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

Video Tutorial: How to Make Pavlova

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!

128 Comments

  1. I made this for my brother in law who lived in Australia for two years and was craving pavlova. He RAVED about it! My three picky kids who don’t even finish a piece of cake all finished their slices and asked for more! This might become our new family dessert. I’ve always been intimidated by making a meringue, but this was so easy and delicious. THANK YOU!

  2. I have been making pavlova for over 25 years as it is my go-to for celebration desserts and have some knowledge to pass on. The most important thing is to assemble it just before serving. If it is assembled too soon i.e. the night before or morning of, the meringue will dissolve and weep. Made that mistake my first time and although it tasted delicious, it was a wangy mess and not crisp. A few times, the meringue ring broke when taking it off of the parchment so I made Eton Mess (as per another’s comment) and it was just as well received. I make my meringue the night before and leave it in a cracked oven to cool and set overnight (turn off oven and crack the door open as you would making cheesecake). I have used all different kinds of sugars in the meringue and different toppings but the classic whipped cream, lemon curd and macerated berries are the clear favorite in my family. I don’t sweeten the whipped cream because the meringue is sweet enough. This dessert is KILLER! Just remember the tip about humidity when making meringue. Not a great result when the humidity is too high (I live in Florida) so this is our spring/Easter celebration dessert. Thanks for bringing this outstanding Aussie/NZ/British classic to the US!

  3. Hi,

    I used brown sugar so the egg whites couldn’t be whipped till stiff peaks no matter how long I tried. I baked it when it was at soft peaks, still came out having a firm, crunchy crust and a soft centre. I did bake it a little bit longer even though the recipe was halved. What might have happened?
    Thanks in advance!

  4. cant wait to make this recipe! Do you think I could 1/2 this recipe to make a smaller portion? thanks!

    1. Hi Briana, I don’t see why not. The bake time will depend on the size. Or you can make three mini pavlovas and follow recipe note #6.

    2. You REALLY don’t want to half it! It’s so delish. I doubled it!! Very easy and came out perfect!!

  5. Omg this turned out perfect! I made this for my family and they loved it. The only thing is I did not use vanilla and it tasted excellent so i don’t recommend vanilla but it is a great recipe! Thank you

  6. Hi Sally! I was just wondering how leftovers will keep? We’re a small family and we likely won’t finish the whole pavlova/all the mini pavlovas in one sitting.

    1. Hi Kristine, You can store ungarnished pavlova covered tightly at room temperature for up to 2 days. It doesn’t freeze well. Once garnished it’s best enjoyed right away.

      1. Alexandra says:

        I made this recipe and it was so delicious! My family love it. Thank you Sally for sharing your recipes. Now I’d like to make a two layer pavlova cake, do I just make this recipe two times?

  7. Britt Hall says:

    awesome! thanks! here is a tip… my grandmother always said to only make meringue when it is sunny

  8. I made this tonight and I was really pleased with how it came out! It was just a tad too sweet for my husband who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth. If I decrease the sugar next time will it still hold the same shape?

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Anna! Without the sugar the egg whites would deflate and you wouldn’t get the crisp exterior. Maybe try a topping that isn’t as sweet for him to help offset the sweetness in the pavlova.

  9. Another amazing recipe! Was much easier than I anticipated, and came out beautiful and delicious. The perfect Mother’s Day dessert. Thanks, Sally!

  10. I’ve never made pavlova before, nor have I eaten it. My husband lived in Australia for 5 years and he had also never eaten it, but we thought it would be fun for me to bake. I also made the lemon curd.

    We sat down to eat it at 4:54PM. We, embarrassingly, finished it by 5:04PM. I am 8 months pregnant and would love to blame it on that, but really I have no excuse. It was just really good.

  11. Made this yesterday. Followed the recipe very carefully. Came out delicious. Kids and adults loved it!

  12. I made this with fresh strawberries on top as they are in season at the moment. It was absolutely delicious and so simple to make. This will be the only Pavlova recipe I use from now on. Since there was so much sugar in the Pavlova I did not add any to the whipping cream and I thought it was the perfect sweetness that way. Thank you so much for this recipe.. I look forward to trying it again with different types of fruit/toppings in the future!

  13. Made this exactly as instructed except I was out of vanilla so I subbed almond. It came out perfectly. I garnished the whole thing and what was left kept fine overnight in the fridge, though it had sunken a bit and probably wouldn’t have been fit to bring to a dinner party or something. Thanks, Sally!

  14. 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!

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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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!

  21. 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!

  22. 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 🙂

  23. 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.

  24. Coming back to say that I eventually figured out that my problem was using the wrong mixer attachments. I’m not much of a baker, so this detail didn’t stand out to me. Happily, I succeeded eventually and have following the recipe several times since. It’s wonderful. Thanks!

  25. 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.

  26. 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!!

  27. 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

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. Paul P Eggermann says:

    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.

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