Pavlova

Please welcome pastry chef extraordinaire Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater who is our guest author for this article on Pavlovas. ~Elise

It’s no coincidence the late Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, for whom the Pavlova dessert was named, is said to have been ethereal, delicate and slightly controversial. Her namesake, this simple confection, is a straightforward enough list of ingredients, but the end result is all about touch, finesse. And it has attracted more than its fair share of controversy. Two distinct neighboring countries take credit for invention and creation. For sake of staying neutral, we will say both New Zealand and Australia are to blame for the delicious Pavlova; an edible translation of sugar turned into cumulous clouds, it is one of the best low fat vehicles for seasonal fruit, whipped cream, sorbet, and ice cream.

Whether you hail from Australia, New Zealand or elsewhere, I hope you’ll attempt this gorgeous recipe. It’s a delightful dessert any time of year.


Working with Egg Whites

Sweet, crunchy, and meltingly soft, Pavlova is a reason for understanding the fickle, hard working, all-purpose egg white.

You create your best egg white-based confections when you know how to treat this important part of the egg. An egg white is pure protein. When room temperature to begin with, egg whites will grow bigger and stronger with whipping. For this reason it’s best to start whipping egg whites on a lower speed, increasing incrementally as you get to the aspired consistency. I like to say I’m cajoling my egg whites into submission.

To achieve room temperature egg whites, take eggs out the night before you need them, or place in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes to take their chill off.

Make sure all bowls, hands, and utensils touching egg whites are as clean and free of random oils as possible. When separating eggs, crack in half and gently toss the yolk back and forth between the eggshell halves, dripping egg white out into a clean container. If a bit of yolk drops into your pristine whites, fish it out with a clean eggshell. Hint: if a bit of shell gets in, they will sink to the bottom and be easy to spot and hold back when it comes time to use the egg whites.

Not sure what to do with the leftover egg yolks? Most custards like pastry cream or stovetop pudding are egg yolk based.

Pavlova Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 8-10 pavlovas.

Ingredients

Meringue:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar OR 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar OR distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces, about 6) large egg whites, preferably room temperature
  • Pinch salt

Topping:

  • 2 pints fresh or frozen berries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Whipped Cream for topping

Method

1 Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the vanilla and vinegar (if using) into a small cup. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.

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2 In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, cream of tartar (if using) and salt, starting on low, increasing incrementally to medium speed until soft peaks/trails start to become visible, and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

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3 Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla and vinegar (if you didn't use cream of tartar.) Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.

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4 Pipe or spoon the meringue into 8-10 large round mounds that are 3 inches wide on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon liner. With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked.

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5 Place baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 250°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white -- not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.

6 Gently lift from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature, or individually wrapped, for up to a week if your house is not humid.

7 Served topped with your favorite filling - lemon curd, raspberry or blueberry sauce, and freshly whipped cream.

Recipe adapted from Flo Baker's pavlovas in the San Francisco Chronicle: Fourth of July dessert has roots in Australia

Sauce or Filling Directions

If you want to make a berry sauce, heat a couple pints of fresh or frozen berries in a medium saucepan with about a quarter cup of sugar. Heat on medium heat, stirring once or twice, for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how much the berries are falling aprt. Remove from heat and let cool.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

smiling-shuna.jpg
Pastry chef, writer, poet, muse, Shuna Fish Lydon has worked in such notable kitchens as Gramercy Tavern and Verbena in Manhattan, The French Laundry and Bouchon in Yountville, California, and Citizen Cake and Aziza in San Francisco.

Additional Links:
Discussion of the differences between French, Swiss, and Italian meringues from the Occasional Baker
Spiced winter pavlova from Mostly Eating

55 Comments

  1. Karen

    Any tips on temperature and baking time if I wanted to make one large pie sized meringue shell?

  2. Elf

    This reminds me of something we made growing up around Easter… We called them Resurrection cookies, I’m not sure if they had another name. Chopped pecans were added to the meringue base, and they were left in the preheated oven overnight. We were usually too impatient and baked a few batches first :)

  3. dksbook

    This reminds me of a dessert I had at a restaurant in the Vosges du Nord: Coupe Vosges. It was 2 meringues, side-by-side, with whipped cream in the middle and topped with sweetened raspberries splashed with raspberry eau de vie.

  4. Tatyana

    Hi Elise,

    It is funny that in Russia nobody would call this dessert Pavlova. Russians like it, make it quite often, but call it Bizet (yes, just like George Bizet, a French composer.)
    Elise, thank you for the blog. i found it by chance while searching for some recipe on the web, but from that day on it’s been in my live bookmarks. I heard your talk on the radio — congrats! If you’d like to feature some Russian recipe, just let me know! :-)

  5. lydia

    What a lovely collaboration between food and photography, and between Shuna and Elise. Great teamwork to produce a wonderful and instructive post!

  6. Robyn

    Karen, Downunder we generally make the pavlova mix up as one large pavlova as we seek to make lots of marshmallow on the inside, with some contrasting crunch on the outside. The trick is to preheat the oven then drop the temperature when the pavlova is placed in the oven. Cook for one hour, then turn the oven off and leave the pavlova in the oven to cool.

    For my oven, I preheat to 180°C (350°F), then reduce to 150°C (300°F) when I put the pavlova in the oven, cook it for one hour, the turn the oven off. I usually leave it in the oven overnight to cool completely.

    You may need to experiment with your oven to get it right. Stephanie Alexander teaches us that “if syrupy droplets form on the surface of the meringue, you’ll know you have overcooked it; liquid oozing from the meringue is a sign of undercooking”.

    I usually make a pavlova in March because the passionfruit vine in the garden is laden; soft whipped cream and passionfruit is definitely my favourite topping. This year I’m looking forward to trying Shauna’s recipe & method.

    Cheers from an autumnal New Zealand

  7. Rob Thomas

    Here in Brazil we call the plain baked meringue dumplings (without the topping and fruit) SUSPIROS, which means “sighs” in English. They are eaten out of the bag (if industrialized) and usually are smaller in size than the ones pictured in this recipe (you can pop’em whole into your mouth and let them dissolve slowly…).
    It is like buying Oreo cookies: found in supermarkets, grocery stores, street vendors.
    We also make a dessert called “Merengue”, with strawberries and whipped cream, that is much like strawberry short cake – substitute the short cake for suspiros and voilà…
    Congrats on the great blog. I’ve used many of your recipes!

  8. Debbie

    This looks delicious, Elise. But then what’s new, huh?

    Is this easy enough for a newbie to make? It looks like the meringue could be a bit tricky.

  9. Garrett

    Let me say that I took Shuna’s class with Elise on egg whites that day, and it was so much fun! Sign up for classes if you can! Plus these pavlovas were so crazy tasty! Definetly worth trying!

  10. Fer Guimaraes Rosa

    I can’t stop thinking and dreaming of Shuna’s pavlovas.
    They were divine! :-)

  11. shuna fish lydon

    Debbie,

    I do think meringue is a bit tricky, but both Elise and I have worked hard to set down every last detail in the instructions portion. We are both very much hoping that by reading and seeing the photos everyone will indeed attempt this sumptuous creation!

    Please do stop by again if you do in fact make them. Of course I hope you do.

  12. Linda

    Elf

    Here is the recipe for the Easter cookies

    Linda

    Easter Cookies
    (To be made the evening before Easter Morning)

    1 cup whole pecans
    1 cup sugar
    1 tsp. vinegar
    Pinch salt
    3 egg whites

    Preheat oven to 300 degrees (this is important – don’t wait until you’re half done with the recipe!)

    Place 1 cup of whole pecans in zipper baggie and beat them with a wooden spoon to break into small pieces.
    Put 1 tsp vinegar into mixing bowl.
    Add 3 egg whites to vinegar.
    Put Salt into the bowl.
    Add 1 cup sugar
    Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed
    Fold in the broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto a wax paper covered cookie sheet
    Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF.

    GO TO BED!

    On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow!

  13. Jens Axel Søgaard

    > If a bit of yolk drops into your pristine
    > whites, fish it out with a clean eggshell.

    It is not uncommon for salmonella bacteria to live
    on the outside of the shell. Therefore use a spoon
    to fish it out instead of using an eggshell.

  14. Greg

    While making a pav can be a bit intimidating, don’t let that prevent you from trying this incredibly flexible dessert. If you take your time and follow the instructions with care you’ll be rewarded with a treat.

    I personally prefer a single large pavlova rather than individual serves – I find it’s much more visually satisfying and is delightfully messy to serve at the table in front of your guests!

    Nigella Lawson has a terrific chocolate pav recipe (in “Forever Summer” I think). It may not meet with the approval of purists, but I can’t think of a better way to eat whipped creamed and freshly picked raspberries.

  15. Chef Tom

    This recipe is a keeper! I’m going to save this for my easter dessert. I’m ready for the challenge! lol… I’ll report back with my family’s reviews!

  16. shuna fish lydon

    Jens Axel Sogaard,

    Thank you for your alternative to the shell. But the reason the shell works so well is because the edge of a broken egg shell is sharp and it will lift out all of the yolk.

    About the Salmonella– it’s true that this deadly bacteria, if it’s on the egg at all, will be on the outside of the shell. Unfortunately if it is there, cracking the egg at all will insure that it will come into contact with the whites.

    In The United States, unless your eggs come from your own back yard or very local farm, all eggs are “candled,” a “light pasteurization process” which is supposed to kill Salmonella.

    Also, these egg whites are cooked/baked. If Salmonella was present it won’t be once you’ve taken the meringues out of the oven.

    Whenever I make chocolate mousse, wherein the egg whites are not cooked, I emply a “Swiss meringue” so that I do heat the egg whites to a hot enough temperature to rid them of any harmful bacteria.

  17. Shannon

    Is the vinegar substitute for cream of tartar applicable for all meringues or just here? I just recently learned about the lemon juice/milk substitution for buttermilk and am always interested to learn more tricks.

  18. Vladimir

    And what to do if you can’t find corn syrup in one’s locality in Europe?

  19. shuna fish lydon

    Shannon,

    This is a great question! The answer is that, in reality, you don’t “need” any of these acids, but yes, substitututions can be made. Cream of Tartar tends to be a little more invisible, taste-wise, than vinegar, though, so be aware in terms of what your end result is going to be.

    Vladimir,

    I think you mean cornstarch, right? You may substitute arrowroot powder or potato starch, although not potato flour, as that is a different thing altogether. I’m sorry to say I’m not as familiar with baked good raw ingredients in Europe, although I know a bit about what one can find in London as I lived there years ago.

  20. Jules

    Made it last night and I just wanted to let you know it came out perfectly… The pavlova was heavenly and my dinner guests were awestruck. It wasn’t very difficult and will definitely make this again. Thanks Elise!

  21. Tubby

    Good thing this is low fat — now I can eat all I want of these tasty little suckers! Yum, yum!

  22. Deborah Dowd

    This looks so light and heavenly and your picture… I can taste the smooth lightness of the Pavlova and the tang of the berries. It looks like summer…

  23. violet b

    In Wisconsin we call these Schaum tortes.

  24. Denise

    The only meringues that I’ve had are from Trader Joe’s and if that’s what meringues are like, then I’ll pass.

    Nigella Lawson has shown how to make pavlova and it looks pretty easy and very tasty but I’ve been hesitant to try it out because of my Trader Joe experience.

    My silly question is: are the commercial ones anything like homemade? are they all hard & crunchy or do the homemade ones have a soft center?

    p.s. The Easter cookies recipe sounds YUMMY with the nuts :)

  25. shuna fish lydon

    hello Denise,

    I feel your pain. The Pavlova is a very interesting meringue in that the center is soft, pillowy, almost like a supple marshmallow, and the exterior is crunchy but it’s thin, giving way to something that melts in your mouth.

    Trust me when I say that store bought is not the same.

    One of the tricks is to really start with a big enough meringue– this way they don’t dry out so much. The small ones are meant to be crunchy through and through, but not the Pavlova.

  26. deb

    I hope to have the chance to blog about this in the coming days, but if I don’t, I can’t pass up the opportunity to throw in my two cents about what a fantastic Passover dessert this stands to be. In my house, we always have some format of flourless chocolate cake, but when looking for a second, lighter and chocolate-free dessert, I couldn’t imagine anything better than this. The trick is to replace the cornstarch (verboten) with potato starch. (Thank you Shuna for emailing with me about this.) The whipped cream can be omitted for a paerve dessert.

    My absolutely favorite go-to raspberry sauce comes from a bag of frozen raspberries which are pureed, pressed through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds, and then heated with a few tablespoons of sugar until dissolved. Perfect dessert sauce, even better in the following days over plain yogurt.

  27. Nora NSW (Australia)

    Hi Elise, I just discovered this site from a link from this blog (http://sweet-sins.blogspot.com/). I’ve notice that you’ve posted many great recipes that I would like to try – thanks for sharing. And I also enjoy the photos.
    Thanks also to Suna for all the useful tips for working with egg white. I made choc pavlova for the first time this year for an Australia Day (Jan) party I had at my place. I have to say that it was simpler than I though (and this is my first time working with just egg whites) so long as you work with room temperature egg whites. And it looked so elegant, so it impresses everyone at the party. I wanted to serve it with whipped cream and rasberries, but had to use strawberries instead because the rasberries at the market didn’t look too good. As “autumnal New Zealand” mentioned above, Pavlovas downunder tends to have a mashmallow centre that is so addictive. As for the leftover egg yolks, I made a rich shortcrust pasty (that’s easily frozen and used another time) and also custard. – Nora

  28. Charis

    This was amazing! We celebrated a Passover meal with guests tonight and I served pavlovas and they were a big hit! Thank you so much for yet another great recipe and another great set of directions and pictures – your site is now one of the first places I look to try new tasty meals!

  29. Keli

    I found this to be such an incredibly easy thing to make that I made it twice in two days for my own family and then for Easter for the extended family. Everybody loved it!!! Very light and satisfying after a large meal.

    The Easter cookie version comes with a story to tell while making it. It’s actually quite evocative, especially the first time. I don’t remember the whole thing, but I do remember the first step. You put the pecans in the plastic bag and then have the children take turns beating the bejeebers out of them in order to break them up adequately. Then you say, “That’s what the soldiers did to Jesus the night before he was crucified”. Shook my kids fairly thoroughly.

    Have fun making the Pavlova! It’s wonderful, even if it does get overcooked.

  30. Elise

    Looks like Shuna’s inspired several food bloggers to try their hands at Pavlova. Here are a couple links to check out for others’ takes on Pavlova:

    Pavlova lovah from Maia Averett at Maiapapaya
    A ballet, of sorts by Deb at Smitten Kitchen

  31. Susan Ryder

    Hello
    I have just taken my povlova out of the oven and they look great. I was surprised how much the grew. I will be serving them at a dinner party tommorow and I am hoping to impress my guests. I looked for raspberries at the local market and the selection was not the best so I have decided to use strawberries, mango, kewi, and black berries. I am planning on making the sause with the berries and then once it is done to add the mango and kewi in hope that they will retain their wonderfull colours. I would just like to let you know how fantastic it is to finally find a recipie that is wheat and dairy free that is also satisfing and light on the waist line. If you have anyother recipie idea’s that are wheat and cow dairy free that would be great. I have a allergy to both of these things and have had a hard time to find alternative recipie ideas. Please let me know if you have any inspiring ideas.
    Susan Ryder of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  32. Mills

    I’m a sixteen year old who only just recently got back from a trip to Australia with a group of friends. I’ll tell you, we went to a restaurant (somewhere in the Outback) that had this as the dessert and I INSTANTLY fell in love.

    Ever since I returned home, I’ve been absolutely dying to share this wonderful dessert with my friends and family. Thanks to you…they all now know the amazing delight I felt when I first tried pavlova. Thanks sooo much!

  33. Heather

    Hi. I just finished making my second large sized pavlova cake for a baking contest today. But again I am experiencing the same problem. When the timer goes off everything looks good and wonderful. But then as it is cooling, the marshmallow-y inside starts pulling away from the crust so when I go to cut it, its just sorta crumbles apart. What am I doing wrong? I got the recipe from the internet and I compared it with other recipes and they all use the same ingredients. HELP!

  34. shuna fish lydon

    Hello Heather,

    It doesn’t sound to me like anything is wrong. Your description of your Pavlova sounds like it came out fine. It is a meringue, not a cake, so it’s not supposed to be cut and sliced into wedges; it’s supposed to be topped with wet foods such as sorbet, ice cream, whipped cream, fruit, etc. so that the moisture from these items changes the mouthfeel and consistency of the Pavlova.

    If you want it to be more like a cake, then you are looking for DACQUOISE. Take a recipe for this and increase the flour by 15-25% and you will get something made primarily of egg whites, but slice-able.

  35. Louise

    I have an electric fan oven. The last time I tried to make a large pavlova it burned to a crisp in 5 minutes. Any suggestions?

  36. Cecilia

    I was making this the other day for a friend’s birthday. As a whole cake. In the middle of making it, I realized I didn’t have enough white sugar, and no time to go to the market. So for the meringue I used 1/2 white sugar and 1/2 brown sugar, which I ground fine in a mini food processor. I also used just brown sugar for the whipped cream. It came out with a delightfully nutty taste, which was a real surprise.

  37. virginia

    This recipe did well, except for the time to cook. My pav’s exterior was still kind of rubbery and not crisp at the 6o minute mark at 250o. Any help?

    Hello Virginia,
    You’re Pavlova sounds like it needs a bit more time, perhaps at an even lower temperature. Suffice to say there is no way to write a recipe for all ovens everywhere. Fell free to take the liberties with time and temperature that bring you the best results. ~ Shuna

  38. TL

    I made this for the 1st time today..OH MY…it turned out beautifully and is amazing…a friend from New Zealand gave me his family recipe…only slightly different from the one above but I used yer tips on mixing it together..Thanks ever so much…My family has a new favorite and I have a special recipe to pass down to my daughter…TL from Texas

  39. Karen

    I would like to make this recipe for my daughter’s birthday party. She is having a fairy theme and I want to make tiny sweets, so I am interested in individual pavlovas. Any hints on how long to cook them? I realize they will dry out, but this is a special occasion. I’ll make the large size another day for the rest of us. Thanks!

    Hi Karen, This recipe is for individual pavlovas. ~Elise

  40. jane

    My mother used to make a pavlova when I was a kid, which had small bits of heath bar in it. It was delicious. Thanks for a nice day!

  41. ~M

    Silly question: How is a pavlova different from a sham torte? Thanks!

  42. Anonymous

    My pavlova went a brown colour – still tasted ok but does anyone know why this happened? I used 4 large egg whites, 1 cup of sugar, pinch of salt and a teaspoon of white wine vinegar. The eggs werent quite room temperature – would this have been why it went a strange brown colour?

    The brown indicates that the oven got too hot and the sugar in the pavlova began to caramelize. Some people’s ovens run hot, some cold, so next time, drop the temp by 25°F if you use the same oven. ~Elise

  43. Karen

    I’m going to make a pavlova for a class assignment and I only have a 40 minute time limit, is there anything i can do to speed up the process?

    Hello Karen,

    If you make the Pavlovas ultra tiny they will bake faster but rushing the beating of the whites, using cold egg whites or raising the oven temperature will adversely affect the end result. Pavlovas are meant to have a squishy center. It will take a lot of finesse to make them ultra small and still come out with this as your result. ~ Shuna

  44. Irene

    I made ‘pav’ for the first time last night, and in my excitement (haste?) I actually forgot the vinegar and vanilla! Didn’t realize it ’til the pavs were in the oven. Decided to go ahead anyway and take my chances. My guests were truly impressed and loved them. I could have kept my mouth shut, but admitted to the mistake, which surprised everyone as they insisted no one would have ever guessed anything was missing, given how delicious they were! I would have to agree. :-)

    What a forgiving dessert! Definitely a keeper and something I’ll make again. (And I agree…they eat this on a regular basis in my heaven too! Hah!)

  45. Robin

    In Australia, this is pretty much our national dessert. Today is Australia Day, and I’m taking these to the fireworks to be assembled and eaten there! Hooray for the Pav!

  46. Katie

    Try adding really finely chopped walnuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips to the merengue mixture. Drop spoonfuls on parchment lined cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 350, put the cookies in and turn off the oven…leave overnight. We call them “Forgotten Cookies”.

    Hi Katie, those sound like our pecan meringue cookies, so good! ~Elise

  47. Michelle

    THANK YOU for so much info! I tried a different recipe for this TWICE this weekend BUT failed with both. Will try yours :)

  48. alan

    I am a dutch oven cook and have been trying to cook this in a dutch for several years with out sucess mine always end up a flat brown gooey mess. Does any one have suggestions or reasons why?

    Sounds to me like too much moisture is trapped in the Dutch oven, and that what you really need here is the dry heat of a standard oven. ~Elise

  49. w

    I have problem making the pavlova. It was pretty at first, was stiff. But while waiting for the first batch of mini pavlovas in the oven, the egg whites became fluid. What happened?

    Once beaten into stiff peaks, the egg whites will not hold that position forever. You need to get them in the oven quickly. Only whip up as much as you can cook at a time. ~Elise

  50. nat

    I made these last night but they burnt :( I realised that I had the oven too high (forgot to turn down before putting in the oven). Obviously, I will turn oven down next time, but I wondered if the fact I’m using a gas oven makes any difference?

  51. barry

    My pavlova won’t go crispy on the outside. It keeps it’s shape but is all soft and I don’t know why. Tried changing the temp but then it goes brown but still won’t crisp up.

    Make sure you are attempting this on a dry day. Humidity will keep the pavlovas from getting crisp. ~Elise

  52. Rabia

    Elise, would this recipe work for a large cake-sized pavlova?

    It should, but I haven’t tried it. ~Elise

  53. Andrea

    I just made this recipe this weekend. I have 7 chickens and a surplus of eggs. The recipe was fabulous, although I did modify slightly by adding 3 T Dutch processed cocoa powder to the sugar prior to blending it in. This made a fantastic dark rich chocolate Pavlova that I then topped with raspberries fresh from my garden.

  54. Hui Ning

    The oven must be pre heated 270 degrees Celsius or 270 degrees Fahrenheit? And when baking the pavlova, must the oven be set at 250 degrees Celsius or 250 degrees Fahrenheit? :)

    All measurements on this website are in Fahrenheit unless otherwise noted. ~Elise

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