Pavlova

This ethereal crown of meringue, filled with cream and berries is a Pavlova. The name comes from the ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who was performing around the world in 1926 and made a stop in the land down under. From there the details get a little fuzzy and no one is quite sure if it was a pastry chef from Australia or New Zealand who first made this dessert for her. It causes a heated debate amongst them if you declare it one way or the other, so I am staying vague on the origin. This is one of my favorite desserts, because I am a huge fan of meringue in just about any form. I love how it looks, how it tastes and the texture it lends. Pavlova, unlike other meringues, is made with vinegar and cornstarch, so the end result is crisp on the outside, but still has some tooth (chew) on the inside. Traditionally it is served with fruit, such as berries and passionfruit (that’s what is dripping off the edge) and whipped cream. I also added lemon curd, but there are no rules and you can fill this with whatever moves you.

The recipe is in Zoë Bakes Cakes and you can watch me make, shape and bake this Pavlova in my instagram video. 

 

Pavlova | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Pavlova

A pavlova is a study in perfect imperfection. It bakes into a delicate, smooth shell that collapses in the middle, begging for any manner of filling.
Watch my IGTV video to see how I make this!
Want to try mini pavlovas? You can watch me make those too.
4.67 from 27 votes
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 150 g egg whites ~ about 5 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar optional. It will make the meringue stronger, especially if you have older, weaker egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar white wine, cider or distilled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 275°F.
  • Trace a 6-inch circle on a piece of parchment and set it in a baking sheet.
  • Whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt together until medium-stiff peaks.
  • Add the water slowly while whipping the whites on low speed. Drizzle in the sugar, then turn up the speed and whip until stiff peaks.
  • Fold in the vanilla, vinegar and cornstarch.
  • Mound the meringue into the circle on the parchment. Use a spatula to create the design in the meringue (see my pavlova video on instagram)
  • Bake for 60 minutes or until the meringue starts to turn a very pale tan color, then reduce the heat to 250°F and continue to bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven (don't open the door), turn on the light in the oven (don't stress if the light doesn't work) and let the meringue sit in the cooling oven for at least an hour, but it can be stored like this over night.
  • The center of the pavlova will collapse, that's just the nature of the beast and where you will put your filling. The outer edge may crack a touch too, but I've made this shape several times and it generally only cracks a little if you do not open the oven door. The inside should be soft, but not at all wet.

Notes

Fillings: I filled my pavlova with whipped cream made with 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, 1-2 tablespoons confectioners sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. I topped the cream with 1 cup lemon curd and garnished with berries and passionfruit.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

 

PAVLOVA FAQs

1. Why add water to the meringue?

Water makes for a thinner, more delicate meringue, so the end result is not rock hard, but a tender (soft) interior, while still crisp on the outside. Adding the water makes the egg foam less stable, which is why it’s SUPER IMPORTANT to also add the vinegar, which strengthens the proteins and helps make a strong but tender foam.

2. Why add vinegar to the meringue and why at the end?

Normally I would add an acid (either cream of tartar or vinegar) at the beginning of whipping the whites to help add stability and ensure a strong foam that won’t weep moisture. But, I was adding the water to thin out the whites, so I waited until after they were fully whipped before adding the vinegar. It still does its magic as long as it’s added before baking.

3. Why add cornstarch to the meringue?

Adding the starch to the foam helps create a softer meringue and one that is easy to cut, opposed to a meringue that shatters when you touch it with the knife. Because it interferes with the structure of the eggs (that’s why it’s softer), I whip the whites until STIFF and then I fold the starch in at the end. The starch also prevents the baked meringue from shrinking.

4. Why leave the light on in the oven after the pavlova is baked?

The oven light puts off just enough heat to keep the pavlova dry until you are ready to fill and serve it. This is key in the humid summer months. It can sit in the oven for up to 24 hours with the light on.

5. Can you make a pavlova if you don’t have an oven light?

You can still make the pavlova, but don’t open the door until you are ready to serve, and don’t try to make it WAY in advance if you live in a humid climate.

6. How can I prevent the pavlova from cracking?

There are a few reasons your pavlova may be cracking. Here are a couple of things to make sure of: 

  1. Mix it to the right consistency, stiff peaks, so it’s not expanding too much in the oven.
  2. Your oven may run hot, which means the pavlova is expanding quickly in the oven and it can cause cracking. I suggest getting an oven thermometer to check the temperature.
  3. Mix it long enough so the sugar dissolves into the egg whites so that it becomes a uniform glossy mixture. MAKE SURE to use superfine or caster sugar so it dissolves quickly.

7. How can I prevent the pavlova from getting soggy in the fridge?

If you put it in the fridge, it will become soggy. Make it just a few hours before serving. It’s not something you want to do a day ahead. Hold off on adding fillings until you serve it.

8. How can I prevent the pavlova from smelling or tasting eggy?

To ensure your pavlova doesn’t taste or smell eggy, be sure to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, so they are properly aerated, and bake it thoroughly.

9. What is the difference between regular granulated sugar and superfine sugar?

Superfine sugar is more finely ground than regular sugar, but not so fine that it becomes powdered/confectioners’ sugar. You can make superfine sugar in a food processor if you can’t find it near you. Simply add granulated sugar to your food processor and process until it produces what looks like smoke (but is actually just sugar dust), about 5 minutes. You can watch Zoe make it in her IGTV video.

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46 thoughts to “Pavlova”

  1. I watched your beautiful Instagram video! Now I must attempt to create this beauty. I have never eaten a pavlova, but looks luxurious! Cross your fingers as this home baker attempts this beauty.

    1. Hi,
      I’m attempting to make the pavlova and I wanted to know what’s the difference btwn superfine and regular sugar?

      Also – If I’m making it on Thurs and serving on Saturday, will it hold? Can I keep the curd and toppings on the side until ready to serve?

      Thank you!

      1. Hi Mushky, superfine sugar is more finely ground than regular sugar, but not so fine that it becomes powdered/confectioners’ sugar. You can make superfine sugar in a food processor if you can’t find it near you. Simply add granulated sugar to your food processor and process until it produces what looks like smoke, about 5 minutes. You can actually watch Zoe do it in this video! https://www.instagram.com/tv/B_IUAoWH-LP/

  2. Hi Zoe,
    Thank you for sharing the recipe and instructional video. I love love how you explain the science and reasoning behind your ingredients and steps. It is wonderful!

  3. I love your pavlova, it’s so beautiful. I will try your recipe this weekend. Thank you for sharing your wonderful creation and recipe.

  4. Hello, Your cake is beautiful ! I watched your video but sadly it doesn’t show you actually forming the meringue . I made the recipe twice. They both spread out to be quite large AND they both, unfortunately, cracked.
    Since I was making it for a friends birthday party I filled one anyway, with the whipping cream, curd , berries etc and decorated it with items from my garden , violas, mint, lavender , strawberries leaves , it looked quite lovely, sans, one side missing . It was served alongside another slice of cake on a lovely rectangular dish with raspberry coulis drizzled around it. I tasted divine and got rave reviews … so as the saying goes, you can make lemonade from lemons or in this case, lemon curd !

  5. Hi, I’m back with another comment… an apology, actually.. somehow I missed the full video and only got a slideshow with a few pictures of the progression of the cake, not the full video … Now I can try it a third time and hopefully with more success … Yours is such a beauty !

    1. Hi. It serves about 6-8, depending how large the slice. I have two giant teen boys, so it fed the 4 of us, but they each had two servings.

      Thanks, Zoë

  6. What a lovely sweets you are making!
    I’m a home baker myself and I can’t stop making everything that tastes sweetly

  7. How far ahead of time can you fill it? Once you do fill it with cream and curd of your choice should you store at room temp or in the fridge?

  8. I plan to make this this weekend. How far ahead of eating can I fill it with the cream and curd and decorate? Will it be okay for a few hours at room temp or in the fridge? Thanks!!

  9. I have just recently discovered your posts and tutorials and I want to thank you, they are wonderful and a GREAT help.

  10. that is just beautiful! i’m attempting my first ever pavlova…what would cause cracking on the outer shell other than opening the door? also, would using convection work well for this? (I have a new kitchen with an oven that has convection and am still trying to figure out how and when to use it!)

    1. Hi Marisa,

      It is best not to use the convection or the pavlova will bake too quickly and crack. Convection is great for browning.

      Enjoy, Zoë

  11. Hi Zoe,

    I have attempted to make this Pavlova three times and every time it spreads out and ends up being quite large and short. I have seen you wrote best to avoid using convection but I only have convection oven and can’t turn off the fan.
    Is there anything I can do to stop it from spreading out?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Nila, the spreading likely comes from the egg whites being under whipped, rather than from using a convection oven. The convection oven would likely make the pavlova darker or it may crack, but it shouldn’t effect the spreading. Be sure that you’re whipping the egg whites long enough–to stiff peaks. This video Zoe made may also be helpful!

  12. I made this last night–swoon! Today I made strawberry whipped cream which my daughter loved! Topping with fresh fruit for dessert tonight! Last week I made the Pavlova Roulade which was outstanding!! I am loving my copy of your new book! Thank you for creating it so I can make delicious recipes for my family!! I am so grateful!!

  13. I’ve made this twice. It’s incredibly beautiful and tastes like heaven,…and a showstopper! I’m making it again today for Easter.

  14. I made a double recipe today using up leftover egg whites. It made four big pavlovas, each making 8 servings. I filled them with a combo of lemon curd, whipped cream, and kiwi, and arranged kiwi slices and fresh violets on top. This was a very special recipe and I will definitely make it again.

  15. Just so you know, the baking temps are different here than on your instagram post. here it is 275, on instagram, 300. Mine is in the oven now, I cant wait to try it!

    1. Hi Brittany, the version here is the updated recipe from Zoe’s new book! I hope you enjoy your pavlova!!

  16. I made this about a week ago for the first time. I used a mixture of berries; fresh and frozen and of course your lemon curd and whip cream. I delivered it to a family of 7 and did not try it myself. It was a big hit and one comment was that I have a lot of desserts made by my wife and daughters and this one is the most delicious of them all!

  17. I am making the mini pavlovas now as dessert for a family. This time one will be reserved for myself! I found that initially my egg whites were not stiff enough to make the little curls and retain the proper shape so I beat the egg whites a bit longer.

  18. I’ve tried Pavlova two times.. I thought I failed, as my Pavlova was totally ’empty’ inside. I threw it away.
    A few days ago I’ve seen on David Lebovitz Instagram somebody doing your Pavlova, and to my surprise, it was totally empty inside, they filled it with I think whipped cream and some fruits and David was showing it, like it was good. For me it was fail.
    How is Pavlova supposed to be? Doesn’t suppose to be soft inside? But not empty?

      1. Thank you, I know how to make it, don’t need tutorial. My point is, that Pavlova is not suppose to be ’empty’, but soft inside. And Zoe’s is pretty empty too. I’m very surprised. Empty Pavlova is a fail.

  19. 5 stars
    Hi Zoë! I made your Pavlova and it looked done on the outside but was very wet and almost gooey on the inside. Where did I go wrong? Thank you!

    1. Hi Alison,

      The inside will be soft, but shouldn’t be gooey, so I suggest you bake it a little longer and let it sit in the turned-off oven for longer to ensure it has dried out properly. Every oven is different, so the timing can vary a bit.

      Thanks for baking the pavlova! Zoë

  20. 5 stars
    Can I successfully double this recipe . I have made this as is several times and just loved it . But wasn’t sure how a double recipe would come out . Thank you Your Video tutorial is the best

  21. 5 stars
    I made your gorgeous Pavlova with lemon curd and fresh berries for the anniversary dessert with my husband. I did not include the whipped cream as it seemed that was gilding the lily. This was dessert the best I’ve ever made and I’ve made a LOT of desserts since Covid 19 began. I’ve always loved baking but a Pavlova seemed out of my league. Thank you for raising my skills and giving me another fabulous dessert to share with my family and friends.

  22. 5 stars
    This is absolutely delicious. We had made mushroom carbonara for dinner and had five egg whites begging to be used. I had lemon curd in the freezer, so we were set. While it cracked more than Zoë’s it didn’t take away from how delicious this is. My husband said it should be on the regular rotation – he had three pieces….

  23. Thank you Zoë, I will try that. And a side note – I baked the one from your cookbook. We are loving all the recipes from your cookbook that we have tried so far, and can’t wait to try them all.

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