Elizabeth’s Pavlova

This is my sister Elizabeth’s Pavlova- she made one large Pavlova, although you can also make individual ones.  It is a very easy dessert to make, shows well and is delicious.  We normally serve with whipped cream and fresh fruit, but there is a recipe below for a fruit sauce.  You can drizzle that sauce over top of the fresh fruit and whipped cream.  Below is a history of the Pavlova and some hints regarding egg whites.

Pavlova – The Pavlova consists a base made of a meringue crust topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits such as kiwis (the fruit!), strawberries, etc. It is considered a fresh fruit pie with a meringue crust.

 No one knows who first created the Pavlova.  But the name and the recipes first began appearing soon after Russian prima ballerina, Anna Matveyevna Pavlova (1881-1931), toured both Australia and New Zealand in 1926 and Australia again in 1929. Anna Pavlova was considered the greatest ballerina of her time and her visit to New Zealand has been described as “the chief event of 1926.” It was said “She does not dance; she soars as though on wings.” From this you get the sense that this is a light, airy dessert.

There is a controversary with both Australia and New Zealand. While it has been suggested this dessert was created in New Zealand, it has also become recognized as a popular Australian dish. Both countries claim to have invented this dessert and claim it as their national dish.

1926 – Keith Money, a Pavlova biographer, wrote in 1982, that a chef at a hotel in Wellington, New Zealand created the dish when Pavlova visited there in 1926 on her world tour. The hotel chef invented was inspired by her tutu, draped in green silk cabbage roses.  The basic shape of the tutu was provided by a meringue case, while the froth of the skirt’s net was suggested by whipped cream.  To achieve the effect of the green roses the enterprising chef used slices of kiwifruit, then known as Chinese gooseberries. 

1935 – According to chef Herbert (Bert) Sachse of the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia, the dessert was originally created as a tea dessert for the Hotel’s afternoon teas. According to the Paxton family legend, the Pavlova was named at a meeting at which Sachse presented the now familiar cake. The family say that either the licensee, the manager, or chef Sachse remarked, “It is as light as Pavlova.” It was then named Pavlova after the great Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who had been a guest of the hotel during her 1929 tour of Australia. 

Elizabeth’s Pavlova

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.



  • 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


  • 2 cups fresh or frozen berries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Whipped Cream for topping
  • Any form of fresh fruit, like berries, fresh peaches, nectarines, kiwi, even canned mandarin orange segments are nice in a pinch.


If you want one large meringue, place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper, using a 9-inch plate as a guide, then turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side. (This way you won’t get a pencil mark on the meringue.)Pile  half the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk.  Then use the rest of the meringue and place it around the edge of the disk shape to make a bowl shape.  The directions for individual meringues are below.

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 in place of the cream of tartar) into a small cup. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.


2.   In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, cream of tartar (if using in place of the vinegar) 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 used vinegar instead of 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(60-90 minutes if one large meringue), 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.   When they are finished baking, turn off the oven and let them sit in the oven with the oven door closed, until the oven cools down, 1- 2 hours.  Remove the meringues or meringue from the oven and carefully take them off of the parchment paper.  They 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.  Also any fresh berries, kiwi fruit, fresh peaches, nectarines are delicious on top of the whipped cream.


Sauce or Filling Directions

If you want to make a berry sauce, heat 2 cups 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.

Yield: Makes 8-10 individual pavlovas or one 9 inch round pavlova.

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