How to Make a Pavlova Alternative Wedding Cake

Summer is nearly here, and our tastebuds are changing into a more seasonal palate. With our editor-in-chief Chelsea actually still in England because of travel restrictions, we are getting inspired by the way our friends across the pond celebrate summertime through lovely food options! If you know anything about England, then you likely know of their love affair with sweets of all kinds. (Great British Baking Show, anyone?)

Since wedding couples are always looking for ways to make their special days unique, alternative wedding cakes and homemade details have continually been popular in Google and Pinterest searches for the past couple of years. From cupcakes to macarons to donuts to cookies, American weddings know their own sweet tooth cravings, too! So let's add one more idea to the mix: the meringue tower also known as a pavlova layer cake.

Next in Sips & Bites and for our monthly DIY project, a food and drink series that is focused on beautifully and deliciously inspiring treats for wedding and home celebrations, we're introducing a distinctly British-inspired and oh so summery alternative wedding cake: a grilled white peach, blueberry, and coconut cream pavlova wedding cake.

Not getting married? Heck yes, this recipe works for a fabulously decadent summer treat for yourself -- we won't judge!

I wasn't supposed to be here in the UK for summertime. I didn't even pack any warm weather clothes. As mentioned in our "Packing Essentials for a Wintry UK Honeymoon," there were actually supposed to be quite a few travel features related to my sabbatical over here. COVID-19 clearly had other plans. We only managed our Isle of Wight Travel Guide before UK lockdown started!

Once the UK government confirmed my visitor's visa extension until the end of July so I could safely return to Virginia, I knew I wanted to make the most of my time here when it came to celebrating British life. Making lemonade out of lemons, so to speak. That's where the pavlova comes in. You can find meringues everywhere here, and when I spotted a "smash" recipe using peaches and blueberries from a local grocery chain, Sainsbury's, I was instantly inspired to figure out a way to translate it into American wedding terms.

- Chelsea
Editor-in-Chief of Tidewater and Tulle

Lovely fruit pavlova meringue wedding cake alternative recipe perfect for summer wedding events

How to Make a British-Inspired Pavlova Alternative Wedding Cake

Makes About 12+ Servings

Inspired by British summertime and fresh fruits of the season, this white peach, blueberry, and coconut-flavored pavlova is everything needed to celebrate the weather on your big day (or at home). This treat does require some pre-prep and some expertise, but the results are phenomenal! (And be sure to grill up any of your leftover flat peaches for side snacking because so much yes!)

Ideally, support local small business and order your meringues from your favorite bakery, cake artist, or pastry chef! You can also order custom meringues from small shops on Etsy. Since well-made meringues can last up to 2 weeks in an airtight container, you can order these in advance of your wedding day and have them delivered when the time is ready.

If these aren't available options, chat with family and friends to see who is already an expert in making meringues. Your wedding alternative meringue cake is not the time to practice how to make meringues! Meringues are delicate, and once you add wet ingredients like cream and compote when assembling your layers, the meringues will soften and start to break down into sugary goodness. You need meringues that are solid and basically perfect to withstand a pavlova tower structure.

Once you have sourced your meringues, we recommend using standard basic meringues of various sizes so the other fruity ingredients' flavors and rustic textures take the spotlight. Above all, have fun with it!

Ingredients for pavlova meringue wedding cake recipe
Ingredients for pavlova meringue wedding cake recipe

Part 1: Pre-Make Ingredients for a Pavlova Wedding Cake

For the peach purée:
• 2 ripe white peaches, halved and stoned
• 2 teaspoons of powdered sugar
• 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

For the blueberry compote:
• 1 cup of blueberries
• 1/4 cup of superfine sugar
• 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
• 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the coconut cream:
• 1 1/4 cup of heavy cream (for homemade whipped cream) or already made whipped cream
• 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
• 2/3 cup of coconut yogurt

For the grilled peaches (optional):
• 4 ripe white peaches, cut into wedges
• 1 tablespoon of flavorless oil, such as vegetable oil

Electric hand mixer
Fine mesh strainer
Mixing spoon
Food processor or blender
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons
Chef knife
Mixing bowl
Cutting board
Grill pan
Pastry brush
Stainless steel tongs
Food storage containers
Parchment paper

This complete pavlova cake contains eggs and nuts.

The peach purée and blueberry compote can be made 48 hours ahead of time. If making homemade whipped cream, this can be made 24 hours ahead. If store-bought whipped cream, follow the advice on its packaging. The fresh grilled peaches need to be made on the day of and stored airtight in a fridge until assembly.

1. For the peach purée, blend the peaches, powdered sugar, and lemon juice together in a small food processor. To help rid of the excess peach skin tidbits, push the purée through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Store in an airtight container inside of the fridge until ready for assembly.

2. Place all of the blueberry compote ingredients in a small saucepan on your stovetop. Cook on medium heat until the blueberries break down and the sugar dissolves to make a thick, syrupy sauce. This should take about 5 minutes. Stir frequently. Once finished cooking, leave your compote to cool before storing in an airtight container inside of your fridge. When ready to assemble your pavlova, allow the compote to come to room temperature before using.

3. For the coconut cream, pour the heavy cream and vanilla extract into a bowl and whip ingredients with an electric hand mixer until you get soft peaks. Once peaks have formed, briefly whisk in the coconut yogurt. If using store-bought whipped cream, fold in the coconut yogurt and vanilla extract. Store in an airtight container inside of the fridge.

4. [Optional] For grilled peaches to use for decorating (and eating!) your pavlova, preheat a grill pan to medium high. Cut your peaches into small wedges. With a pastry brush, brush each side of the cut peaches with oil. Add the peaches to the grill pan and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side until lightly charred. Tap each peach wedge before flipping over. They should release themselves from the pan; if they don't, they're not ready and may stick to the pan. Once done, use metal tongs to transfer your wedges onto a plate to cool. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to assemble your pavlova.

How to assemble a pavlova meringue layer cake for a DIY wedding

White and yellow peaches actually are different beyond just the color of their inner flesh. While yellow peaches have a more classic tart taste, white peaches are less acidic and a bit more sweet. White peaches are generally available from June to August in Virginia depending on rain and sunshine in springtime.

In this recipe, you'll also notice our white peaches are rather flat. They aren't defective! These are actually a specialty peach called flat, donut, Saturn, or UFO peaches depending where you are in the States. Chiles Orchard in Crozet, Virginia actually grows flat and white peaches for pick-your-own during June and July!

While we have chosen to use flat peaches, you can use standard white peaches from a grocery store or pick-your-own. Any peach with white flesh and a soft pink center will give you this particular pavlova look and complementary sweet taste.

How to grill white peaches for a pavlova wedding layer cake
Best recipe tips for a pavlova meringue alternative wedding cake with grilled peaches and blueberries

Part 2: How to Assemble a Grilled Peach, Blueberry, and Coconut Cream Pavlova Wedding Cake

For the pavlova assembly:
• 3 large meringues as bases
• 9 medium meringues as stability layers
• 12 small meringue drops as filler
• 3 tablespoons of coconut flakes, toasted
• 1/2 cup of fresh coconut meat, chopped
• Peach purée
• Blueberry compote
• Grilled peaches

10" wooden cake stand
• Cake plates
Embroidered monogram linen cocktail napkins
Champagne flutes
Cake or pastry forks
• Serving spoon
Chiffon table runner

Because of its delicate texture, the entire pavlova cake should be assembled no more than one (1) hour before serving. This is where having your professional caterer or baker on site to help is important! They will make your special homemade treat shine with pro knowledge and expertise so you can enjoy your wedding day without worry. These directions are more for those who are making this pavlova at home for entertaining when the pressure isn't on to have a picture perfect treat.

1. Prep your table with all of your assembly ingredients and details. You'll want to have everything on hand as assembly time is sensitive.

2. For your structural foundation layer, start with using one large meringue for your base and begin stacking your other smaller sized meringues to help build stability. Scoop some coconut cream and then drizzle your peach purée and blueberry compote on those meringues.

3. Repeat these meringue, fruit, and cream layers so you have a total of three layers. Be mindful of the wet versus dry ingredients as more wet will mean more breakdown of your meringues over time. It's better to be conservative with your assembly because you can add more at serving time.

4. Once the layered tower is created, decorate your pavlova cake with grilled peaches and coconut meat chunks. Sprinkle toasted coconut flakes all over. Use flowers and greens for a lovely decorative look. Either way, have fun with it! It can be as rustic or as classic as you want it to be. The flavors will all still be the same!

When you're ready to eat, reserve some of your peach purée so you have some extra to drizzle on your plated pavlova servings.

If a meringue tower cake isn't necessary for your culinary vision, consider a deconstructed version of this recipe! Break up your meringues into chunks, place on small dessert plates, and layer your ingredients on top of the broken meringues. Same flavors, different presentation.

Summer inspired grilled peach and blueberry coconut pavlova meringue wedding cake on a dark brown cake stand and peach table runner
Embroidered silver monogram linen cocktail napkins for wedding cake table details

The History of the Pavlova

While wildly popular in the UK as a fresh summer treat, the pavlova actually didn't originate in Ole Blighty. Named after a Russian ballerina superstar in the 1920s, the pavlova was created in honor of her Australian and New Zealand tour. Anna Pavlova had a bunch of global dishes named after her, but the dessert we all know these days is the fluffy cream, meringue, and fruit concoction. New Zealand and Australia both make claims to its creation, yet the recipe has roots all over the world. Some researchers' stories even claim that the United States and England are the pavlova's rightful parents. Whoever it really was, we may never know, but it's fiercely embedded in Aussie and Kiwi culture, so the culinary experts let them proudly claim its origin.

Because of their history in the British Empire, there was no question that no matter whether it was Australia or New Zealand to birth this yummy dish that the pavlova would have eventually migrated to England some day, and that it did. In every British supermarket, you'll find ready-made meringues of all sizes and shapes in abundance. From Eton Mess to the pavlova, the English especially love this light and crunchy ingredient. (Another tale of borrowing recipes? The type of meringues loved by the Brits actually originated from France, but that's a whole different story for another day.)

For more juicy drama on from where this sweet pavlova dessert came, we found Food 52's history lesson really fun. Or just Google "origins of the pavlova," and you'll find a bevy of quite passionate debates over its history.

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Other British-Inspired Flavor Combinations

If the Great British Baking Show (or also known as The Great British Bake Off in the UK) has taught us anything, our neighbors across the pond very much have well-loved flavor combinations for their tastebuds. Try the following classic dessert-inspired combos for your pavlova wedding cake if you're looking for other yummy ideas on how to use your meringues.

Eton Mess with Strawberries and Cream
Banoffee with Bananas, Caramel Sauce, Cream, and Toffee Crunchies
Bakewell Tart with Raspberry Compote, Maraschino or Candied Cherries, and Almond Cream
English Trifle with Pound Cake, Vanilla Pudding, and Fresh Fruit
Jam Roly-Poly with Raspberry Compote and Custard
Battenburg with Almond Cake, Apricot Compote, and Marzipan Decorations
Victoria Sponge with Yellow Cake, Strawberry or Raspberry Compote, and Whipped Cream
Jaffa Cake with Orange Citrus-Flavored Cake, Orange Compote, and Dark Chocolate Ganache

Summer inspired grilled peach and blueberry coconut pavlova meringue wedding cake on a dark brown cake stand and peach table runner
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Tutorial, Photography, & Styling: Chelsea LaVere for Tidewater and Tulle | Florals: Apple Mint Florist | Embroidered Napkins: Linen and Letters via Etsy | Cake Stand: Prop Options | Sparkling Wine: Nyetimber | Plateware: Sophie Conran

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