In case you forgot, we just passed Fruntimmersveckan (or Ladies’ week, in a translation that sounds a tad prim). It’s a week starting July 18 to July 24, when in both Sweden and Finland only women have name days. In Sweden it’s Sara, Margareta, Johanna, Magdalena, Emma and Kristina. To make it a complete week, it’s usually said that the man’s name Fredrik kicks it all off (Fredrik’s name day is on July 18). The Finnish calendar has almost the same names, except instead of Emma it is Olga’s name dag on July 23, and instead of Fredrik on the 18th it is Riikka (a woman’s name).

According to the Bondepraktika (the Old Farmer’s Almanac), a reference that contains weather forecasts, tide tables, planting charts, astronomical data, recipes and more of the sort, Fruntimmersveckan is usually a rainy period - very true this year in Sweden. According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s statistics, completely rain free Fruntimmersveckor come by only once every decade. Swedes have been able to celebrate Fruntimmersveckan ever since 1765, when the man’s name Apollinaris was taken out in favor of Emma. However, the phrase “Fruntimmersveckan” wasn’t introduced until a hundred years later, sometime during the 1870’s.

Celebrate any Sara, Margareta, Johanna, Magdalena, Emma and Kristina you might know (or Fredrik and others, too). We took a cue from Monica Ahlberg, and made her Pavlovatårta – a meringue-based cake with fresh berries that was said to be the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova’s favorite. And though Anna’s namesday isn’t until December 9, we thought this the perfect summer cake.

4 egg whites
1 cup very fine sugar (preferably castor sugar)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white vinegar
½ teaspoon cornstarch

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 ½ Tablespoons white sugar
½ teaspoons vanilla
fresh berries such as strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat, on high speed, until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks. (Test to see if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers).

Beat in the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula, gently fold in. Spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the outside is dry and is a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)

The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days. Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Whip the cream in your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Sweeten with the sugar and vanilla and then mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the fruit randomly, or in a decorative pattern, on top of the cream. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.