Pavlova: A summer cloud of fruit and cream

pavlova

Oh happy day, oh happy day! The first fruits of summer are starting to appear and it’s time to start the feast.

While fresh berries, warm from the sun, are a perfect breakfast or snack, to me they need a little bit more to elevate them to dessert status. A scoop of ice cream is good; fresh whipped cream is better.

But how about when you need a knock-their-socks-off showcase dessert for graduation, a bridal or baby shower, or 4th of July celebration?

Consider pavlova. Pavlova is a perfect warm-weather treat because it’s light and airy, doesn’t heat up the kitchen, and uses sweet juicy fruit, instead of heavy chocolate or caramel.

What is pavlova? Essentially, it’s baked meringue topped with fresh whipped cream and fruit. It doesn’t get much easier than that. The dessert was created for and named after Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova, who wanted a dessert that was as light and graceful as she was.

Pavlova hails from New Zealand, where Kiwi refers both to the people, and the bird that’s their national symbol; and kiwifruit is known as Chinese gooseberry. Many pavlova are served with fresh kiwifruit on top, its bright green color sparkling like a gem in the cream.

Meringue in general  is best made on dry days. Humidity can cause weeping in meringue, and a soggy meringue is no fun. You can also whip this dessert up right before bedtime, as it only bakes for an hour at 200°F and then sits in the oven overnight. You won’t heat up the kitchen, and it’ll be cool when you get up. It’s almost like having magical elves making the meringue while you sleep.

Eating pavlova is a bit magical, as well. The crisp shell crumbles just a bit as you cut through the layers. You get a bit of sweet crunch followed by the cool melting sensation of the sugar on your tongue. A burst of berries followed by sweet cream will make you want to get up on your toes and pirouette across the room. Of course if you do, please send us the video!

Come on Twinkletoes, let’s make Pavlova.

First, preheat the oven to 200° F.  Prepare a piece of parchment paper by tracing the outside of a 9″ round pan or other large circle.

Be sure to flip the parchment paper pencil-side down, so that your meringue will stay clean and safe.

Now that the parchment is prepared, let’s talk sugar.

On the left you see regular table sugar, on the right Baker’s superfine sugar. Normally we think of granulated sugar as very tiny grains, but compared to superfine sugar, granulated look enormous. In a cookie or brownie, the difference would never be noticed, as the sugar is dissolved and blended into the batter. In meringue, though, the size of the sugar grain can make a huge difference.

If you only have regular granulated sugar in the house, grind it in your food processor or blender to break it down into finer crystals. Work with more than you need for the recipe, at least 2 cups. It’s easier to grind a larger amount than a smaller amount. Just use the extra in any recipe as you would regular granulated  sugar.

Beat 3 large egg whites with a pinch of salt on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. You want to use medium-high rather than high speed at this stage, to form slightly smaller bubbles for a finer-textured foam.

With the machine still running, slowly pour in 1 cup superfine sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Aim for the sweet spot between the whisk and the side of the bowl to reduce the amount of sugar that’s spun off to the side. Once the sugar is all in, blend in 1 teaspoon lemon juice by hand.

The meringue will be thick, fluffy, and glossy, but won’t hold a stiff peak.

Rub a bit of the meringue between your fingers. You should feel no grittiness from the sugar.

So, let’s say you used regular table sugar in your meringue. At this stage, you’d still be seeing grains of sugar in your meringue. It’s worth the extra effort to grind your sugar fine, or use superfine.

Can you use confectioners’ sugar? Yes, you can. You need to increase the amount to 1 1/2 cups, and eliminate the cornstarch from the recipe, as it’s already an ingredient in most commercial confectioners’ sugars. Check the label to be sure.

Be absolutely sure to sift your confectioners’ sugar before adding to the egg whites. Little clumps won’t always beat out of the meringue.

Let’s get back to our meringue. Place your pencil-side down parchment on a half sheet baking pan and spoon a large dollop of meringue in the center. Save about 1 1/4 cup of meringue in the bowl for later.

Use an offset or flat spatula to spread the meringue into an even layer over the entire circle.

Don’t worry about a perfectly flat disc. It’s a nearly impossible goal, and the swirls add character and make the meringue look cloud-like.

Spoon the reserved 1 1/4 cups meringue into a piping bag and snip a wide hole. Pipe a rim around the entire disc. You should have enough for 2 rounds.

Smooth the ring to the base with your spatula. This will bake up to a nice edge to hold in your cream and fruit.

Place the pan in the 200°F oven and bake for 1 hour. The meringue will billow up beautifully. Don’t worry about cracks; they’re normal.

At the end of the hour, turn off the heat and leave the pavlova inside the oven to cool for at least another hour, or up to overnight. This helps the last bits of moisture wick away, and leaves your meringue very light and crisp.

The pavlova will color slightly, going from pure white to light beige.

If you’d like to do individual pavlovas, just trace smaller circles on your parchment. The yield you get from one batch will depend on how large you make your pavlovas.

When making smaller discs, it’s easier to pipe your meringue onto your circles. A disposable piping bag or even a zip-top bag with a corner cut off makes this a snap to do.

Use a spoon to form a slight depression in the meringue instead of piping an extra ring.  You can also leave the smaller pavlova flat.

While I was piping away Sue Gray, our test kitchen leader and baker extraordinaire, told me about a friend of hers in New Zealand who said that the traditional Kiwi shape for pavlova is a soft mound, as opposed to the American flat style. This keeps the outside crisp but the inside very soft, fluffy, and moist. There was just enough meringue left over from my last batch to make a small 6″ mound, so into the oven it went.

Here’s the finished large pavlova. You can see it cracked a wee bit too much. Unfortunately my oven fluctuated during the bake, so it was at nearly 300°F for awhile. Fortunately, it will still taste amazing!

Did I mention that this is a light dessert, and that I mean that literally? I weighed the empty shell, and it clocked in at 7 1/4 ounces. Now that’s light!

To fill the pavlova, whip up some sweetened whipped cream and mound it in the center of the disc. It should fill the center and slightly over the inner edge of the ring, but should not overflow onto the sides. About 1 to 1/4 cups of heavy cream should do it.

You can toss your fresh fruits together and pile that on the cream, or you can arrange patterns. With July 4 around the corner, I chose red and blue berries.

A couple of rounds of berry slices…

And some plump blueberries make for a pretty presentation.

If you chose the traditional mounded pavlova, place it in the center of the serving plate.

Cover the outside of the mound with the whipped cream all the way down to the plate.

Arrange your fruits over the entire mound. I really like the height on this style of pavlova.

Inside, you can see that the top 1/2″ of the meringue is crisp, while the center is set but still soft and creamy. It was like eating sweet air that just collapsed in your mouth.

Whatever shape, style, or size pavlova you choose, it will make a stunning presentation at your next party or picnic. Your guests, including vegetarians and those eating gluten-free, will delight in this cloud of crisp, creamy, colorful goodness.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Pavlova.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. "Paul from Ohio"

    Terrific option for fresh fruit. So easy to make, great suggestions for variations as to size and presentation for any occasion, as well perhaps for those of us looking for a way to enjoy fruit without always immediately thinking angel food cake. Looks like I’d prefer the mounded up version, to give that extra gooy inside goodness.

    This IS a terrific option for fresh fruit and a very impressive dessert treat for your family or for guests! Happy Pavlova, Paul! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  2. Melissa

    What’s your favorite way to use all the leftover egg yolks from this? Or is the point of the recipe to have a way to use up all the leftover egg whites?

    There are many egg yolk recipes out there – lemon curd, custard, zabaglione, aioli. You can add one or two to your scrambled eggs as well! Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  3. Kerry

    Yum! For Easter I made something similar, I piped out little meringue cups, baked them, then filled them with lemon curd and dotted the top with raspberries. So good!

    What a terrific holiday (and summer) treat! Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  4. sandra Alicante

    I have found when making meringue for lemon meringue pie (which I know has much less sugar in it) that it helps if you let the sugar and egg white sit in the bowl together to dissolve for a little while before whipping. It seems to stop the occasional problem of weeping syrup.
    I’ve not tried making pavlova that way simply because I always made it the same way you do – but would it work I wonder, or do you definitely have to whip the whites first before adding the sugar because of the sheer amount of it?

    sandrascookbook.com
    Allowing the sugar to dissolve in the egg is a great idea when trying to prevent the excess weeping, but for a true, lofty meringue, you would need to add the sugar gradually. This would also be true for the Pavlova. There are two options to consider: One is to reduce the amount of sugar altogether, and the other is to use a superfine sugar that would dissolve faster. In the case of a lemon meringue pie, there is the chance that if it is releasing a lot of liquid, the filling may not have been cooked long enough. If the eggs are not brought to a certain temperature, they can have enzymatic reactions and cause the filling to weep.
    I hope you find this helpful. ~Amy

    Reply
  5. juthurst

    Oh. Sweet. Heaven.

    This is one of those recipes that we forget about during the fall and winter and spring when we’re eating heavier desserts like chocolate and caramel and apple pie and then when you remind us we remember and wonder why we don’t make this all the time… thank you for the wonderful reminder… :)

    You’re so right – in the other seasons, we may be thinking about snow which would translate to egg whites used to make Baked Alaska! In reality, you could use pavlova for individual ice cream sundae bases or just stick with the calorie friendly fruit! Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  6. gpyrocat

    Perfect timing! My hubby and I just returned from a trip and I ordered this at a restaurant; he had never had it. We had two forks, but I still wasn’t sure I was going to get a bite. :) Now instead of a cake for Father’s Day, I can surprise him with this! Thanks so much!
    That’s going to be so awesome, he’ll be thrilled. You might want to think about making individual sizes though, to be sure you get your share! ;) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  7. Hazelsmum

    This reminds me of Schaum Tortes that my Mom made every summer with fresh strawberries. They had to be made on a sunny day with low humidity. You placed one dollop of the meringue then another one on top then baked. When you served them you split the dollops apart and put a scoop of ice cream or whipping cream and strawberries. Pure heaven! I just may have to make them when our Michigan strawberries are ready in a few weeks.
    That sounds amazing! I’m definitely going to give it a try next time I have fresh berries. Thanks ever so much for sharing. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  8. PatL

    That is gorgeous and I’m dying to try it. Just curious … how far ahead can it be assembled? I have a picnic in a couple of weeks and would love to dazzle with this! :-)
    This recipe is best assembled as close to serving as possible. The meringues would start to break down under the whipped cream and change the composure of the dessert. It’s best to keep the contrasting textures in their best form which often means keeping them separate for as long as possible. I hope this is helpful. ~Amy

    Reply
  9. lynrbailey

    A question about the meringue. I made meringue cookies a while ago, and stored them in a metal tin with a tight lid. Then I forgot about them. When I found them, they were just the same. Can the Pavlova meringue part be made ahead and stored in a tight tin? If so, how long would it store? A dessert like this usually comes with company, commotion, etc., and having one less thing to do would be great.
    I wouldn’t make the pavlovas any further in advance than one day. They are so sensitive to any moisture in the air, so even if it is slightly humid, they will start to break down. Certainly keep them as air-tight as possible. ~Amy

    Reply
  10. woodl3

    Just need to ask – can Splenda be used?
    I haven’t tried it with all Splenda, but I have used 2/3 sugar and 1/3 Splenda in meringue before and it works just fine. Let us know if you give it a try. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  11. bakinginoregon

    Great timing for this post. I just had my first ever Pavlova last week on a cruise – loved it! I can’t wait to try this recipe myself. One question – I’ve seen people talk about Chocolate Pavlova – with chocolate in the meringue. Any thoughts on the necessary modifications to this recipe to turn it to chocolate?
    You could try folding in some cocoa powder, though, just like an angelfood cake, this is quite delicate and not so versatile for adding a heavy amount of chocolate. You could try adding some cocoa powder for a little color and a few teaspoons of chocolate extract for a flavor boost. ~Amy

    Reply
  12. "gilliedog@aol.com"

    I am a Kiwi and love to make these – I grew up with them all summer long and even in the winter too. I now live in the USA and make these for family get togethers etc. they are always a big hit. I also like to make the small individual size ones and store them in an airtight container and use them over about a week, adding the freshly whipped cream and fruits as I use them. We traditionally put strawberries, kiwifruit, peaches and pineapple on ours at home – any fresh fruit!

    This recipe is slightly different from the one I use but I want to try this one too.
    Angela
    Hi Angela,
    Thanks for weighing in as a genuine Kiwi, I’m so excited. :). I wondered if pineapple was traditionally added, it’s one of my favorite fruits. Sue Gray lent me a copy of Genevieve Knights book “Pavlova” that is only available in NZ, and I LOVE IT!
    I’m saving my pennies so I can get my own copy before summer is over.
    Let us know how you like the recipe. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  13. Leanne Shawler

    I’ll be the first Aussie to weigh in and say the pavlova was an Aussie invention — we Aussies and Kiwis like to bicker over the important things in life :)

    I usually make pavlova with a bit of salt and cream of tartar, not cornstarch. Is there a reason for the latter?

    Also, you don’t need to go to the hassle of piping the outer rim, just swirling with your spoon will create enough of an indentation.

    And finally, it doesn’t matter if it cracks, splits in two or weeps. Whipped cream covers it all! My mum (which is where I got my recipe) whips in passionfruit pulp with the cream for some tanginess.
    Hi Leanne,
    Do Aussies and Kiwis bicker over which chocolate vs. vanilla? THAT’S important to me ;) . For the cornstarch, it’s to stabilize the pav, much like the cream of tartar. I love the idea of whipping some pulp into the cream. I’m picturing a light pink strawberry cream. Mmmmm! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  14. Cindy leigh

    Can a flavoring like lemon or almond be added to the meringue? Which would be better, an extract, emulsion, or oil?
    Thanks!
    Hi Cindy Leigh,
    Yes, you can absolutely flavor the meringue. You can use any of the above, depending on what you have on hand. I think a light lemon pav with raspberries would be fabu! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  15. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, RJ- BRAZIL

    Mary, here this dessert is a ´must`in some restaurants, specially at major cities like São Paulo. Anna Pavlova, Russian dancer inspired the dessert. Australia and New Zealand evokes the creation of the marvellous.Here we love it with ice cream and Portugal´s Port Wine, sometimes orange or lemon liquor drops.
    Nice post, as everrrrr!
    Hi Ricardo,
    I’ll have to tell my friend Haley, as she will be spending the next year in Brazil. I know she would love it with ice cream and strawberries. Thanks for sharing. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  16. Coco

    I have several question for the pavlova, as for the individual servings that you mentioned in the post, how many inches are they? and how long should i bake the individual servings and the traditional mold? Thank you very much for sharing this recipe! will make it soon!
    Hi Coco,
    You can really make the pavlovas any size you desire. The ones in the post are about 4 inches across. Baking time on that size was about 40-45 minutes. You want to see a very dry surface that just begins to take on color to know that they are done. Hope this helps! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  17. annmarie

    I’ve also seen pavlova recipes using vinegar (another acid instead of the lemon), some added before the whipping and some after. The acid makes the inner meringue more “marshmallowy”.
    Yes, some recipes I saw had the vinegar. I decided to stick with the lemon juice, it just “feels” right. ;) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  18. sandra Alicante

    Amy, perhaps my lemon meringue pie recipe is slightly different to some as it only uses 3 tbsp sugar to 3 egg whites but the point I was making is that using the method of allowing the sugar to sit in the egg white with the sugar, I don’t have a problem with weeping- at all, the sugar is fully dissolved (and the sugar here is quite coarse). As for loft, my LMPs are famous among my friends! I merely wondered if the method would work for Pavlova since so many people are scared of making it but presumably in this case the amount of sugar would cause a problem with loft. I’ll have to try it next time I make a pavlova and let you know!

    sandrascookbook.com

    We ‘re looking forward to the results of your action-research! Sounds like you’ve mastered LMP’s, there are many bakers who envy that skill – so thanks for sharing your tips here. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  19. "Scrap Lover"

    Stunning summertime dessert. I’ve never made Pavlova, MaryJane. Will have to try this as soon as I recover from my sugar consumption while at KAF the last two days. Thanks for sharing this! -Maryellen
    Thanks girl! It really is very simple, yet so special. Had so much fun with you all these last 2 days. We’ll have to do it again soon. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  20. Akycha

    To bakinginoregon, re: chocolate Pavlova. Try adding the chocolate to the whipped cream rather than to the meringue — I’ve done this and it works beautifully. You can get sweetened cocoa and ground chocolate mixed together which dissolve nicely in cream — Ghirardelli makes a version, and so do some of the more expensive makers of chocolate.

    Coarsely ground cacao nibs go beautifully into meringue, if the chocolate whipped cream is not chocolatey enough.
    Thanks for sharing your tips!

    Reply
  21. Lisa A

    I have a new “true” (or European) convection oven. Has anyone tried cooking the meringues in a convection oven -using the convection feature ;)

    For meringues you’ll want to use a slow conventional oven. The goal is to slowly dry the meringues. A convection oven will quickly set a skin on the exterior, preventing the centers from drying. The fan can also cause browning of the meringues. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  22. Sandi

    Oh how much I’ve loved Pavlovas over the years! But now I live in humid southwest Florida – on the Gulf of Mexico. Humidity big time. Any suggestions?
    Oh, no! Pavlova and humidity fight when they are together. To keep conflict at bay, make the meringue bases as close to your serving time as possible. If you have leftovers, be sure to store them in the coolest driest place possible closed in an air-tight container. They won’t last long before heat and moisture make them weep, but maybe everyone will have eaten them by then. ~Amy

    Reply
  23. Kate

    Don’t you believe that Aussie – it’s a New Zealand invention!

    Traditionally, we always added vinegar and cream of tartar – no salt and definitely no vanilla. The only topping we ever used was strawberries – kiwifruit were a later addition.

    I’m trying desperately to figure out how to make one using my convection microwave oven – I can get the crispness right with the convection, but not set the inside as my oven has an automatic fan which cools it after use and makes the long cool down impossible. So I’m hoping to be able to use a combo of microwave and convection. It will take some experimentation.

    Also, pav is impossible to make in a gas oven as it also cools too quickly.

    As to left over egg yolks – as pav and trifle are often served here at Christmas, the obvious use is custard for the trifle!

    What’s trifle, you say? (Well, I hope not, I hope you know all about it). A deliciously alcoholic dessert made of custard, stale spongecake soaked in sherry or brandy, and jam and topped with whipped cream. Great-Uncle Douglas could put you under the table with his sherry trifle :) Mum used to decorate the top with piped cream and glace cherries.

    Kate

    Thanks for the long distance tutorial! Happy Baking to one and all! Irene @ KAF

    Reply

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