What Is Eton Mess?

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If you live outside of the UK or Europe, you likely have no idea what Eton Mess is, let alone where it came from. Eton mess is a simple but elegant no-bake dessert that your entire family will likely love. Thanks to its light and airy texture and form, as well as a light taste thanks to the various fruits the dish, is prepared with, Eton Mess is popular as both a lightweight dessert and an incredibly versatile one as well. But what exactly is Eton Mess?

Eton Mess is a traditional English dessert made with layers of whipped cream, crushed meringue cookies, and macerated strawberries. The creamy whipped cream, crispy meringue, and sweet strawberries make for a delicious combination of textures and flavors that’s sure to please all palettes.

While Eton Mess makes for a wonderful spring or summertime dessert, using sugar to macerate the strawberries means you can make this recipe year-round as the technique helps sweeten the berries and release their natural juices. These are just some of the features of this popular dessert we will discuss in this comprehensive guide.

What Is It? 

Eton Mess

As mentioned, Eton mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, meringue, and whipped cream. First mentioned in print in 1893, it is commonly believed to originate from Eton College and is served at the annual cricket match against the pupils of Harrow School.


It’s believed to have originated at Eton College, where during a cricket match, a dog squashed a post-game strawberry pavlova, but the players ate it anyway. The dessert was also served at the school’s tuck shop. 

Queen Victoria attended a garden party the evening before Prince George was to wed Princess May of Teck. The year was 1893, and the event spawned the first written mention of a dish called “Eton Mess aux Fraises.”

How Was Eton Mess Invented

It’s unlikely that Eton College is the first place anyone ever made a mess of strawberries, cream, and meringue, but the association is so strong that the school remains a part of the sweet’s title in recipe books around the world. A mess by any other name, however, would taste just the same.

Why Is It Called Eton Mess?

Therefore, the name originates since a mess of a dessert was made (apparently made) at Eton College. Hence–”Eton” Mess. 

What’s The Difference Between Pavlova And Eton Mess?

Unlike its ornate meringue cousin the “vacherin,” a beautiful if rather fussy dessert, the Pavlova is composed of a free-form meringue upon which whipped cream and fresh fruit are piled with lovely abandon.

Unlike many smaller meringues, which are crisp throughout, a Pavlova depends on varying textures. Both meringue and pavlova are egg white desserts and are made in a similar way.

However, meringue is crispy and dry throughout, while pavlova is crispy on the outside, but fluffy, soft, and marshmallow-like on the inside. So a pavlova is a meringue-based dessert, but not a classic meringue.

How Do You Make Eton Mess?

It’s not an Eton mess without meringues, and the trick to making great meringues is patience. To ensure a perfect crisp crust, always leave them to cool in the oven after baking. And if you can avoid the temptation to eat them on their own, you can always make the meringues in advance: they’ll keep for a few days stored in an airtight container.

In many recipes, some people use raspberries as well as strawberries. This sort of dessert is open to flavor variations, so be creative and use whatever fruit is most fragrant at the time. Apricots would be wonderful, as would plum, and any type of berry is good at Christmas time. And for a lovely fresh, slightly tart note, you can always add a little crème fraîche to the whipped cream.

Whether they’re folded or layered, when all the elements are piled high in a beautiful glass serving bowl, this classic dessert makes the perfect sweet finish for late-summer entertaining.


Eton mess is an English dessert and any traditionally made recipe for this classic uses fresh-cut strawberries, strawberry puree, crushed meringues, and thick, whipped cream. It is made using the same ingredients as a strawberry pavlova, only this version is all messed up!

Eton Mess Presentation

Eton Mess Presentation

Once mixed, you can crumble the cooked meringue into bite-sized pieces. Many people put the meringue in a ziplock bag and crush it with a rolling pin. It’s okay if it looks messy, after all.

You may not need to use all the meringue. It is very sweet, so use your judgment as to how much you’d like to add.

Layer the meringue, strawberries, and whipped cream into dessert glasses or a large bowl, repeating the layers as necessary. Garnish with orange zest (don’t leave this out) and serve.


  • If you buy store-bought meringue cookies, try chocolate meringue, swirled meringue, or lemon meringue to change up the flavor.
  • This recipe works great with all kinds of seasonal berries and fruits. Some of the most-cited favorites to swap in are raspberries, blackberries, peaches, cherries, and plums.
  • If you do not have fresh berries, you can use frozen berries.
  • Put your mixing bowl in the freezer before whipping the heavy cream. The colder bowl helps whip the cream faster and increases its thickness.
  • Making this for a crowd? Place each part of the dessert out, buffet-style, and let your guests assemble their own bowl.
  • A drop of real vanilla extract adds a nice touch of vanilla flavor to the whipped cream.
  • While you can whip the cream by hand, It is highly recommended to use an electric mixer as it’ll require a lot of elbow grease.
  • When you fold the meringue into the whipped cream, do so gently so as not to deflate the whipped cream.
  • Allow the whipped cream and crushed meringue mixture to sit in the fridge for up to 3 hours if you’d like the meringue to soften into a marshmallow-like texture. Allow the mixture to sit for a shorter time if you prefer the meringue to be crisper.

Can You Make It in Advance?

While it’s best to eat Eton Mess the day you make them, you can make components ahead of time. You can prepare your berries up to 2 days ahead of time and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Homemade meringue cookies last for up to 2 weeks at room temperature. 

Since the meringue softens as it sits in the whipped cream, you don’t want to combine them too far in advance. The whipping cream will also deflate over time, so avoid making that too early in the day. Only assemble as much as you’re able to eat. 

Can You Freeze Eton’s Mess?

You technically could, but we don’t recommend it. The meringues will lose their texture when thawed and the berries and cream will become watery. A better option is making all of the elements ahead and assembling them when ready to eat.

Eton Mess With Ready-Made Meringue

You can buy pre-made meringues from supermarkets, or you can make your own if you prefer. Store-bought meringues are a much easier and faster way to make this dessert and they taste just as good! Hard, crumbly meringues provide the best texture and contrast against the soft whipped cream and berries.

Eton Mess Cake

Eton Mess Cake

While this beloved dessert was created with “simplicity” and “ease” in mind (assuming you keep meringue cookies on hand), deciding to make a cake version takes it up a notch. The whipped cream, sweet fruit, and crunchy meringues pair so beautifully together that you could easily transform the components of classic Mess itself into a cake filling.

Similar to a strawberry shortcake, this light and fresh layer cake is perfect for spring and the warmer months ahead.


This dessert can be made in virtually any way you wish. Since the dessert is said to have originated out of a messy mixture, anything goes really. Here are some popular variations to consider. 

  • Apple Eton Mess. Consider using apples in place of strawberries for an autumn or winter take on traditional Mess. 
  • Peach Eton Mess. Peaches are just as much a delicacy as strawberries, and choosing to add peaches to this dish will give it a slight tart zing to the original sugary concoction.
  • Banana Eton Mess. If you love the taste of bananas, do not fret. The most well-known version is made with strawberries. However, they can be easily replaced with bananas when not in season. 
  • Mango and Passionfruit Eton Mess. One of my personal favorites. The mango and the passion fruit add a more tropical and zesty taste to the dish.
  • Berry Eton Mess. You can use a combination of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries to add a versatile berry flavor to the dish. 
  • Cherry Eton Mess. Most people use morello cherries, as their slightly sour flavor balances the sweetness of the meringues, sugar, and cream. You could also use 415g cans of stoneless black cherries in syrup, drained. 
  • Citrus Eton Mess. A citrus version is also possible with any type of variation of lemon, lime, or oranges to replace the strawberries in the dish. 
  • Lemon Eton Mess. If you want pure citrus and lemon flavor, you can certainly use lemon in the dish–but be prepared, it is quite tart. 
  • Lemon Curd Eton Mess. For an even tarter variation of lemon Mess, you could pass lemon curd to the lemon ingredients as well. 
  • Black Forest Eton Mess. You can make this version of Eton Mess with cherries and chocolate replacing the strawberries. 
  • Chocolate Eton Mess. An all-chocolate Mess is possible if you want to skip the fruit. Simply add chocolate shavings in place of the strawberries. 
  • White Chocolate Eton Mess. You could also use white chocolate shavings instead of dark or cocoa chocolate shavings. 
  • Salted Caramel Eton Mess. Making this dessert with salted caramel is a way to pep the dish up in terms of its overall sweetness. You could also leave in the strawberries if you like. 
  • Eton Mess Milkshake. Some desserts that have a consistency that can support a milkshake are surprisingly good this way. All you need to do is take the prepared dish and dump everything into a blender. Add some milk and vanilla ice cream and blend it. It’s quite delicious–but does reduce a lot of delicate work into a glass. 
  • Eton Mess Cupcakes. The base is a light and fluffy vanilla cupcake with a strawberry jam center (you could use freshly whipped cream instead if you like). These cupcakes contain all the greatness of Eton Mess, but a lot less of the ‘mess.’
  • Eton Mess Ice Cream Sundae. Instead of serving Mess as is, you could also easily turn the dish into an ice cream sundae. Just add ice cream underneath the base and on top of the base, and then toppings of your choice. 
  • Eton Mess Bombe. The trick with this variation is to freeze it in a pudding basin and then turn it out before serving. Pour over a strawberry coulis and top with grated chocolate and its makeover from nursery food to dinner-party show stopper is complete.
  • Brownie Eton Mess. Believe it or not, Mess can be transformed into a brownie. All you need to do is make the dish as normal, and then fold it into a traditional brownie mix and bake as normal. 
  • Bailey’s Strawberry and Cream Eton Mess. Classic Mess, for all intents and purposes, is quite similar to something like Bailey’s Strawberry ice cream. Combining the two makes for a truly delectable (yet incredibly sweet) concoction. 
  • Boozy Eton Mess. If you prefer a more adult-oriented delectable dessert, you can easily make this boozy variety. Within the traditional preparation, you can add roughly 1 to 2 tablespoons of strawberry or raspberry liqueur.