Eton mess is a very traditional British dessert, combining fruits (often strawberries, banana or raspberries), crushed up meringue, and cream (usually whipped cream).
Traditionally, Eton mess is made with strawberries. When it contains banana instead, it is often referred to as “lancing mess” rather than Eton mess.
The dessert itself is said to have been around since the early 1890s, created – as the name might suggest – in Eton College. Eton is one of the most prestigious schools in the UK, attended by the likes of Princes William and Harry, Ian Fleming, George Orwell, Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne, and the Antarctic explorer Lawrence Oates.
But, just how difficult is the dish to make, and can you make or prepare the summery dessert in advance?
Let’s take a closer look…
Can You Make Eton Mess in Advance?
Yes, you absolutely CAN make Eton mess in advance, but it is best to store the individual ingredients separately, to avoid any moisture from the fruit or cream ruining the crunchy meringue texture.
Meringues can be baked before you need them.
You can also create the raw meringue mixture and then store it, without baking, in the fridge.
The fruit for your Eton mess can be chopped and stored beforehand, and the cream can also be prepared.
It is not recommended to create the actual ‘mess’ part of Eton mess until you are ready to serve your dessert, however.
The three ingredients—meringue, fruit and cream—shouldn’t be brought together until the dish is ready to be eaten. Otherwise, the meringue becomes soft and soggy from the moisture contained within the fruit and cream.
If you want crunchy texture in with your cream and fruit, the Eton mess should be pre-prepared, but stored separately.
How Long Does Raw Meringue Last?
If you have an Italian-style meringue, the eggs are already cooked in the meringue dish, so it can be kept in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 4 or 5 days.
Regular raw meringue mix, made with raw eggs, will not be safe to eat for quite as long. It is recommended that you bake the meringue within 2 to 3 days.
How Long Does Baked Meringue Last?
Once you have baked meringue, you can keep them for a much longer time, provided they are kept in an airtight container and all moisture is kept out.
Some people suggest adding silicon moisture capsules to the Tupperware container or similar, to keep all moisture away from the crunchy meringue.
This is only recommended if you can be sure cross-contamination (silicon to meringue) will not happen.
Baked meringue, when stored in a cool, dry place, in an airtight container, will last for between 2 and 4 weeks.
Some people find they last even longer than that without losing quality or crunch.
Baked meringue can be kept in the fridge to use at a later date in Eton mess, too. This is unnecessary, however. The baked, dry meringue can be stored at room temperature.
Can You Freeze Eton Mess?
Yes, you can freeze Eton mess. However, just as previously mentioned, it is recommended that you pre-prepare and then freeze your ingredients separately.
Meringue freezes very well, and you can freeze strawberries (or any other Eton mess fruit) with ease, too.
You might even be surprised to learn that whipped (or whipping) cream also freezes well.
To make things even better, all three of the ingredients thaw well. This means that you won’t lose any of the crunch or taste by pre-paring your Eton mess ingredients and storing them in the freezer until the dessert is ready to be eaten.
Kim is a writer with more than a decade of experience, and a food enthusiast. When she’s not spending her time writing about her favourite dishes, you can find her in the cake aisle of her local supermarket, or making a mess in the kitchen.