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Athens mess

Updated: Tue, 6 February, 2024

Eton mess with a Greek twist: fruit, cream and broken filo pastry. Lightly whipped cream, strawberries or blueberries macerated in sugar and shards of smashed sugared filo pastry make the dream summer dessert.

athens mess

Eton mess - relocated

Who doesn’t love Eton mess? For the unfortunates who never heard of it, it’s a thrashed Pavlova: meringue, cream and fruit mixed together and served in individual pots.

I have long wanted to make a variation of the dessert but was a bit lost for inspiration: sponge biscuits? you’ll get trifle. Waffles? That’ll be just waffles then. Choux pastry? Naah, save it for profiteroles.

And then this, like many of my (arguably) brilliant ideas, came to me some time early morning when I was woken up by the birds screeching, which is a serious downside of summer mornings.

blueberry and strawberry athens mess

Take the mess to the Greeks!

In case you incredibly didn’t guess, it’s a play on Eton mess: Eton – Athens, with bashed filo brittle instead of broken meringues.

I’m a sucker for a bad pun so I was actually lying in bed thinking of a place that would sound like Eton but carry a different cuisine connotation, and be suited to fruit and fresh cream.

Athens ticked the most boxes. Seaton rhymed better but to my knowledge, it sadly is devoid of local specialities, Seaton tramway notwithstanding.

strawberry dessert with cream and filo brittle

Filo trial and error

The first attempt at the filo shards ended in overbuttered and overcaramelised filo cement. Unusable, though I scoffed the lot on its own over a couple of days, of course (sometimes it seems I do take the 'waste not, want not' adage to extremes).

At the second attempt I was much more sparing with the butter and the puffy layered sheets looked more brittle and shardable. I had to overcome the urge to devour all that lot too – sugared filo is unbelievably addictive – but luckily my output ensured leftover pastry for laters.

Greek mess is gorgeous

Seriously, this was so good that I’d be happy never to taste the Eton version ever again. After all the testing I made ten portions, served it to six people and the two of us who had to go without a second helping (me included) got stroppy and acted hard done by for the rest of the night.

Blueberry version was better, or so I was told. But maybe they just wanted to make me feel better about not getting to eat the strawberry one.

blueberry dessert with cream and filo shards

How to make filo brittle?

Make sure you work quickly as filo tends to dry out as you watch it. Be sparing though thorough buttering each sheet, likewise sprinkling with sugar.

sugared filo pastry

A stack of six is about right but one or two fewer won’t make so much difference – after all, the pastry will end up smashed anyway. Which, incidentally, is a very messy (pun again!) exercise: they fly out everywhere when you break them up.

Once turned into brittle, it will keep for weeks in an airtight container so you can add it to other desserts, top fruit and ice cream with it. Or follow my example and just surreptitiously munch on it.

sugared filo pastry

How to prepare the berries?

Roasted blueberries can be made well in advance; they’ll keep in the fridge for a week and can be used in all kinds of other dishes and desserts.

They become incredibly flavoursome and juicy, which is why I would always roast them for desserts. Ten minutes in the oven will suffice, the berries spread on a dish with a sprinkle of sugar. Thus prepared, they are also fabulous with porridge or overnight oats.

roasted blueberries

Strawberries are much juicier so they only need to macerate with a little sugar, thinly sliced, to release wonderful juices that will seep into cream.

macerated strawberries

Assembling the mess

Cream should be barely sweet as there is enough sweetness in the berries and the pastry crumbs. Whip it as stiff or soft as you like, fold the filo brittle through it and divide between serving bowls or cups, topping the prepared berries. And some reserved fresh ones will serve for decoration.

Serve it immediately – it won’t keep well as the filo will become soggy. But I assure you it won’t be a hardship.

how to make eton mess with a twist

More fruity desserts

Strawberry fool is the supreme of strawberries and cream, with layers of vanilla scented whipped cream and gorgeous fresh strawberry puree, barely sweetened.

Classic creamy panna cotta, the simple and exquisite Italian dessert. Vanilla flavoured, with whole milk and cream and only enough gelatine to keep it set, served with passion fruit puree.

Blueberry and cream sponge cake: blueberry Victoria sponge cake, with layers of lightly roasted blueberries and whipped cream is an easy but very impressive dessert.

More filo pastry recipes

Ice cream cones made from sweetened, layered filo pastry. Deliciously easy, they can be also filled with cream, mascarpone or custard.

Spanakopita, always mispronounced as spinakopita, is a Greek filo pastry pie with spinach and feta cheese. This is an easy recipe for classic Greek spinach pie.

Filo wrapped asparagus with Parmesan are a crunchy, golden, irresistible vegetarian snack or appetiser. Asparagus filo parcels rolled up like cigars - a must before the asparagus season ends.

athens mess a twist on eton mess

Athens mess

Servings: 6Time: 25 minutes plus macerating strawberries


  • 6 sheets of filo pastry
  • 50g (4 tbsp) butter
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 400g (1 pound) strawberries
  • 1 tsp icing sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (½ lemon)
  • 400g (1 pound) blueberries
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 500ml (2 cups) double cream
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


1. To make the filo shards, melt the butter and prepare the sugar in a bowl. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

2. Working quickly so the pastry doesn’t dry out, spread the first sheet on a board, brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Layer with the next sheet and press it on with your palms. Brush with butter, sprinkle with sugar and continue in the same way with the remaining sheets. Make sure you have some butter and sugar left for the top layer.

3. Cut the stacked sheets in half for the ease of handling and transfer onto the baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden, crunchy and puffed up in places. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight box until needed.

4. For the strawberry mess, hull the strawberries and reserve about 8 nicest berries. Slice the rest of them thinly, toss with the icing sugar and lemon zest, and leave to macerate for at least an hour.

5. For the blueberry mess, preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas 8.

6. Spread half the blueberries in a shallow oven dish and sprinkle with the teaspoon of sugar. Bake them for 10 minutes, shaking the dish so they roll about, halfway through the time. Remove from the oven, drizzle with a little lemon juice and leave to cool.

7. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla extract.

8. To assemble the mess, place a generous couple of spoonfuls of the macerated strawberries/roasted blueberries at the bottom of the serving bowls or cups.
Break the filo pastry into rough shards (it will be messy!) and stir into the bowl of whipped cream, one portion at a time. Scoop the mix with two spoons and divide between the bowls. Add more shards or cream, as desired.

9. Top with the fresh berries and serve immediately.

Originally published: Thu, 23 May, 2019

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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