Cacao Nib Pavlova with Balsamic Strawberries and Cream

I started out the day by giving each of my kids a list titled, “10 Things I Love About You.” Sadly they were much more interested in their peanut butter-filled chocolate hearts and getting to school to see their friends and exchange valentines. I can’t blame them, that was my favorite part of Valentine’s Day too.  But oh, how I enjoyed writing their lists last night before I went to bed.

We aren’t that that big on most holidays around our house. I think my kids wish I would put up Pinterest-worthy decorations and make things extra festive. But I hope when they grow up they realize that is not my strength. My strength is in making delicious food to fill their little bellies.  Food that I put my heart into for them.
And though I didn’t make heart-shaped pancakes or give them pink milk with their breakfast, I hope they went to school knowing I love them oh, so much. Even when I yell because the house is (always, always, always) a disaster. (Occupational hazard of working at home with small children.) Even when I am so tired by the time 8:00 pm rolls around that I am begging them to go to bed so I can fall into mine. Even when they get into my makeup and completely destroy it, or draw on the walls with Sharpies or do unmentionable things to the bathroom. Even then and all the other times I want to pull my hair out and bang my head against the wall, I hope they know that I will always love them and that I love them more each day. I hope they know that I love them every single day, not just on February 14th.

Tonight after what I’m sure will be a hectic dinner, I’ll pull out the mini pavlovas for them and we’ll top them with strawberries and cream and we’ll laugh together for a few minutes before bed. And I’ll hug them a little tighter just to make sure they know who loves them most.

I love all of you too, and I’m incredibly grateful you come back each day and leave comments and e-mail me. I’m especially thankful for those of you who have been around from the beginning and stuck it out with me when I was going through hard times. I absolutely love interacting with you and I wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Folding cacao nibs into the meringue makes these extra special.  They provide a hint of chocolate nuttiness without being too overpowering.  There’s also a nice crunch to contrast with the pillowy softness of the pavlova.  Balsamic-marinated strawberries are surprisingly perfect with the nibs.  All around, I can’t think of a more appropriate dessert for the ones I love.

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Cacao Nib Pavlova with Balsamic Strawberries and Cream

Cacao nibs give these mini pavlovas a hint of chocolate flavor that goes splendidly with the tartness of the balsamic strawberries.

  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 mins
  • Yield: 10-12 1x


Units Scale
  • 3/4 cup egg whites, about 5-6 at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1/2 cup coarsely ground roasted cacao nibs (I used Ocumare nibs from Amano)
  • 1 lb. strawberries, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. really good aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with a piece of parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together, rubbing any lumps between your fingers. Beat the egg whites and salt using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar/cornstarch by tablespoonfuls and beat well. Add the vanilla and vinegar. Beat until stiff peaks form.
  3. Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, form mounds of meringue on each parchment-lined baking sheet. About 5-6 each sheet.
  4. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until the tops are dry and very lightly golden in color. Turn off oven and prop open the oven door and allow to cool completely. Remove from oven and store at room temperature until ready to serve. (If making on a humid day, serve immediately.)
  5. To assemble:
  6. Toss the sliced strawberries with the sugar, balsamic vinegar and vanilla. Let stand for about 15 minutes.
  7. Beat the heavy cream with 2 tsp. of the sugar until peaks form. Place a pavlova in a bowl, top with cream and balsamic strawberries and serve immediately.
  8. Yields about 10-12 small pavlovas, or can also be made into two giant ones.
  • Author: Lindsey Johnson
  • Prep Time: 45 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Category: Dessert


Other recipes I’m loving:
Strawberry Pavlova Cake with Lemon Curd
Individual Cheesecakes with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries from Mountain Mama Cooks
Double Chocolate Strawberry Pavlova from The Naptime Chef
Red Hot Meringue Cookies from Project Domestication

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  1. Wow! Those desserts are beautiful and look delicious! I loved what you wrote too, as always. Your kids are LOVED! I wish so much I could go back 20+ yrs and do things much differently :)!! I love you! Mom

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