A delicious, traditionally Australian pavlova recipe consisting of a light meringue base, smothered in whipped cream and topped with seasonal fruits.
There’s often been rigorous debate about whether the pavlova (pav-LOH-vah) has its origins in Australia or New Zealand. There are enough credible tales from each country to lead you to believe it’s theirs, but the discussion rages on. However, both agree that the dessert was created in the 1920s in honor of Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. The pavlova base (made from meringue) represents Ms Pavlova’s beautiful white tutu in the ballet ‘Swan Lake’. Even the BBC has weighed in on this important issue!
Whether originally from Australia or New Zealand, the pavlova dessert has become an important part of both nations.
Pavlova dessert is traditionally served as a dessert at barbecues, parties, and celebrations in Australia. It is usually made during the summer months so that chefs and home cooks can make best use of available seasonal summer fruits.
Why is pavlova desert so special?
Meringue is popular all around the world and although the base of a pavlova looks like meringue, it’s better! In pavlova, only the outside is firm and crispy. The inside remains soft, spongey, and a little like marshmallow. We create the inner texture by combining whipped egg whites with vinegar and cream of tartar. And that delicious center differentiates perfect pavlova from mere meringue!
Additionally, we use seasonal fresh fruits on top of the sweetened whipped cream. Being flexible about the topping means we don’t need to buy expensive imported fruits, and we showcase produce available locally. In Australian pavlova (made in the Australian summer months of December to February) the following fruits are readily available:
In North America, the following summer fruits are readily available:
So think about how you can make best use of your seasonally available fruits (and save money!).
Check out the ‘options’ heading below the recipe card for my suggestions on how to customise your pavlova.
Is it hard to make pavlova?
Making an Australian pavlova recipe is not necessarily difficult, but it IS time consuming, and you do need patience. You also need a stand mixer (or weightlifter arm muscles!) because it takes time to fold in the sugar. Be patient. Follow the recipe precisely. And be rewarded with an amazing dessert!
- stand mixer
- hand mixer
Pavlova Base (meringue)
- 6 large eggs (each egg 2oz/ 58g) room temperature
- 1½ cups caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch (cornflour)
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1½ cups 35% fat heavy (thickened) whipping cream chilled
- 3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar (icing sugar)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 kiwifruits peeled & sliced
- 1 cup strawberries hulled & halved
- 1 cup mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, red currants) or cherries
- ½ cup passionfruit pulp/ syrup (or lemon curd)
- 1 banana (optional)
- ½ lime (just the juice)
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius).
- Ensure all equipment is 100% dry – includes bowls, whisk, spatulas, etc – and that your hands are dry. Any additional moisture can and will affect the outcome of your pavlova base.
- Cut parchment paper big enough to line your baking tray.
- Trace around a dinner plate on the back side of the parchment paper (approximately 8in/ 20cm in diameter).
- Line baking tray with parchment paper, with drawn circle side on the underside.
- Set aside for now.
- Separate the eggs. It is VERY important not to get ANY egg yolk in the mixture! My suggestion is to break each egg separately, and when you’re sure that there is absolutely no yolk that has leaked into the white, tip the egg white into a separate bowl. Do this for each egg individually. If you get ANY yolk in the egg white mixture, all will have to be discarded and you will need to start again, so please do be careful!
- Use an electric mixer just below a ‘medium’ setting to whisk the egg whites to form soft peaks. This occurs after about 8 minutes, or when you can lift the whisk out of the egg white mixture, and soft peaks form in the egg whites where the whisk was.If you have a 10 speed mixer (with 10 being the highest setting), use Speed 3.
- Add a tablespoon of the caster sugar and continue whisking. On when that spoonful has fully dissolved can you add another tablespoon. Continue until all the caster sugar has been added. Expect the process to take approximately 15 minutes. Remember that you need to patient and make sure that each tablespoon of sugar has completely dissolved before adding in the next tablespoon.
- Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula periodically.
- To test if the sugar has dissolved, take a very small amount of the mixture between your thumb and forefinger and rub together. If it feels at all grainy (like sand), you will know that there is still undissolved sugar in the mixture and so you’ll need to continue whisking.
- In a separate bowl while the sugar is being whisked into the eggwhites, combine the cornstarch/ cornflour and cream of tartar with the white vinegar and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Mix the cornstarch/ cornflour, cream of tartar, vinegar, and vanilla mixture well.
- Increase the speed on the mixer to ‘medium’ or just above (Speed 6 on a 10 speed mixer) and add in the cornstarch mixture until just combined.
- Remove whisk from the bowl. You don’t want to over-whisk at this stage.
- Using a perfectly dry spatula or spoon, scoop the pavlova mixture out onto your prepared parchment paper. Remember that the drawn-on circle will be face down, but you can see it through the paper. Use the circle as a guide to keep the pavlova mixture inside.
- Smooth the top and sides of the pavlova so that they’re as smooth as possible. However, also try to achieve a small shallow dip (or 'crater') in the top. If there are any high peaks, those bits are likely to brown in the oven.
- Put the pavlova into the oven BUT BE PREPARED TO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR FOR AT LEAST 7.5 HOURS!!!
- Start the pavlova baking at the preheated temperature of 300 degrees F/ 150 degrees C.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to 250 degrees F/ 120 degrees C.
- Bake for a further 1 hour and 15 minutes. DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO PEN THE OVEN DOOR! Not even a teeny-tiny-little bit for a very quick peek!
- After 1 hour and 15 minutes at 250 degees F/ 120 degrees C, reduce the temperature again – this time to 175 degrees F/ 80 degrees C.
- Bake for a further 15 minutes at 175 degrees F/ 80 degrees C.
- After 15 minutes, turn the oven off completely, but remember not to open the oven door!
- Leave the pavlova inside the oven while it cools completely – this may take about 6 hours. You can leave it in the cooling oven overnight as long as it is not longer than 8 hours, and as long as the kitchen won't get cold and damp overnight. An ambient temperature for 8 hours is fine.
- When the pavlova has completely cooled, transfer it to a serving plate if serving immediately. Alternatively, store in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place. (Please do not put your pavlova in the refrigerator or freezer! Pavlova are very susceptible to damp.)
- Just prior to serving, use an electric mixer to whisk the chilled cream in a chilled, medium sized bowl.
- Add the ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Add the confectioner's sugar (icing sugar) a little at a time until firm peaks form.
- Don't over-whisk the cream, or whisk it on 'high', because it can become too runny.
- Spoon the sweetened cream onto the top of the pavlova and spread out evenly.
- If using banana, peel and slice diagonally into a small bowl. Pour juice from half a lime over the banana slices, then turn them so each side is covered. Drain, then add banana slices decoratively and evenly to the top of the pavlova.
- Add the kiwifruit slices to the top of the pavlova.
- Evenly distribute the strawberries and mixed berries/ cherries to the top of the pavlova.
- Drizzle with passionfruit pulp/ syrup or lemon curd.
- Serve immediately.
There are a few things to remember when making a great pavlova:
- Make 100% sure that ALL your equipment (including your hands, work bench etc) are perfectly dry. Pavlova is affected by excess moisture, so do not use wet or damp utensils. And try not to make a pavlova on a particularly humid day!
- Use room temperature eggs. Room temperature eggs are easier and better to whip, which is why bakers don’t use cold eggs.
- Ensure you use the right sugar. Caster sugar (or super-fine sugar) is perfect. If you only have granulated sugar, pulse it in a food processor before beginning. Do not use confectioner’s sugar (also known as icing sugar) when making the pavlova base. Confectioner’s sugar contains cornstarch which will affect your end result.
- Be precise with all measurements. Pavlovas are highly sensitive! Even small changes can cause cracks, sinking in the middle, or no deliciously squishy inside.
- Do NOT open the oven door! Not even for a millisecond! Even if you think you might go crazy with curiosity! DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR! Once the pavlova is in the oven, it MUST stay there WITH THE DOOR CLOSED for at least 7.5 hours. Absolutely no exceptions!
- Use both elements in your oven (top and bottom) but no fan.
- If your pavlova cracks during baking, don’t stress! You can repair most cracks using a little of the sweetened whipped cream.
- If your pavlova sinks in the middle during baking, also don’t stress! Simply spread the whipped cream over the surface area, then fill the crater with fruit. Alternatively, use a sharp knife and slice around the sides of the pavlova to level it off. Cover with whipped cream and nobody will know!
- Reduce the time it takes to mix the caster sugar into the egg whites by heating it in the oven first. Put sugar in an ovenproof dish, and into the oven until the sugar is hot, but not melting. Then mix in as per recipe.
You know that I love to give you options to help you customize my recipes to make them your own. And this one is no different! There are many ways to customize pavlova to suit your taste, budget, and locally available produce.
- I love the top of my pavlova to be bright and colorful. Use the contrasting colors of green kiwifruit, red berries, and yellow/ orange passionfruit. (And sometimes some mint leaves!) Those fruits also have complementary flavors.
- Try a single-color theme! Red is festive, so try strawberry, cherry, raspberry, pomegranate, and red currant.
- To color and flavor the cream, mash & strain a small handful of raspberries, then whip in with the cream.
- Or a yellow/ orange color theme: peach, nectarine, mango, orange slices, and passionfruit pulp.
- Go with green: kiwi, mint leaves, grapes, finely sliced lime circles.
- Or replace the passionfruit pulp on top with lemon curd.
- Swap the cream for ice cream. Have all your fruits pre-sliced so you can assemble the pavlova very quickly. You don’t want the ice cream to melt before it gets to the table!
- Make a large fruit platter or salad for the table. Add chilled whipped cream to a dish and set on the table. Then your family or guests can decorate their own piece of pavlova.
- Grate milk or dark chocolate over the top of the fruit for an extra-special chocolatey finish.
- For a dairy-free option, replace the cream with slightly sweetened whipped coconut cream. Please note that coconut cream doesn’t whip up to be as thick as regular cream, but it’s a delicious alternative.
I have some awesome Australian friends, so this recipe is very special to me. As such, I would love to hear your feedback about how your friends and family enjoy this recipe. And – of course – I always like to hear your suggestions for improvements or options.
Until next time…
Love & best wishes for a happy Australia Day, Bx