Black Forest Eton Mess

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This delicious black forest Eton mess dessert consists of layers of sweet crumbled meringue, velvety whipped cream, an intense cherry-brandy compote and a smooth chocolate ganache. Because you can use fresh or canned cherries, you can make this dessert year-round, whether it’s a hot summer day or the winter holidays.

Three dessert glasses filled with black forest Eton mess trifle.

This post was originally published on July 30, 2015.

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What is Eton mess?

Eton mess is a traditional British dessert trifle made with layers of crumbled meringue, whipped cream and fruit.

Apparently the dessert is traditionally served at Eton College’s annual cricket match and was invented in one way or another (different sources tell different stories here) at the school.

The Eton mess recipe I created here is made with a crunchy but very delicate meringue that is softened by vanilla whipped cream, coated with a blanket of creamy milk chocolate and bittersweet chocolate and topped with fresh, juicy cherries cooked in brandy.

How to make this Eton mess recipe step by step:

This dessert is not difficult to make but it does take time because the meringue takes a while to bake and because it tastes best after it’s had a few hours in the fridge, so be sure to plan for that.

Step 1. Start by whipping 3 egg whites (at room temperature), 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until they hold soft peaks.

Step 2. Slowly but steadily whip in 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Once all the sugar is incorporated, you will end up with a very firm meringue.

Step by step photos on how to make a meringue. A mixing bowl with soft peak whipped egg whites and a mixing bowl with a firm meringue.

Step 3. Spoon round little meringue nests onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake them for 45 minutes at 275 degrees F.

Step 4. Turn the oven off and without opening the oven door, let the meringues cool in the oven for another hour.

A parchment paper-lined baking sheet with dollops of unbaked meringue and with baked meringue.

Step 5. Once the meringue nests are cooled completely, crumble them into a bowl and set aside.

Step 6. For the cherry compote you have two fine options: you can use 1.5 pounds fresh cherries (you have to remove the stems and the pits) or canned and drained red tart cherries.

A bowl with crumbled meringue and two bowls with fresh and canned cherries.

Step 7. Cook whichever type of cherries you are using along with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar2 tablespoons brandy and 2 teaspoons lemon juice until the cherries start to break down, then let them cool.

Fresh and canned cherries in a saucepan with sugar.

Step 8. To make the ganache, add 2 ounces finely chopped sweet chocolate (milk chocolate or German chocolate) and 1 ounce finely chopped bittersweet chocolate to a bowl, then pour 3 tablespoons hot cream over the chocolate. Let the mix sit for a minute, then whisk it into a smooth ganache. (If you still have chocolate clumps remaining, heat the mix over a pot of simmering water and continue to whisk until all the chocolate is melted.)

Step 9. For the whipped cream layer, simply whip 1.5 cups heavy cream with 1.5 tablespoons granulated sugar and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract to stiff peaks.

A mixing bowl with chopped chocolate and cream and a mixing bowl with whipped cream.

How to serve Eton mess:

You have two options for how to serve this trifle: 1) in individual portions like I did in the photo at the top or 2) in a one big bowl that you spoon the dessert out of and distribute onto plates or bowls.

Whichever option you choose, you want to layer the trifle in the following order: meringue crumbles, then whipped cream, then ganache, then the cherry compote. It’s important that you keep that order because the whipped cream needs to sit on top of the meringue to soften it.

How long does Eton mess need to chill before serving?

I recommend to let the fully assembled Eton mess sit in the fridge for about 4 hours before serving to let the crumbled meringue soften a bit. It tastes best that way.

What if cherries are not in season?

No problem, you can still make this dessert. Instead of fresh cherries, use canned red tart cherries. Fresh cherries look a bit more attractive but as far as flavor is concerned, canned red tart cherries work surprisingly well here and make a delicious alternative when fresh cherries are not in season.

More delicious fruit desserts:

Made this recipe? It would be awesome if you could leave a rating. Either tap or click the stars in the recipe card or leave a comment below. Thanks!

Three dessert glasses filled with black forest Eton mess trifle.
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Black Forest Eton Mess

This delicious black forest Eton mess dessert consists of layers of sweet crumbled meringue, velvety whipped cream, an intense cherry-brandy compote and a smooth chocolate ganache.
Prep Time:15 mins
Cook Time:1 hr 45 mins
Chill Time4 hrs
Total Time:6 hrs
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: British
Keyword: black forest eton mess
Servings: 8
Calories (estimated): 350kcal

Ingredients:

For the meringue layers:

  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup sugar

For the cherry layers:

  • 1.5 pounds dark cherries, stems and pits removed (if cherries are not in season, you can use canned and drained red tart cherries instead)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the chocolate ganache layers:

  • 2 ounces sweet chocolate (milk chocolate or German chocolate) finely chopped*
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped*
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

For the whipped cream layers:

  • 1.5 cup heavy cream
  • 1.5 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

For the meringue layers:

  • Heat the oven to 275 degrees F.
  • Whip egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar until you get soft peaks.
  • Slowly and gradually add the sugar, continuing to whip until all sugar is incorporated. You will end up with a very firm meringue.
  • Spoon 8 round meringue nests on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 45  minutes.
  • Turn off the oven, don’t open the oven door, and let the meringue nests cool in the oven for 1 hour.

For the cherry layers:

  • Add cherries, sugar, brandy and lemon juice to a pan and cook on medium heat until the cherries start to break down and the juice thickens. Let cool.

For the chocolate ganache layers:

  • Bring the cream to a boil in the microwave or on the stovetop and pour over the chocolate. Let the mix sit for a minute.
  • Whisk until you have a smooth ganache. If necessary, heat the mix over a water bath until all the chocolate is dissolved.

For the whipped cream layers:

  • Whip all ingredients to stiff peaks.

For the assembly:

  • Crumble up the meringue nests.
  • Fill crushed meringue, whipped cream, chocolate ganache and cherry layers into tall glasses or a large bowl. Let sit in the fridge for about 4 hours before serving.

Notes:

*Don’t use chocolate morsels; morsels have stabilizers in them that actually prevent them from melting.

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Three dessert glasses filled with black forest Eton mess trifle.

8 comments

  1. Nagi@RecipeTinEats says:

    Damn you! Why did you have to beat me to the styling challenge – I don’t want to be compared!!

    You know what I love about this? I love your thinking – that you took a big dessert typically served as one big mess and broke it down into small to make something that is typically a beautiful “mess” into something so delicate.

    Bowing to the Food Photography Queen.

    I have so many observations to make about this shot. I just LOVE it. I hope you don’t mind if I share it on FBC FB?

    • Nicole B. says:

      Ha! Yup, I figured a big mess would be too, um messy, so I made it miniature. ;) Please feel free to share anywhere you like! –nic x

    • Nicole B. says:

      That would be cool, wouldn’t it? You could bring some of your grilled sensations, I’d bring an Eton Mess, you could grab some garden veggies and I’d pluck a few limes off your miracle tree. :)

    • Nicole B. says:

      It’s such a great dessert, isn’t it? I can’t believe I didn’t know about it until recently! :) –nic xx

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