Making Pavlova

For a Kentucky baker making his first pavlova, I think this turned out pretty well. Did it come out looking like a tutu for a Russian dancer? Meh…if I stretched my imagination a bit, perhaps. I’m not winning any awards for authenticity here, since true south-of-the-equator pavlovas are made with passion fruit, kiwi and/or strawberries as far as I understand it. But since we happen to be at peak blueberry season here in Kentucky, it seemed to make sense. And what goes better with blueberries than lemon curd I ask you? I couldn’t help myself.

Pavlova is probably the ultimate warm-weather dessert. It’s sweet, airy and fruity…just the thing when you’ve already had one too many barbecued ribs but still want to finish the grill party off right. Of course you’ll need to store it indoors before serving unless that Chantilly cream is heavily stabilized with gelatin. Begin by assembling your ingredients. Line a sheet pan with parchment and using a 9″-10″ pot lid (here I have a cake circle), draw a circle in pencil in the center. Yes that’s a pink-and-purple Monster High pencil. I live in a house full of girls, OK?

Flip the parchment over so the graphite is underneath. You’ll still see the pencil circle quite clearly.

Lightly grease the circle with oil or melted butter.

Dust it with a little cornstarch.

Now for the meringue. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.

Place the egg whites, vinegar and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip.

Whip the mixture to very soft peaks. Whip in the vanilla, then start adding the sugar mixture in a steady stream.

Whip to very stiff peaks.

Having tried a few shaping methods, I think the good ol’ make-a-heap method works the best. Scrape the mixture out onto the circle and press it down with the back of a large spoon.

You can either leave it rough or shape it some. I employed an icing spatula here, and I think it worked well. But there are all sorts of ways of doing this. For more authoritative instructions, consult the closest available Aussie or Kiwi.

Insert into an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Immediately reduce the heat to 300 and bake for 45 minutes. reduce the oven to 250 and bake a further 35 minutes, then turn off the oven and allow the meringue to cool completely without opening the door…overnight is nice. You’ll have some cracks and chips, that’s all part of it.

When you’re ready to serve, fill the meringue shell with whipped cream and add fruit. This base turned out a lot bigger than I expected. It was about 12″ across, so I used more like 3-4 cups of Chantilly cream. That was probably too much, but then this thing was wicked good. As for that spooned-over curd, it is not considered traditional by any means, but what a combo.

I warmed the curd slightly to loosen it, and that made it run a bit once it was applied. Still after a good long chill in the fridge it sliced and served very well. I can’t overemphasize how floored the crowd was by the dessert. I got at least 16 pieces out of it, and we only had 10 guests, if that gives you any sense for how it went over.

The crunchy-soft meringue…the smooth-silky whipped cream…the sweet-tart berries and sauce…no wonder this dessert is an international obsession. Kentucky may soon co-opt it from New Zealand. Anyway, use a large knife…the pieces will be a bit soft and sloppy, but after the first bite trust me, no one will care.

My camera really took one for the team on this shoot. I’ll be cleaning it all weekend. Have a good one!

27 thoughts on “Making Pavlova”

  1. Very nice Joe, you’re on your way to being an Honorary Kiwi 🙂 Or something close anyway

    Pavs can be temperamental things at times, too hot and they flatten and toughen, too cold and all you get is a sugary sloppy mess

    Well done

    1. Thanks, Warren! I greatly appreciate that, coming from you. They are surprisingly tricky things, aren’t they? All the heat and humidity here didn’t help, but all in all I was fascinated. My party guests on Friday were simply amazed by pavlova. I may have started something!


      – Joe

      1. I was lucky enough to be one of those guest. All I can say is Coño eso fue muy bueno!

        1. And this dude ate at least two pieces, folks. I left the room after two, so I can’t say how many for sure, ‘cept this gangsta can EAT.

          – Joe

  2. Nice!

    We made pavlovas last weekend and they were quite the hit. Our main problem was that, due to local food safety rules, a french meringue must be cooked (i.e. dried) all the way through so we couldn’t use this method.

    Instead, we made them with Italian meringue (cooked through by hot sugar syrup). They still came out pavolva-ish with far more cracking, but still durned yummy. For anyone who worries about egg-safety I guess it would be an option, albeit a more difficult and less effective one. On the plus side, the Italian meringue was good to go after an hour and a half at 250F.


  3. Hi Joe, what do you think about pouring the curd into the shallow of the pavlova before putting the cream on? Or do you think that would melt the crust of the meringue too much? I love the idea of the lemon curd as strictly meringue + chantilly cream strikes me as a rather bland combination (but then, I’ve never had pavlova), but am just musing about ways to reduce the “hot messiness” 😉

    1. Hey Jen!

      I think that would work fine and I nearly did it that way until I realized what I’d be sacrificing in terms of presentation. I like the way curd and blueberries look together! But that solution would be just fine and shouldn’t compromise the texture of the meringue since it’s soft already.


      – Joe

  4. Hi Joe
    That’s a pavlova to be proud of – befitting any New Zealand “spread” ( a table laid out buffet style at a family gathering). Definitely go with the make-a-heap method -that produces the best pavs -fluffing around with piping at home isn’t necessary.
    That topping is perfectly acceptable, people put all sorts of things on as a topping – one of our children preferred just whipped cream and chocolate chips if they could choose. Some folk like them plain with no topping !
    A+ 🙂

    1. What else is on that New Zealand table?

      I just love experiencing something of other cultures.

      1. Hi Rainey
        Annemarie got to you first , yes all of that . The influences have traditionally been British, Dutch , Croation and other post WW2 European , however now we have a large Polynesian population in our country along with Asian influences too. Pacific rim is a term that is often used to describe food types and also fusion as you mentioned where there are some wonderful blends from different ethnicities. Come on down and visit – it’s only 12 hours in plane !!

    2. Heather, you made my day!

      Thanks very much for the encouragement. Judging from the response of friends and family, I’ll be making many more!

      – Joe

  5. NZers don’t usually sweeten the cream on the pav (kind of redundant, the pav is sweet enough already!) My Mum always whipped the cream and then added a small bar of 60 chocolate, put that on the pav and added drained mandarin slices (kind of a riff on choc/orange).

    What is on my NZ table, lots of fresh fish and seafood and lamb, cooked simply on the BBQ, and lots of fresh vegetable salads.

    1. Thanks for describing it. Does it have British influence or does it take more from the multicultural population? Are there specific ethnic strains — Los Angeles is full of a hundred different ethnic influences but they tend to keep their distinct personalities — or does it fuse into a national cuisine?

      Thanks again for sharing. It’s so interesting to me and, alas!, I doubt I’ll ever be able to experience NZ for myself. =<

    2. I like just a hint of sweetness in the cream, but that’s a personal preference on my part. Love those other ideas…and the dinner sounds great. What time should I come over?

      – Joe

  6. I’ve never had Pavlova so I’m not sure what I expected but I am most impressed that you were able to slice it up so attractively.

    I knew the concept of a Pavlova but I imagined it much more fragile in the meringue layer and relaxed in the cream and filling layers. But yours looks just as lovely on the plate as your first pic of the whole thing. Congrats!

    1. Thanks Rainey! I won’t lie and tell you they all came out like this, but after being chilled for a few hours it was much less sloppy than I imagined it would be. I had a great time making it!

      – Joe

    1. Thank you! It was a bit of a struggle, honestly, but I think I got most of the kinks worked out. Let me know how yours goes!

      – Joe

  7. Reader Soetmin submits this outstanding-sounding filling:

    Heat up the of two oranges (without boiling) and add one bag of gelatinpowder. Mix with two tablespoons of eggnogg (firm consistency, not runny) and two tablespoons of lemoncurd (i love may homemade lc but i leave it out if i dont have any in my fridge. No problem.). Set aside to cool but not stiffen up.

    Beat 300 cl of good quality whipping cream (i go for 40% fat, no stabilisers added) untill nice and stiff and mix with the cooled orangemixture. Put in the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.

    Taste the mixture, decide to put another generous spoonfull of eggnogg in it, taste again, decide on another spoonfull, decadently eat one straight from the jar (preferably with a coffee on the side), and another one and only then put the jar back in the cupboard.

    Four hours later, scoop what is left of the mixture (spoonfulls of ‘stiffness tests’ all the way though those 4 hours are unevitable in my book) onto the merengue and decorate with freshly chopped pineapple, mango strawberry, any other berry, kiwi..anything tropical that gives you a nice colourscheme and variety of flavours. Absolutely do finish with passionfruit! The tanginess goes so well with the sweetness of all the rest.

    I decorate with some mintleaves or edible flowers for extra wow-factor.

    Thanks, Soetmin!

  8. Great looking dessert- glad to hear it went over well!

    It probably isn’t traditional, but I’d be very tempted to fold the whipped cream into some extra-tart lemon curd in order to stabilize the cream, add flavor, and balance the sweetness of the meringue layer. Then top with a riot of berries 🙂

  9. I am most impressed Joe. I remember back to my first attempt at making a pav, a complete disaster, I console myself that I was only 8 years old at the time though 🙂

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