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. Recipe is very clear and looked great, but was a sticky mess to get off the silicone mat. I followed the recipe exactly and did not try to remove from mat before cool…what happened??

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carole, sounds like it was simply under baked. We always suggest using an in-oven thermometer for the most consistent baking results!

  2. So fun and delicious! I topped it with the lemon curd from this site and it was a heavenly!

  3. Can we use liquid egg whites in a carton?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mara, we don’t see any problems using room temperature carton egg whites. Let us know how the pavlova turns out!

      1. Made this using liquid egg whites, started out fine, but didn’t make stiff peaks. I ended up adding two regular egg white and it stiffen up with extra whipping time.

    2. Fubuki Lake says:

      Pasteurized egg whites will not whip properly unless acid (cream of tartar / lemon juice) is added at the beginning of whipping. Try 1/8 tsp per egg white, added after eggs get foamy.

  4. Do you think it will work to halve the recipe?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emily! You can halve the recipe. We’re unsure of the exact bake time. It’s done when it feels firm and dry.

  5. Thanks for an amazing recipe. I followed your directions and it was perfect. I topped it with the lemon curd and a few fresh blueberries. That lemon curd!! Wow!! I could literally sit and eat the entire bowl.

  6. Oh YUM! Used raspberries and blueberries. Definitely will make again,

  7. Sooo good. I’ve made this many times where I’ve halved the recipe.
    Baking time is reduced to about 25-30 min, rotating pan halfway.
    Great recipe

  8. Kyla Walker says:

    How much would this recipe cost in total?

  9. How long do you cook the mini meringues please?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melanie! See recipe notes for Mini Pavlova directions.

  10. DEBBIE WEINBEL says:

    Saw some talking about using carton egg whites. You cannot use these. Too much liquid is added to get good stiff peaks.

    1. I’ve made this twice with liquid egg whites. It works fine, but it does require a lot more whipping and at a higher speed. Fortunately, I have a kitchenaid, so I could walk away, but it definitely doubled the time required.

  11. Is it possible to have the egg whites in weight, thanks?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ang! 1 large egg white weighs about 30g, so you’ll need 120g for this recipe.

  12. Hello Everyone! I am a twelve year old amateur baker and I thought these were lovely! I got eight miniature pavlovas out of this recipe and thought they were delicious. For my fellow Passover observers, I highly recommend these as a Passover dessert because they are not risen or leavened and have no flour. I had some trouble removing mine from the parchment and decided to make them for a few more minutes after reading some comments. I also had some difficulty whipping my edges to stiff peaks but solved this problem by simply whipping them for longer (as stated in the recipe). In conclusion, I love this recipe and highly suggest it!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you for this helpful review, Lucy! We’re so happy you enjoyed this recipe.

  13. HappyMommyCA says:

    I’ve made meringues in the past, and have not had great success. This recipe is fool-proof. The only change I made was using vanilla bean paste instead of regular vanilla. I piped 10 – 5-inch meringue nests, and had enough left over for about 2 dozen meringue puffs. I pre-heated at 350, and then as soon as I placed them in the oven, dialed temp down to 200. I baked for about 50 minutes, then let them sit in the oven for about 3 hours. No problems removing them from parchment paper. Absolute perfection. I’m serving the nests for Easter dessert tomorrow – filled with vanilla bean whipped cream, lemon curd (highly recommend Sally’s recipe above)and fresh berries. Kids have already devoured the meringue puffs. Thanks so much for a fantastic recipe. It’s going right into my recipe binder for future use!

  14. Diane Russell says:

    Can this recipe be doubled to make two cakes?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  15. Diane Russell says:

    Can Splenda or Swerve be used in place of the fine sugar? What brand/type of fine sugar do you recommend?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Diane, we’d love to help but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. See recipe notes for details on superfine sugar!

    2. Debbie Cook says:

      I want to say that when I used XyloSweet – xylitol sugar substitute – I didn’t get the best results. Don’t get me wrong, it still tasted great but the pavlovas never got crisp. They stayed slightly chewy and were more marshmallowy. I’ve used Splenda Baker’s Blend and it produces baked goods that have a very weird mouth feel. I don’t like the texture. I refuse to use most sugar substitutes in baked good due to aftertaste and mouth feel but that doesn’t mean don’t try. Keep experimenting and noting the results. You might have to actually try a whole other technique like making a “sugar” syrup and then adding that to egg whites while whipping them. That’s an Italian Meringue technique. Good luck and keep trying.

  16. This is the first time im making this and im excited!!! Ive been baking for about 7 months now and Sally is my number one lady. I especially love the notes and tips. I’ve made coconut cake and chocolate cake and chocolate mousse and several other recipes. Your the only website that explains in a way a beginner gets it. I’ll let you know how mine come out.

  17. About how long does it take for the oven to cool once you turn it off?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Becku, All ovens are a little different but we let it cool in the oven for about an hour.

  18. Hi Sally,
    I love this recipe and always use it and the pavlova turns out perfect!
    I would like to make a bigger size Pavlova, a size to serve up to 12 people. What are the right adjustments on the recipe and the baking?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

      1. Thank you! Can I bake 2 pavlovas at once in the oven?

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Nis, if you have room in the oven, that should be fine!

    2. So good. Like eating a cloud.

      One thing, it doesn’t say at what speed to mix the meringue at first, before you add the cream of tartar etc. I did high speed since later it says “continue beating at high speed,” but 5 minutes is way too long at high speed. I had to toss my first attempt, it had been years since I last attempted meringue so I wasn’t clear on what “soft peaks” looks like and just trusted the 5 minutes. Ended up overwhipping it and losing my peaks altogether, turned into goop that would never get into stiff peaks no matter how long I whipped. Second attempt, got soft peaks after less than 2 minutes (had googled what that actually looks like). Then it turned out amazingly delicious.

      I topped it with lemon curd, fresh berries and a generous helping of whipped cream. Had never had a pavlova before but now it might just be my favourite dessert EVER. 🙂

  19. I am 12 years old and my name is Marlow. I have been baking ever since I was 3 with my mom and when I turned 7 I started baking myself. Me and my friend bake every week and we use your recipes a lot! I can’t wait to try these!

    1. I was wondering if you could put in lemon or lime juice into the pavlova or the whipped cream?

  20. Debbie Kay Cook says:

    I always have egg whites lying around. Not literally but I do a lot of cooking that calls for egg yolks. I make gelato and fruit curds and stuff like this. I end up freezing my egg whites in quantities of four whites to a small plastic container. I have a lot of those containers and I save them up because when I have enough, I’ll make swiss buttercream and THESE pavlovas. The only difference between fresh egg whites and the defrosted egg whites is that it does take a little bit longer to whip the defrosted ones up. No taste difference, doesn’t spread, identical. I will also add different flavorings. Vanilla bean paste for the tiny flecks, almond extract, or coconut extract. I have lemon extract but it’s oil based and will deflate your whites. Citrus juices add acid to stabilize your whites but may not impart enough flavor to make a difference. Look, I use to work as a personal chef before this Pandemic shut the world down. I’ve had time to experiment.

    P.S. Yes, my last name is REALLY Cook.

  21. This was such a delicious dessert! My whole family loved it. Thank you!

  22. Turned out great, but we had to turn out oven up 20 degrees and leave it in for a bit longer. First time making a pavlova and I’m so happy with how it turned out!

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