This gorgeous Pavlova was made by my lovely sister in law, Gail, for our Easter lunch. Pavlova is a familiar sight on celebration tables in our family. Made famous by my late mother-in-law, Avril, whose recipe we still use, Pavlova is an oft-requested family favourite. There’s something about the crisp, creamy/chewy meringue, the lovely light whipped cream and the delicious fresh fruit that makes it the perfect dessert. Everyone always has room for a slice of Pavlova!
This was our first Easter without my late mother-in-law so it was especially nice that Gail made her recipe. Avril loved Easter and her Easter egg hunts were famous amongst her grandchildren. My in-law’s back garden was very large and the Easter bunny <wink> would hide the eggs after the kids had gone to bed. In the morning the boys would set off with their Easter baskets, so excited they could hardly stand it. It was a fabulously joyful tradition. Of course, my four nephews and my son are all grown up now, so the Easter egg hunts finished a few years ago but they are definitely part of the many happy memories Avril left us with.
Pavlova has been around since the 1920’s but there’s no definitive decision on exactly who invented it or where it originated. Australia and New Zealand have each claimed the dessert as their own but that’s an argument I’ve no wish to venture into. What is certain is that it was named after the Russian Prima Ballerina Anna Pavlova and was made in honour of one of her tours. Anna Pavlova was incredibly famous in her time and it was said that “She does not dance, she soars as if on wings”. It seems that light, creamy Pavlova was made as an homage to this perception.
Whatever its history, Pavlova has become even more popular as the years have worn on and today you will find many variations on the original fruit and cream dessert. Nigella Lawson makes a fruit free Cappuccino Pavlova and there’s a triple decker Chocolate Pavlova with Spiced Pears and Butterscotch Sauce on the Australia Taste.com website. However, for me, the best Pavlova is always going to be a single layer of meringue topped with fluffy cream, berries and kiwis like my mother-in-law used to make.
The recipe is relatively straight forward and you can make the meringue base the day before. Whip the cream, pile it on the meringue and top with fruit on the day – preferably not more than an hour before serving. While the meringue base is perfectly happy covered at room temperature, be sure to keep the prepared Pavlova in the fridge or a very, very cool place until just before it is served. If you do make the meringue base the same day you plan to serve the Pavlova be sure to allow at least a couple of hours for it to cool completely. If you put the whipped cream on an even slightly still warm base it will go soggy.
I watched my mother in law make this dessert on many occasions and one of her tricks was to draw a circle on the sheet of greaseproof paper or baking parchment she made the meringue on. It meant that she had a guide to follow and while there is absolutely no pressure for your meringue base to be a perfect 360 degrees, it is nice if it is relatively uniform.
It goes without saying you can vary the fruit depending on what is available or in season but I have a particular fondness for the arrangement you see in the photograph and it is that I describe below.
- 3 egg whites
- 6 ounces caster (superfine) sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon cornflour (corn starch)
- ½ teaspoon white vinegar
- 2 cups double (heavy) cream or whipping cream
- ¼ cup sugar
- about 2 cups of strawberries, halved
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 cup blueberries
- 4 kiwis, peeled and sliced
- Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) or 125°C (250°F) for fan ovens.
- Make the meringue base by beating the egg whites until they are just beginning to stiffen.
- Gradually add the sugar, beating all the time.
- Beat until the sugar is well dissolved.
- When the mixture is very stiff and standing well in peaks, gently fold in the vanilla, cornflour and vinegar.
- Place a piece of greaseproof paper / baking parchment on a baking sheet.
- Spread the mixture in a large circle, making the sides higher than the centre to form a shell.
- Place in the oven for 1 to 1¼ hours watching carefully the first time as all ovens vary. Ideally you want the meringue to be a very, very light golden colour when it is cooked.
- Let the meringue cool completely on the baking sheet.
- When it is completely cool, carefully remove it from the greaseproof paper and place it on a large serving plate.
- An hour before serving, whip the cream until soft peaks form.
- Beat in the sugar, a bit at a time, until stiff peaks form.
- Carefully spread the whipped cream over the meringue base. Don't pile it too high, you want the edges of the meringue to still stand proud.
- Decorate the cream topped meringue with the fruit.
- First place a circle of halved strawberries around the side, then a circle of blueberries inside that.
- Make another circle of kiwi slices inside the blueberry circle and fill it with the raspberries.
- Place in the fridge until ready to serve.
Shared with Full Plate Thursday, Treasure Box Tuesday, The Lou Lou Girls
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