I don’t know what it is about egg whites and sugar being baked at a low temp, but it creates magic in the form of meringue- and this meringue cake called a Pavlova. This dessert is named after the famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova…and I can see why! Light, airy, delicate, lovely, sweet, and beautiful~ does that sound like a ballerina to you? That also describes this easy yet fancy dessert! I am no ballerina, but just the thought of this dessert makes me want to twirl. :). I made this dessert as part of our Mother’s Day celebration- my mom LOVES strawberries and so I always love setting a strawberry themed table for Mother’s Day in her honor!
I doubled the recipe so that I could show you how beautiful the large Pavlova is as a main event (shown above) and how pretty and dainty mini pavlovas look for more individualized servings (shown below).
As a child, I grew up with my mom baking meringue cookies each Christmas and they were always my favorite. I remember how she would tell me that you could never bake meringue on a rainy or damp day- and so it would make it extra-special to have to wait for the right day. The humidity will ruin a batch of meringue- I have tested the theory many times out of impatience in hopes that each time my mom would not be right. But we all know that mom is always right- and yes, baking meringue on a rainy or otherwise humid day does not work out well. So, please keep that in mind when you decide to make these. Damp weather makes for flat and chewy meringues- I speak from experience! And so, I want to share the Pavlova recipe that is a version of the meringue cookies I fell in love with as a child. Follow the recipe below for an impressive-looking and somewhat fancy desert! It is so much easier than it seems!
I love the look of the big pavlova – and I would love to know which one you prefer (the large or the minis?). The biggest difference to me is in serving them. Below, I show you the Pavlova after it has been sliced. Expect the crust to crack and break a little when the dessert is cut. It gives it a rustic feel and is definitely not like cutting a flour-based cake.
Individual servings make the actual act of serving the dessert easier- it really depends on your guests and the feel you want to achieve. If it is more formal, I would suggest individual servings. If you are wanting a more casual feel, go ahead and make the show-stopping large version and don’t worry one bit when it cracks as it is cut. It is delicious either way!
This dessert is great for anytime of the year- but my very favorite time to make and serve Pavlova is during strawberry season. There is nothing like topping the dessert with freshly-picked strawberries and adding in other berries of your choice. I go with blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries along with the strawberries, but I am a berry girl. Choose your favorites or stick with just strawberries. If you want to continue with the strawberry theme, add strawberry touches to your place setting. This is really perfect for a Mother’s Day gathering. I love it when strawberry season and Mother’s Day collide!
Here, I used a white tablecloth and then added green pagoda wrapping paper down the center of the table as a runner. The gorgeous paper is from A Pretty Paper Company/Ruby Stripe. I love being able to change up the look of a table setting by incorporating beautiful patterns from wrapping paper. It makes a difference at a fraction of the cost of a customized tablecloth. Clean up is also very easy! No washing, dry cleaning, or ironing necessary when you decorate the table with a paper runner. Ruby Stripe sent me their pagoda designs in green and in white. I used the green background for the table and the white background coordinated perfectly with a small gift at the table for Mother’s Day. The fabulous compote that I used in the center of the table in lieu of flowers is from Parker Kennedy Living and is a vintage piece. I added trendy plates from Kate Spade in a strawberry pattern and her bright yellow china pattern to tie it all together. The adorable serving dish with strawberries in it and bees on the outside is from PKL-The Cellar.
Add in touches of pastel pink, and it will ground the bright, vivid colors and bring it all together. I added pink lemonade and pink satin ribbon to the gifts to bring in the small touch of soft pink that the table needed. I really love mixing patterns, and I feel like it works best when coordinated with white and with a solid, pastel color.
Here is my favorite Pavlova recipe…it is different from what my family usually thinks of for dessert- and they all love it. It gets rave reviews from the adults and the teenagers. I literally hide the dessert from my son so that he doesn’t decide to taste test too soon. He has been known to polish-off an entire dessert all by himself when no one is looking (which is also how we discovered his tree nut allergy when he was a toddler). I hope you love this as much as my family does. It makes it into the dessert rotation as often as I can- it is truly delicious! It is perfect for everything from a ladies’ lunch, to Mother’s Day, to a birthday celebration. Tell me your favorite topping on a Pavlova by leaving me a comment below and tell me what your family thinks of this dessert! Happy Baking!
You will need…
4 egg whites (use egg yolks to make Pots de Creme)
1 cup granulated sugar (spin it in the food processor for a few seconds to make it fine and it will taste even better)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped Cream- made with…
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
Strawberries (plus blueberries, raspberries, blackberries if you like)
DIRECTIONS FOR MAKING THE PAVLOVA –
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You will reduce the temperature to 200 degrees after you put the mixture in the oven.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I have tried using non-stick pans without parchment paper and it always sticks- you definitely want to use the parchment paper).
Using a mixer (handheld or upright), beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. This usually takes 5-7 minutes depending on your mixer.
Next, add sugar (one Tablespoon at a time) and continue to beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. The mixture will be thick and glossy.
Add the vanilla extract and use mixer to mix it in.
Combine the cream of tartar and the cornstarch in a small dish and then fold into the egg white mixture using a spoon or spatula.
Spread the mixture in an 8-inch circle onto the prepared pan. Or, spoon small sizes onto the pan to make individual servings. The sides should be higher than the middle of the circle so that you can add the whipped cream and fruit to the middle.
Place the Pavlova in the oven and turn oven temperature to 200 degrees (F). Leave oven door closed and let bake for 90 minutes.
After 90 minutes, turn off the oven and let the Pavlova completely cool inside the oven. This step is part of the trick to the perfect Pavlova- I leave it for a couple of hours or more and let it rest. When you remove it from the oven, the Pavlova should have a crisp outer crust and will be marshmallow-like in the center. When you are ready to serve dessert, add whipped cream (see below for homemade whipped cream) and berries to the top of the Pavlova. Serve immediately and enjoy!
HOMEMADE WHIPPED CREAM RECIPE
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 Tablespoons Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Using the mixer, begin to whip the heavy cream until it thickens.
Add the sugar and vanilla extract and continue to whip until soft peaks form (don’t over beat the cream). You will have around 2 cups of fluffy whipped cream. It is best served immediately, but the whipped cream will typically hold its shape for a day if tightly covered and refrigerated. Just as a side note, the kids and I tried using Cool Whip as a substitute for whipped cream. Cool Whip was no match for the real thing- the Pavlova is so much better with homemade whipped cream and it is so easy to make!