Pavlova

pavlova with fresh fruit topping on a marble and wood cake stand

Another fresh and exciting recipe for you this year! 2018: the year we step out of our baking comfort zone.

What is pavlova? Pavlova is a dessert popular in New Zealand and Australia. It’s not as common here in the states, but I hope to help change that! A texture freak’s dream come true, pavlova is made from egg whites that are slowly baked in a relatively cool oven. The egg whites take on a chewy-crisp texture on top, a soft marshmallow texture inside, and a crunchy crisp texture around the edges. That’s three completely different textures in one single bite. The crunchy edges are just like meringue cookies.

Pavlova loves to be dressed up with assorted toppings, mainly fresh whipped cream and piles of fresh fruit. Naturally gluten free, pavlova is light, sweet, and screams warm weather favorite. Happy spring, my friends, we’re making PAVLOVA!!

pavlova on a marble and wood cake stand

I first experienced pavlova back in 2015 on a trip to Wenatchee, a city full of rolling hills and farmlands in Washington state. We visited the Stemilt orchards, home to some of the largest, juiciest cherries. There I tasted it with chunks of fresh mango and plenty of soaked cherries. After the trip, a reader emailed me her family favorite pavlova recipe. And 2 and 1/2 years later, I finally tried it myself.

To obtain the unique pavlova texture, you must adhere to an exact recipe. While it’s fun to play around with ingredients, pavlova is not the time to stray from what’s listed. It’s picky, but picky doesn’t mean difficult. In fact, you only need 5 ingredients to make pavlova and I bet you have each in your kitchen right now:

  • egg whites
  • sugar
  • an acid such as cream of tartar or vinegar
  • cornstarch
  • vanilla extract

Let me explain why these ingredients are used.

THE PURPOSE OF EACH

  1. Egg whites – beaten into stiff peaks, egg whites are the base and volume of pavlova.
  2. Sugar – in addition to sweetening the dessert, sugar stabilizes the egg whites by holding them together both in the oven and as the whole pavlova cools. Without sugar, the protein molecules (science!) in egg whites will collapse. Additionally, sugar helps achieve the delightfully crisp texture. (Sugar is so much more than a sweetener in our baked goods. I find this article interesting and you will too!) Speaking of sugar, make sure that you use superfine or castor sugar. Just pulse sugar a few times in a food processor to reduce the size of the crystals.
  3. Acid – you can use 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar or 1 teaspoon white, apple cider vinegar, or even lemon juice. The pavlova will NOT taste like vinegar, I promise. The acid helps the egg whites hold onto air and, like the sugar, helps prevent the egg whites from collapsing. I tested with both and I actually prefer cream of tartar. I found that my pavlova spread a bit more when I used liquid acid.
  4. Cornstarch – I tested pav with and without cornstarch. I found that the center was fluffier and more marshmallow-y with cornstarch. Then I tested with 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. I found it was a little chalky tasting with 2 teaspoons. I’m sticking to 1 teaspoon.
  5. Vanilla extract – purely for flavor!

(Not sponsored by any of these companies, but here’s exactly what I use.)

ingredients for pavlova including containers of cornstarch, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract

Ingredients are simple and method is effortless. There’s plenty of downtime when making pavlova. All you really have to do is watch it beat in your stand mixer then check on it in your oven. Kick your feet up!

pavlova mixture on a whisk attachment

pavlova spread onto a baking sheet before baking

Just like our chocolate swirled meringue cookies and the meringue on our lemon meringue pie, whip the egg whites into super stiff peaks. Stiff enough that you can hold the whisk over your head and feel confident that the whipped egg whites won’t drop. 😉 Then you’ll spread the pavlova mixture onto your lined baking pan. You can use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Do not grease the baking pan– use a nonstick surface instead. Spread it into a circle, about 8-9 inches in diameter. You can eyeball it or trace one with a pencil. I just eyeball it. Like I did in the lemon meringue pie video, use the back of a spoon to create decorative peaks. Make sure the edges are tall and you have a nice dip in the center. That’s were we’ll pile our whipped cream and fruit!

Alternatively, you can make mini pavlovas. Here I piped the mixture into 6 mini pavlovas using Ateco 849. A piping tip isn’t necessary– you can just spoon it on. Again, make sure you leave a dip in the center to hold the toppings.

mini pavlovas on a baking sheet

A relatively cooler oven is imperative for properly cooking your pavlova, but let’s start the pavlova at 350°F (177°C) then reduce it down to 200°F (93°C). I do this to help “set” the outer crust quickly. This trick helps reduce spread.

A properly cooked pav is pale in color. Cracks and bumps are par for the course, but the pavlova shouldn’t completely deflate. Especially if you follow the precise measurements and instructions in the recipe. You can help avoid too many cracks by cooling the pavlova in the oven. The sudden change of temperature (inside the oven to outside the oven) shocks the pavlova, so it’s best to cool inside the cooling oven.

Make sense?

pavlova spread onto a baking sheet after baking

overhead image of spreading whipped cream onto baked pavlova on a marble cake stand

pavlova toppings including fresh berries and lemon curd in bowls

You can top your pavlova or mini pavlovas any which way, but here are some of my topping suggestions:

No need to get artistic, just pile it all on top into a massive pavlova mountain.

pavlova on a marble and wood cake stand

Things are bound to get a little messy when slicing, but if you cooked the pavlova long enough so that the bottom is crisp and the edges are set, it will hold a pie slice shape. This big thing serves about 8-10 people!

If you’re still on the fence about trying pavlova, might I remind you that the center tastes like marshmallows. ♥ ♥ ♥

slice of pavlova with fresh fruit topping on a green plate

Have fun!

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pavlova on a marble and wood cake stand

Pavlova

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 90 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: serves 8-10
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: New Zealand

Description

Pavlova is crisp on the edges, chewy on top, and marshmallow soft and creamy in the centers. Pile high with lemon curd, whipped cream, and fresh fruit to make a naturally delicious gluten free dessert!


Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites (use the yolks for lemon curd!)*
  • 1 cup (200g) superfine sugar*
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar*
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Toppings


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (Preliminary note: you will quickly reduce the oven to 200°F (93°C) in step 4.)
  2. With a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar in 2 additions, beating for 30 seconds between, then continue beating on high speed until glossy stiff peaks form, about 2 more minutes. The peaks should be stiff enough that you can hold the whisk upright and the peaks won’t move. Add the vanilla extract and beat for 1 more minute. The peaks should still be very stiff. If not, keep on mixing on high speed. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the cream of tartar and cornstarch.
  3. Spread the pavlova mixture into an 8-9-inch circle (see note for mini size). You can make decorative peaks with the back of a large spoon if desired. Make sure the edges are relatively tall and there is a nice dip in the center.
  4. Place pavlova in the oven. As soon as you close the oven door, reduce heat to 200°F (93°C). The pavlova will stay in the oven as it cools down to 200°F (93°C). Bake until the pavlova is firm and dry, about 90 minutes total. Rotate the baking sheet if you notice some spots browning. Try to limit how many times you open the oven as the cool air will interrupt the baking.
  5. Turn the oven off and let the pavlova cool inside the oven. Once the pavlova is cool, you can store it covered tightly at room temperature for up to 2 days. Or serve right away.
  6. Once cool, top the pavlova with whipped cream and assorted toppings. Slice and serve.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: See step 5 for making the pavlova in advance. Pavlova is best enjoyed right after it’s garnished. It doesn’t freeze well.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Baking Sheet | Marble Cake Stand
  3. Egg Whites: (1) Room temperature egg whites whip faster than cold egg whites. And (2) room temperature egg whites whip into a greater volume than cold egg whites. So make sure your egg whites are at room temperature before beginning.
  4. Sugar: Superfine sugar dissolves easier into egg whites. To avoid tasting sugar granules, pulse 1 cup granulated sugar a few times in a food processor. You now have superfine sugar to use in the recipe.
  5. Acid: You can use 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar or 1 teaspoon of white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice.
  6. Mini Pavlovas: Divide pavlova mixture up into individual portions instead of spreading into one large 8-9-inch circle. In the photos, I piped the mixture into 6 mini pavlovas using Ateco 849. A piping tip isn’t necessary– you can just spoon it on. Make sure you leave a dip in the center to hold the toppings. Bake time depends on size, see step 4 for what to look for. If making 6 mini pavlovas like I did, bake for 35-40 minutes at 200°F (93°C). Start them in a 350°F (177°C) oven, like I do in this written recipe.
  7. Pavlova base from reader Laurel. Thanks Laurel!

276 Comments

  1. Made this with my friends yesterday and it turned out amazing!! The meringue is decadent and so tasty. Recipe is easy to follow too, we topped it with whipped cream and fresh berries and it was great. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

    1. I first had Pavlova in New South Wales on Christmas Day. Now I make it for our Chrismas Eve (Christmas Day in AUS). This recipe is the best yet. Not as tall as the one in Australia, but it works! Next year I might stack it for heighth.

  2. Perfect summertime dessert with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

  3. Can you use powdered sugar instead of fine sugar?

    1. Hi Carol, don’t use powdered sugar in this recipe. Superfine sugar is necessary. (If needed, see my recipe note about pulsing granulated sugar into the correct consistency to make superfine sugar.)

    2. I used powdered sugar and it was perfect.

    3. Mariana Badea says:

      I have a question:do you know to bake meringue in electric oven whow many degrees i can bake?

  4. This recipe turned out great! If I wanted to make a chocolate version, would i use the same recipe and just add cocoa powder to it?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kim, I wish I could help, but we haven’t experimented with a chocolate version. You can try adding the cocoa powder though. That’s a good place to start.

  5. Megan Haight says:

    Amazing dessert, crisp, crunchy, and chewy all at once. Lots of options for toppings, any berry (or cherry) in season. Whipped cream with flavoring is a fantastic combo with the pavlova and fruit. Look forward to making it again. The second time will be a snap.

  6. Loved this! Flavor was perfect but it seemed it browned more than I was expecting… did I do something wrong?
    I followed your instructions word by word…

    1. Hi Manelly! Nothing you necessarily did wrong, but you can lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees F or even lower the oven rack. Another option is to tent the baking pavlova with aluminum foil to prevent the exterior from over-browning.

      1. Thank you!!!! It tasted delicious I will certainly try this again with your recs! Thank you again ❤️

  7. Hi Sally! Going to make some mini pavlovas tomorrow but was wondering is cream of tartar necessary for this recipe or is lemon juice/apple cider vinegar fine? Will anything go wrong if i use one of those 2 instead of cream of tartar? Thank You!

    1. Hi Hania, you can use 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar or 1 teaspoon white, apple cider vinegar, or even lemon juice. Same results.

  8. This was really really sweet. Can I cut down the sugar without doing any damage?

  9. I’ve only made pavlova once before but it came out hard as a rock and sour? I have no idea what I did wrong or if it was the recipe but this was fantastic. I ended up making the mini pavlovas and just popping them in the oven and then I started reading the comments. I found someone saying to cook mini ones for 45-60 minutes instead of 90 and unfortunately my 90-minute timer had already went off but weirdly these were perfect! crunchy on the outside mallowy on the inside and overall delicious! also if you have rose water I definitely recommend substituting it for the vanilla( i tried it and it was delicious) Thanks for the recipe Sally!

  10. Can I make this without a stand mixer or a hand mixer?

  11. I love this, it’s great with the lemon curd, or with fruit and whipped cream. I made another batch and used this same “batter”, except I folded in about 1/3 cup of chopped Andes mint candies then scooped out cookie size meringues. I baked using the same method, but baked about an hour before I turned off the oven and let them cool. The “cookies” are absolutely fantastic!

  12. I have a question. Do you mean that you cook the pavlova for 90 mins WHILE you are cooling the oven to 200°F or AFTER you’ve cooled down the oven to 200°F??

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes! The oven will be preheated to 350. Then you place pavlova in the oven. As soon as you close the oven door, reduce heat to 200°F (93°C). The pavlova will stay in the oven as it cools down to 200°F (93°C). Then continue with steps 4 and 5 🙂

  13. Any tips for baking this at high altitude? (6500 ft to be exact).

  14. I put the cream of tarter and cornstarch in while beating the egg whites as I usually put the c of t in when making meringue. The result was a little sloppier than expected so the pavlova was quite smooth coming out of the oven, but perfect in texture and flavor. I folded the lemon curd into the whipped cream and put a little grand marnier in the whipped cream. Topped with Raspberries and a little raspberry coulis that my husband had made earlier for another recipe. It was just excellent. The lemon curd just made the dish — will always do it this way.

  15. Hi Sally! I’ve made this pavlova a few times now and it’s been a hit with everyone! However, I’ve encountered one major problem each time – my pavlova gets stuck to the pan. I’ve tried using parchment paper, greasing the parchment paper, greasing the parchment paper and the pan and I’ve tried gently flipping the pavlova upside down to get it out. All of this has resulted in my pavlova cracking and losing it’s beauty. So, I’ve been forced to create and serve my pavlova in the same pan I bake it in to avoid cracking it before my guest arrives! Unfortunately, this makes the presentation of the pavlova look very poor. Do you have any suggestions on how I can ensure the pavlova can be removed from pan? Other than all the methods I’ve tried so far? Thanks in advance! Also, thanks for this recipe! Despite this issue, the pavlova’s flavour is amazing! I made it with your whipped cream, strawberry topping and lemon curd recipes!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sankavi, Cracks are completely normal for pavlova! The outside will be cracked, but it shouldn’t deflate. However if yours is sticking I”m wondering if it’s simply not baked long enough. Make sure it’s cooked long enough so that the bottom is crisp and the edges are set, and then let it cool inside the oven. You can also try a silicone baking mat instead of your parchment paper, you don’t want to grease your surface.

  16. Wow! This is sooo much better than meringue cookies. We love the marshmallowy soft center and crispy exterior. The next time, we will make it on parchment instead of a Silpat, because the exterior began to flake off as I tried to move it to a serving dish. We served homemade blueberry sauce on the side- but honestly, I think your pavlova is excellent on it’s own. Thank you again!!

  17. This is the best recipe of Pavlova, never a fail, the important thing for me was to use a glass/porcelain bowl to whisk, metal bowls don’t work

  18. Hi sally! Can I top the pavlova with caramel?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can! We recommend drizzling it on top just before serving.

  19. Made it yesterday and waiting for tonight to add the toppings! Regular ovens in my country are really difficult to have that much control of temperature, like i couldn’t get it to lower that much so I baked it for less time but it seems fine, some weeping occurred but I did crack the oven door open like 5 seconds to see the temperature (couldn’t see it the thermometer i have inside it) so i wonder if the cracks that form and that weeping (plus maybe I did over-whip a bit) happened because of that.
    What I would like to know is if I can cook it leaving the oven door slightly ajar, like I’ve seen somewhere using a wooden spoon during the process? Mostly to control the temperature. Thanks!

    1. Hi Romina, I’m just seeing your question now, my apologies. I’m so glad you tried this pavlova recipe. It may be helpful in your case to keep the oven slightly cracked open. Do you have an oven thermometer to help you monitor the temperature? That will be helpful too.

  20. Denise Gineris says:

    I am interested in making this fir dessert on Thanksgiving. Can I make the meringue shells a day or two before?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Once the pavlova is cool, you can store it covered tightly at room temperature for up to 2 days (garnish just before serving)

  21. I made a Poached Pear Pavlova with Raspberries, Blackberries and whipped cream for Thanksgiving dinner this week. It was fantastic. The meringue was light as air and nicely crunchy on the outside. I followed your instructions meticulously and it came out just as you described. I have read and used many recipes by others and their instructions lacked the insights and precise instructions like yours. They also produced less than satisfactory meringue’s.
    Thank you for this very well done piece.

    1. Paul P Eggermann says:

      Here’s a tip. I put the bottom from a 9″ tart pan in the sheet pan and covered it with a piece of parchment paper. There was no need to draw a circle since you can easily see the edge of the tart pan bottom. I placed the meringue mixture on the parchment, staying within the bottom, and baked as instructed. When the pavlova was cooled it was easy to lift the whole thing out of the baking sheet and slide the parchment and pavlova onto the serving plate, removing the parchment in the process. No cracks and no mess.

    2. Sounds delicious!!

  22. I made this recipe a few times. Throughout the process, everything looked great. However, while following instructions exactly as written, I was not able to achieve a chewy texture in the center. The outside looked perfect, but inside was pretty airy and a little moist still. Based on the comments, this seems like the recipe to use. Could it be my oven or something that requires tweaking?

    1. The middle of this shouldn’t be chewy! It should be soft and fluffy, and a little moist in the middle, and the outside should have a little bit of crunch that turns to chewy in your mouth. If you didn’t like the texture, then making smaller ones and cooking for the same amount of time might get you the consistency you like! 🙂

  23. This is a classic Christmas dessert here in Australia. I sometimes make a vanilla bean custard with the leftover egg yolks, and serve with fresh berries and drizzled melted white and dark chocolate!

  24. Something is off, or it needs more baking time it the temperature is to low.

    1. I find that sometimes the time or temperature doesn’t work for me but I think it is our altitude here. You make have to admjyst either or both of those until you get it just right.

  25. Easy to follow recipe and it turned out perfectly. I’ve always bought pre-made pavlova bases from the shop, never again!

  26. I made the pavlova and it came out perfect, my son had it for breakfast today because he said it was eggs after all.

  27. Hey sally,
    I would like to try this with your homemade lemon curd. Do I make the pavlova first then the curd and have the curd set in the pav or can I do both separate then just add the lemon curd before I serve it?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Angela, I recommend making them separately and then topping the pavlova with the lemon curd right before serving. Enjoy!

  28. Well thanks for your explanation …I tried to have the perfect one for more than 12 times each time l have some sugar comes out of it and chewy texture inside

  29. Hi Sally, Happy New Year!
    Can I make the Pav in a reef shape and if so would it change the baking instructions at all? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Molica, I don’t see why you couldn’t make this in a different shape but we haven’t tried it! The bake time would depend on the shape, for example if it’s long and thin the bake time would likely be shorter. Use your oven light to keep an eye on it and bake until its firm and dry. Enjoy!

  30. My oven only goes as low as 275 degree F, is it still possible to make this dessert?

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