What’s crunchy, airy, creamy and chewy all in one? If this were a game of Who’s Who, the right answer would be no other than pavlova. If you’ve ever looked at this dessert and felt intimidated, fear not because it’s not as complicated as it seems. Pavlova is nothing but a simple meringue dessert with a heap of slightly sweetened fresh whipped cream on top, covered with your favorite choice of fresh fruit. Sounds easy enough, right?
If you’re just not in the mood for a decadent chocolate cake or have had enough of all the banana bread recipes flooding in your feed lately, pavlova might just be the right dessert to calm your sweet tooth. Plus, if you find yourself feeling a bit creative, pavlova is the perfect canvas for your imagination. The possibilities and variations are endless, from the creamy topping down to the fresh fruit. Instead of fresh whipped cream, why not go for a white chocolate cream with a rosé raspberry syrup? But if you’re thing is pistachios, a pistachio creamy meringue with some fresh strawberries on top might just be the answer.
Is Pavlova from Australia, New Zealand or Russia?
The history behind the name of this soft—and yet crunchy—dessert we know as pavlova is quite as sweet as the dish itself. Named after the iconic Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926, the recognition of this dish grew throughout the world. During her golden years many chefs across the globe named their dishes after her, from the ‘pavlova ice cream’ in America to ‘frog legs à la pavlova’ in France.
Yet, one of the longest disputes involving this dish is between Australia and New Zealand. With two very unique approaches to this well-known dessert, both countries have carried the pavlova throughout the years and close to their hearts, making it a part of their culture.
Australians believe that the origin of pavlova came from a hotel in Perth in 1926, by the hands of chef Bert Sachse. After reaching the end of his meal and taking a bite out of the chef’s dessert, the diner declared it ‘light as Pavlova’. As a result, the chef named the dish after the ballerina.
Making merengue for the base of the pavlova
On the other hand, New Zealanders have a whole different story to tell. It is said that during the ballerina’s visit through New Zealand, a chef at the Wellington Hotel was so incredibly inspired by her tutu that he created a ‘billowy dessert’ in her honor, known as pavlova. With a marshmallow-y meringue and sliced kiwifruit on top, this dessert quickly became a very popular choice. However, the first mention of a pavlova recipe in New Zealand had nothing to do with these textures. In the Davis Dainty Dishes cookbook from Davis Gelatine Company, dating back to 1927, the first take on the pavlova was a recipe featuring many layers of jelly.
Recent research by Dr. Andrew Paul Wood and Annabelle Utrecht—a New Zealander and Australian, respectively—suggests that the origin of pavlova goes further back than the Russian ballerina. One of the first pavlova-like recipes that they’ve discovered is for a meringue, cream and fruit torte named spanische windtorte cherished by the Austrian Habsburgs of the 18th century.
Homemade Pavlova Recipe
Servings: 8 servings
For the pavlova
- 6 egg whites (at room temperature)
- a pinch of cream of tartar
- 1 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar
For the whipped cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Any fresh fruit to your liking
Let’s kick it off with the pavlova. Start by preheating the oven to 250ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, drawing a 9-inch circle in the center. Spray it with non-stick cooking spray.
With an electric mixer (or a whisk, if you don’t have one) beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Gradually add the cream of tartar and granulated sugar, increasing the speed to medium-high until the mix resembles soft and glossy white peaks.
With the help of a spoon, scoop the mixture into the circle and use a spatula to shape it to your taste. You can also add some decorative sides if desired.
Bake for 1 hour or until it feels firm to the touch. Once done, turn off the oven and prop the door open, allowing the pavlova to cool down completely before removing it.
Last but not least, to make the whipped cream you’ll need to place the sugar, vanilla extract and heavy cream in a large bowl and beat on medium-high speed until you can flip the bowl upside down and nothing falls off. You can add a touch of lemon zest to this mix if you’re feeling bold.
Transfer the pavlova to a serving platter, top it with the whipped cream and the fresh fruit to your liking. The pavlova will be ready to serve immediately or, if you want to save it for that afternoon sweet tooth snack, it can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours.
Tried making your own version of pavlova at home? Then make sure to share your creation on social media and tag us at @skyhour for a chance to be featured on this article.