The best thing I ever made, or, pavlova

10 Sep

For Valentine’s Day last year I surprised my boyfriend with one of these fluffy, beautiful meringue-cakes named after a Russian ballerina.  It was, we both agree, the best thing I’ve ever made.  Light as air, crisp on the outside, slightly sweet on the inside with a teeny hint of tartness from the lemon, and a gorgeous marshmallow texture unlike anything you’ve had before (well, it’s sort of like marshmallow.  But better.)

The lore is that this dessert was created in either Australia or New Zealand after Anna Pavlova toured there, and it’s now pretty much the national dessert of both places.  My adviser told me that if I say it’s from New Zealand rather than Australia, I should find a new adviser.  But he doesn’t read my blog (so far as I know, or if he does it’s probably just the math bits), so I’ll tell you now: per the latest research, it’s from New Zealand (I totally want a copy of this book).

Anyways, let’s get on to baking it, shall we?  It didn’t work out as well this week because of the humidity (it sort of melted down a bit) but it’s still SO TASTY- the crispy sweet meringue, the soft tart fruits, the airy whipped cream.  So.  So.  Good.

This dessert will bowl you over

This dessert will bowl you over

The addition of cornstarch is what makes the outside of the meringue crispy and inside fluffy versus most meringues you get at the bakery which look so good but are chalky sadness inside.

SEPARATING EGG WHITES: they sell egg separators.  This is silly.  The eggs come with their own separator- it’s called an egg shell.  Carefully crack your egg over the bowl you want your whites in…

Can't get enough of your yolk, babe - Eggy White.

I’ve had it in my shell before, ’cause of a lust for life, ’cause of a lust for life- Eggy Pop.

Then hold one half of it with the yolk inside, letting the white drip away from the yolk.  If you’re real adventurous you can play some hot potato with that yolk and the two shell sides.

IF YOU MESS THIS UP YOU WILL DIE.  I'm just yolking.


I couldn’t take a picture of me using both hands for the passing method, but here’s a picture from wikihow:

Image:Separate an Egg Step 10.jpg

Once you’ve got all your whites in one spot and your yolks in your tupperware, throw the yolks in the fridge or freezer (I used them later that day for a flourless chocolate cake so I put them in the fridge).

Then start beating those whites!  You can add a pinch of salt at the beginning to help it out, but it’ll take a good 2-3 minutes on a low speed until it gets nice and foamy with teeny tiny uniform bubbles”

If I get a dog, maybe a could of small greyhounds- I always seem to need two whippet(s)

If I get a dog, maybe a could of small greyhounds- I always seem to need two whippet(s)

I mixed my sugar and cornstarch together with a fork before this next step (you can see them in the green bowl above).  Increase the speed to medium/medium-high while gradually pouring in that sugar/cornstarch.  Keep beating until there are “soft peaks” and medium-strong trails- so when you lift a beater, you leave behind a droopy peak.  In my picture you can see the whites are hugging the beaters a bit.

Best kind of swirly!

Best kind of swirly!

Splash in the vanilla and vinegar and whip it for several minutes.  Total it’s maybe 10-15 minutes of beating, until the mixture is super glossy and a bit more stiff.

There's no booze here but it sure does (s)peak easy

There’s no booze here but it sure does (s)peak easy

Keep beating…

This must've slept wrong the other night... so stiff!

This must’ve slept wrong the other night… so stiff!

If you have parchment paper, crumple it up and lay it out on a baking sheet, and sprinkle some cornstarch on it.  I just put some cornstarch on my silpat, but it didn’t work as well.

Then carefully spatula out your mound of pavlova!

The fourth stage: depression (in the middle, to hold the filling)

The fourth stage: depression (in the middle, to hold the filling)

Bake it very low (250-300) for an hour, then turn off the oven and leave it in there to cool for a few hours or overnight.

When you’re ready to serve, whip up some cream with powdered sugar and vanilla.

Time to cop a powder(ed sugar)!

Time to cop a powder(ed sugar)!

Whip it real good

Whip it real good

Until it looks like the stuff from the can

Until it looks like the stuff from the can

Then take out your pavlova and layer it with fresh whipped cream and fresh fruit.  Kiwi is traditional but I’m allergic to it, so we just did berries.  Also I had had a few beers by this point so I layered it incorrectly- it should be whipped cream first, then fruit.

P1010309 P1010310

Recipe cobbled together from simply recipes and allrecipes:


6 egg whites

1 1/4 c sugar

4 tsp cornstarch

2 tsp white vinegar

2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300.  Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl.  Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt on low until small uniform bubbles appear (2-3 minutes).  Then gradually beat in the sugar-cornstarch mixture on medium until glossy.  Then fold in the vinegar and vanilla and beat on medium-high until stiff and glossy.

Stick in the oven either in small meringues for individual servings or in one big one to share. If individual ones, lower heat to 250.  If a big one, lower to 275.  In either case, bake for one hour, then turn off oven and leave pavlova in it until ready to serve (or stick it in an airtight tupperware and leave it in a cool dark place).

Top with sweetened whipped cream, and then cut up fresh fruit (I used raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries).  Serve immediately or else it’ll absorb the moisture from the fruit/cream and be less crisp.

Whipped cream: beat a cup of heavy whipping cream until thick.  Then beat in 1 TB sugar (I used 1/4 c powdered because I ran out of sugar) and a splash of vanilla.


5 Responses to “The best thing I ever made, or, pavlova”


  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLOG! | Baking and Math - November 27, 2013

    […] Pavlova […]

  2. an EGGNOGstravaganza! Part I: eggnog | Baking and Math - December 22, 2014

    […] know I raved about how great ambrosia is during my last post, and that I’ve talked about how pavlova is the best thing I’ve ever made, but damn.  This eggnog.  Definitely the best drink I’ve ever […]

  3. LIME PIE IS SO GOOD | Baking and Math - March 14, 2015

    […] what I used.  Then I had egg whites for breakfast (you could also use the opportunity to make pavlova, the best thing I’ve ever made).  I used my stand mixer and mixed that up really well, til pretty light.  You could also just […]

  4. Race, class, and math thoughts | Baking and Math - September 3, 2015

    […] baked you a surprise!” and he said “is it pavlova?” and the answer was yes.  Mini-pavlovas!  Just bake for half an hour instead of an […]

  5. Happy 3rd birthday, blog! | Baking and Math - November 26, 2015

    […] Pavlova is still one of my favorite things. […]

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