Here's the Christmas table centrepiece you can eat: the easy-to-slice pavlova wreath. Decorated with a glossy, delicious syrup it not only looks like Christmas but tastes like it too. The beauty of this festive dessert is that both the pavlova and syrup can be made ahead of time - however, save the drizzling until just before serving as the syrup tends to lose its shine on the cream after time.
For the pavlova wreath
4 large egg whites
200 g castor sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp white vinegar
100 g fresh blackberries for decorating
250 ml cream
For the mulled wine syrup
300 ml red wine
2 tbsp sugar
½ cinnamon stick
1 whole clove
½ tsp of whole coriander seeds
½ vanilla pod, split in half lengthways
1 whole star anise
1. Preheat the oven to 150C.
2. Prepare a baking tray with a layer of baking paper. With a pencil, trace a circle roughly 25cm in diameter (a dinner plate does nicely) onto the baking paper and then flip the sheet over so you can still see the tracing.
3. In a very clean metal, ceramic or glass mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft and foamy, then slowly, add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until you have a very glossy, thick mixture that doesn't slide around if you tip the bowl to the side. Add the cornstarch and vinegar and blend in.
4. Using the traced circle on your baking sheet as a guide. Scoop heaped tablespoons of meringue onto the inside of the traced circle to form a ring. Continue, adding a second layer of meringue until you have used up all the meringue. With the back of a large spoon, gently smooth over the top of the ring, forming a petal-like pattern all the way around.
5. Turn the oven down to 125C and place pavlova wreath on the lower shelf of the oven. Bake for about 80-90 minutes or until the pavlova is dry to the touch and the meringue is just ivory coloured but not browned. Leaving the pavlova in the oven, turn heat off. Let the pavlova cool completely before removing from oven to avoid cracking.
6. To prepare the syrup, place the ingredients in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce by about one third, until thick and syrupy. Strain out the spices, cool and pour into a bottle or jar.
7. To decorate the pavlova wreath, whip the cream until fluffy, soft peaks form. Just before serving, dollop over the top of the wreath, decorate with blackberries and drizzle over some syrup.
Note: The syrup recipe makes double what you will need for decorating the pavlova but any leftovers keep very well in an airtight container in the fridge and are delicious drizzled on poached fruit, ice-cream or yoghurt. You can even use it as part of a marinade on roast or barbecued meat.