1.Preheat oven to 120°C (100°C fan-forced). Line 4 large oven trays with baking paper; grease paper.
2.Draw 6 circles on separate sheets of baking paper: one each of 25cm, 22cm, 20cm, 16cm, 13cm and 9cm. Cut out rounds and arrange on prepared trays, fitting rounds on trays, allowing about 4cm space between each round as meringues will spread while baking. Lightly grease the rounds, dust each with a little sifted cornflour.
3.Beat half the egg whites, half the sugar and a pinch of salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for 10 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and meringue is smooth and glossy. Fold in half the vanilla extract.
4.Spread meringue evenly between the 22cm, 20cm and 13cm rounds, leaving a 1cm border inside the edges. Each meringue should be about 2cm thick. Using the back of a spoon or palette knife, make peaks on the edge of each meringue.
5.Bake meringues for about 1 ¾ hours or until dry to the touch and crisp. Rotate trays halfway through baking. Cool meringues in the oven with door ajar for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer meringues on baking paper to wire racks to cool completely.
6.Repeat step 3 with remaining egg whites, sugar and vanilla. Place 1 cup of meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large plain tube. Pipe a 6cm peaked meringue for the Christmas tree top on one of the baking trays. Use the back of a teaspoon to form peaks. Spread remaining meringue evenly over the remaining 25cm, 16cm and 9cm rounds. Repeat step 5.
7.Beat the cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form.
8.To assemble just before serving, remove baking paper from all the meringues. Place the 25cm meringue on a cake stand or plate. Spread with some of the whipped cream. Arrange strawberries around the edge of the meringue with points facing out. Arrange six strawberry halves in the centre of the meringue for support.
9.Spread the 22cm meringue with some of the whipped cream. Carefully place onto 25cm meringue. Arrange strawberries around the edge of the meringue with points facing out. Arrange a few strawberries in the centre. Repeat with remaining 20cm, 16cm, 13cm and 9cm rounds, cream and strawberries. Position the Christmas tree top. Dust with sifted icing sugar.
Not suitable to freeze or microwave. Julie’s tip: If you have a large oven and mixer, you may be able to bake the meringues in one batch. If the weather is not humid, meringues can be made 2 days ahead and stored in airtight containers at room temperature. Assemble just prior to serving as it will settle and deflate slightly on standing.