You don’t have to be a prep school alum to appreciate a Raspberry Eton Mess ~ it’s a traditional British dessert made with meringues, berries, and lots of whipped cream. It’s casual enough for everyday, but would be a wonderful Easter or Passover dessert. My version comes with an easy homemade raspberry vanilla bean sauce ~ now that’s a fine mess!
When a dessert starts at an elite British boarding school and then becomes the stuff of dreams for generations to come, you know it has to be good.
If you live in the US I’m going to bet you’ve never had a Raspberry Eton Mess, which is a shame, because this comforting gluten free dessert is easy to make, and drop dead delicious. With the ruby red raspberries it just screams spring, so now is the perfect time for you to learn how to make it. If you’ve made my Raspberry Pavlova, you’re ahead of the game.
History of the Eton Mess ~
The Eton mess takes its name from Eton College, an elite boarding school in England (Prince Charles and Prince Harry went there) but after that, the facts about this yummy dessert gets a little muddled. Let’s sort the fact from the alternative facts: one popular story involves a school picnic in the 1930s, an excited Labrador retriever, and a crushed pavlova dessert. Clever…but false. The dessert has been around since before the turn of the century. Etonians would have known it as ‘strawberry mess’ or ‘raspberry mess’. There was even a ‘banana mess’ from a competing school! The vintage term ‘mess’ in this case means a mixture of ingredients.
The simple ingredients for an Eton Mess:
Meringues (sweetened whipped egg whites, slow baked until crisp on the outside, chewy inside)
soft whipped cream
berries and berry sauce
This Raspberry Eton Mess is exactly the sort of free wheeling, don’t take it too seriously dessert I love here at tvfgi.
It’s great fun to make the little meringues for this dessert. The thing to remember is that you can bake them off in any shape you like. I felt like piping, but you can just spoon the meringue onto your baking sheet in irregular globs if you prefer. I’ve made meringue cookies like that, you can see them in my Easy Cocoa Meringues post where I just use a spoon to dollop the whipped egg whites onto the baking sheet.
My piped method made 4 dozen small kisses, which is enough for eight large desserts (if you allow 6 meringues per dessert.) I couldn’t bear to break mine up since they were so pretty, so I left them whole.
Traditional Eton Mess is made by breaking meringues and then mixing them with soft whipped cream and the berries. I just couldn’t bear to break apart my pretty shaped meringues, so I left it to the individual diner and their fork to do the job. They’re more or less bite sized, anyway. But if you prefer the texture of the meringue after it has soaked up some of the sweet cream, then by all means crush yours.
I started with a couple of meringues, then a layer of whipped cream with whole raspberries folded in, then a drizzle of the vibrant raspberry sauce, followed by a few raspberries, more meringues, and so on until the glass is full.
Make it ahead ~
You can absolutely make this Eton Mess in advance, the time in the fridge will give the meringue a chance to soften, absorb the flavors, and become even more delicious. You can also serve it right away, it’s your choice.
Other fruits to serve with Eton Mess
~ Strawberries are tradition.
~ Bananas (how comforting can this thing get?)
~ Other berries like blackberries, blueberries, currants, etc.
~ Rhubarb (with plenty of vanilla sugar) would make an amazing mess.
~ I think it would be equally amazing with ripe summer plums, pleaches, or apricots, I’m sure I’ll do that this summer. There would be no need to make an extra sauce with those super juicy fruits.
More spring raspberry desserts ~
Raspberry Eton Mess
- 4 large egg whites at room temperature
- a pinch of salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp cornstarch sifted
- 12 ounces of fresh raspberries
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- seeds of 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 Tbsp powdered sugar sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
- 12 ounces 2 cups whole raspberries, divided
- Preheat the oven to 250F (an oven thermometer is a great tool to have in case your oven is not calibrated correctly) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Get a pastry bag ready, fitted with an extra large piping tip. I used the Alteco 829 star tip.
- Add the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until foamy. With the mixer going, add the salt and then slowly add the sugar. Let the mixer go on high until the whites are stiff and glossy, this will take a few minutes. The meringue should hold stiff peaks when you lift the beater out of the bowl.
- Fold in the lemon juice and cornstarch. Then fill your pastry bag with the meringue.
- Pipe small dollops of meringue on the lined baking sheet. They can be spaced close together because they won't spread in the oven. This recipe makes approximately 48 meringues with a base of about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
- Bake the meringues for 60 minutes, and don't disturb while baking. Then turn the oven off and crack the oven door open, and leave them in the oven for another hour.
- While the meringues are baking, make the raspberry sauce. Rinse the berries and put them directly into a saucepan while they are still dripping wet. Add the sugar and vanilla and bring up to a simmer, stirring almost constantly to dissolve the sugar. Gently boil for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until the berries have softened and released their juices.
- Let the mixture cool for a few minutes, then puree briefly in a food processor until smooth. No need to strain.
- Whip the heavy cream until it starts to thicken, then add the sugar and extract. Beat until soft peaks form, but be careful not to over beat or it will seize up. You want a nice soft texture. I like to beat on a medium speed so I can control the progress. Gently fold 1 cup of the whole berries into the cream, reserving the rest for serving.
- To serve the Eton Mess, gather 8 serving glasses or dishes. I like to use glass so you can see the pretty layers. You'll use 6 meringues for each serving. Start with 2 or 3 meringues for the first layer, then top with some cream, a couple of berries, and a drizzle of sauce. Repeat the layer once or twice more, and finish with berries.
- Note: you can break apart the meringues as you add them to your bowls, which will allow the cream and sauce to penetrate more easily. I like to keep them whole, but you can do it either way.