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!

318 Comments

  1. Can you double this recipe? This is by far one of my favorite things to make. It’s absolutely, insanely, delicious! Thank you for our new favorite holiday dessert!

    1. Hi Kelley! For best taste and texture (and best success!) I highly recommend making two batters/two batches instead of doubling all at once.

      1. Thank you so much! That’s what I ended up doing but they were underbaked! I think they may have been too thick and I put them on the same tray. Do you suggest baking them at the same time on two separate trays?

  2. Deborah Lourenco says:

    I topped mine with lemon curd, whipped cream and fresh berries. It was so good husband and I ate it straight from the tray in one sitting.

  3. So wonderful and easy and with the directions it came out perfect the first time. Thank you for a new “go to” family favorite.

    1. You are welcome, Rita! I’m so happy you enjoyed it!

  4. Can I put my pavlova together in advance of serving or should I do it immediately before serving?

    1. Hi Lisa, Pavlova is best enjoyed right after it’s garnished. I hope you love it!

  5. I just made this recipe yesterday and it was a hit.
    I topped it with coconut cream, fresh strawberries and homemade strawberry jam.
    My guests literally licked the plate clean.
    Absolutely yummy.

  6. Hey Sally! I’d like to make this into a chocolate pavlova. Think I could just add 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder to this recipe?

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

    2. I have seen a chocolate version here. Type pavlova recipe in search bar & look in allrecipes.com, maybe the Pavlova Deluxe recipe. Pretty sure that’s where I saw a picture, etc Sue

  7. Am cooking the Mini version now but finding the 200 Temp & 40 minutes not setting them up properly…they seemed almost set but still soft and a bit wobbly to the touch.

  8. LOVE your explanations of the role each ingredient plays. Thanks for taking the time to do that. That’s how I found you – I searched for the reason behind the lemon juice / vinegar and boom there you were! Thanks also for the links to the other things like the lemon curd recipe. Great job.

  9. So I made this last night, and tried to stay as close as I could to the recipe/suggestions. Used 1 tsp of rice vinegar cause that’s what I had instead of cream of tartar. Also replaced a teaspoon of arrowroot for the cornstarch because my sister is allergic. Made it last night, left it in the oven to cool overnight. Added fresh whipping cream, raspberries, and blueberries. It was a huge success, only minimal cracking when cutting the slices. It was the perfect texture and did still hold its shape. This was my first attempt, and a major success thanks to your recipe and notes! Thank you!

  10. Kimberly Gore says:

    PLease help! I have made this recipe 4 times because I am seeking perfection. Each time I make the pavlova, it turns a very light brown in the oven. I am following the recipe exactly. My goal is that my pavlova remains bright white when its taken from the oven. I have a new Bosch oven, it seems to cook perfectly. How do I have white Pavlova? My textures are correct, and it tastes great..

    1. Hi Kimberly! That’s an easy fix– try lowering the oven rack and slightly lowering the oven temperature. No matter what, the baked pavlova will be slightly browned/beige. (Mine always is!)

    2. Hi, I have successfully made white pavlova’s a couple of times. Usually, they are a little beige – it was when there was low humidity. I followed Mary Berry’s BBC recipe for Christmas Pavlova. 280F/ 140C: down to 250F/120C. Your tips were excellent, I am going to try your lemon curd as a special request of my son’s. I am trying to see how to get rid of the beige as well. I will take mine down to 200- I will let you know how it goes.

    3. I just asked this same question! Having the same issue! Thanks for clarifying Sally!

  11. 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!

  12. I think adding the sugar in two batches is too quickly. Usually with meringue, you would add it in slower – maybe 1 tbsp at a time. 1/2 cup of sugar at one go seems like a recipe for not getting stiff peaks.

    1. Seems like? Did you try it? My peaks were high and tight. I thought the sugar was too much flavor wise but I’m a prude. The coming together was perfect, just make sure yo incorporate the ingredients together before mixing hard.

    2. I have also usually seen recipes instruct to add the sugar slowly (I always thought it was so the sugar was sure to dissolve)… that’s what I did with this recipe, adding the sugar in about 2 tbsp at a time. The batter was nice and smooth, not grainy at all. It is cooling in the oven and looks perfect!

  13. I make my pavlova using 9 egg whites, 2 cups sugar, 2 tsp vinegar, 2 tsp cornstarch . Always put sugar in food processor to reduce size so it dissolves better. Oven heated to 300 for preheat (or 275) , then reduce to 250 when putting in oven and bake for 1 1/2 hrs. , leaving in oven to cool at least 1 1/2 hrs – overnight. Only add sugar 1 tbls at a time. Delicious!

  14. 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!

  15. jasmine spiteri says:

    hey, do you have a video of you doing it?

  16. 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!

    1. Kate Peacock says:

      You can’t substitute brown sugar for white sugar when making meringues.

      1. Yes you can, I make brown sugar meringues. Just add the brown sugar slowly, a tablespoon at a time. Light brown sugar is better, as the moisture content is less than dark brown sugar.

  17. This is a bummer. I tried this recipe three times today, tweaking here and there, knowing I did something wrong (missed some egg yolks? over mixed? Under mixed? Fridge eggs? Countertop eggs?) to no avail So sad. No idea where I’m going wrong‍♀️. Just a reminder to myself that being in quarantine is not a good time to experiment with food.

    1. Brittany,
      Your question, “missed summer egg yolks?” may be part of the answer to your overall question. The recipe calls for egg whites only. There needs to be absolutely no yolk or fat of any kind st all in your bowl when making the pavlova batter. Be sure to read the recipe carefully.

      1. Hi there, Thanks for your feedback. That’s what I meant by one of the things that could have potentially gone wrong, leading me to try again. I wasn’t totally sure the first two times if I may have missed any egg yolk, but there weren’t absolutely none the third time .

    2. 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!

  18. Fool proof way to avoid egg yolk problems is to use commercial egg whites in a carton from the dairy section. They are pasteurized as well so good there. Last couple years that is what I have been doing.

  19. 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!!

  20. 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

    1. I baked this but it looks likes egg white are seeping out of the bottom- it was nice & stiff when I put it on the pan – what did I do wrong?

      1. My guess is you added the sugar too quickly. Try about 1 tbsp at a time on medium whisk.

  21. 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?

  22. Britt Hall says:

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

  23. 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.

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

  25. 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.

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

  27. Hi Sally!

    On the hunt for a good hazelnut dacquoise recipe and struggling to find one. Do you think this could be adapted into that?

    Any help is appreciated.

    1. Hi Ciara, I have never tried this but what a fun challenge! You can try to gently folding in toasted, coarsely ground (and completely cooled) hazelnuts to the pavlova before baking. Let me know if you try it!

  28. 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!

  29. Hi Sally and fellow bakers – I usually add a pinch of salt to everything I bake. This recipe has no salt. Sally, you said it’s important to stick to the recipe, so I must ask – have you tried making it with a pinch of salt? How’d it go? Anyone else? Thanks.

    1. Hi Laurie, I don’t find salt necessary here but adding a small amount should be fine.

  30. 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!

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