer. Flip the parchment paper over so the circle is on the bottom and lay it onto a cookie sheet.
Whip the egg whites and salt to stiff peaks (save the yolks for the curd). Combine the sugar and pumpkin pie spice, and gradually add the spiced sugar, one tablespoon at time into the beaten egg whites. Beat until they are very stiff and shiny and the sugar is completely dissolved and you can’t feel any sugar crystals when you rub a small amount of meringue between your fingertips. This will take at least 10 minutes of whipping. Beat in the cornstarch, lemon juice and vanilla.
Plop the meringue onto the parchment paper within the circle. If the parchment moves around to much, put a little dab of meringue under each corner to stick it to the pan. Use a spatula to spread the meringue gently to the edges of the circle. Shape it so it has relatively straight sides and a flat top, with a bowl-like indentation scooped out of the middle; don’t worry too much about getting it perfect. A loose rustic shape with a few crags and waves makes for a more attractive pavlova. Try to keep the meringue to the size of the drawn circle though, as it will expand with baking to make about a 9 inch (24cm) disk.
Put the baking sheet into the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 225°F (110°C). Bake it for 1½ hours. Turn off the oven and don’t open the door. Leave the pavlova in the oven until it is cold, or overnight.
Make the pumpkin spice curd: (can be made up to 3 days ahead, and kept refrigerated)
Whisk the egg yolks (leftover from making the meringue) and whole eggs in a bowl. Whisk in the pumpkin purée until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the pumpkin pie spice, sugar, and orange juice concentrate. Pour in the eggs and pumpkin, whisking constantly. Cook the curd mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, just until the mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Cool for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, then transfer the mixture to a small bowl and lay a piece of plastic food wrap directly on the surface, making sure it smoothly covers the curd with no bubbles uncovered. Press the plastic wrap right to the edges of the bowl. Allow to cool to lukewarm, then refrigerate for several hours or up to 3 days before assembling the pavlova.
Make the candied pumpkin seeds: (can be made up to a week ahead) Put a piece of parchment paper into a baking sheet and set aside. In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the sugar, water, butter, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. As soon as the sugar is dissolved, dump in the pumpkin seeds. Continue to cook and stir the seeds for about 5 minutes, until the water is evaporated, and the seeds are coated and crunchy. Immediately tip them onto the prepared parchment paper and spread them apart with a spatula or butter knife. Allow to cool, then store in an airtight container at room temperature until the candied seeds are needed for the pavlova.
Make the cream cheese whip: (can be made several hours ahead of serving time) In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese with the sugar until they are smoothly combined and lump free. Pour in the whipping cream and whip until soft peaks form, scraping down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the cream cheese. Add the vanilla and whip for 10 seconds longer. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours if making the whipped cream ahead.
Assemble the pumpkin pavlova: Assemble the pavlova immediately before serving or up to one hour before.
Peel the parchment paper off the base of the baked meringue and place it onto a serving plate. Spread the pumpkin curd into the dip in the meringue and over the top of the lip up to about 1 inch (2.5cm) from the outside edge all the way around.
Plop the whipped cream on top and spread it around the top of the pavlova, not quite to the edges, leaving a bit of the pumpkin curd showing all the way around.
Sprinkle the candied pumpkin seeds over the top (you may not need to use all of them - the leftovers make delicious nibbling).
Serve the pumpkin pavlova immediately, or within one hour of assembling.
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