Around the Island

Off the Fork: Pavlova, the dessert that wears a tutu

A sweet and crispy basket for local strawberries; Pavlova.

Pavlova is a large crispy meringue with a soft middle that is a built-in bowl for berries and cream.

The people of Australia and New Zealand each claim this cake as their own, but the evidence suggests that Pavlova was invented in New Zealand and named in Australia. Both Australians and Kiwis agree that the baked meringue dessert was named for the famed ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who visited both countries in 1926, giving rise to a mania for tutu-shaped desserts.

Pavlova is not hard to make, if you plan ahead. You can keep the meringue in the oven for hours (once the heat is off) until you are ready to assemble it, as long as you don’t keep opening the door to gaze at it. Don’t allow the meringue to get wet, and don’t store it in the refrigerator. It must stay dry.

Once you’ve made the meringue (at least six hours before you plan to serve it) and cut up the berries, just whip the cream, put the berries in the ‘bowl’ and serve it.


Makes one Pavlova, approximately eight servings.

4 egg whites

a pinch of salt

1 and 1/2 cups of superfine sugar

2 teaspoons corn starch

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1 quart of strawberries, hulled and halved.

¼ to ½ cup of sugar (depending on how sweet the berries are) 

1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

1 and ½ cups of heavy cream.

If you peek at the meringue cooling in the oven, this is what you might see. This one had to be given a gentle whack to make a ‘bowl’ for the berries and cream.

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. On a piece of parchment paper, draw a 9-inch circle (trace around a cake pan) and put the parchment, circle-side down on a sheet pan.

3. Mix the whites and salt in the very clean bowl (wipe it out with some vinegar and a paper towel if you aren’t sure) of a mixer with the whip attachment, gradually increasing speed until foamy.

4. With the mixer on high, add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, to maintain the volume of the egg whites. When all the sugar is added and the whites are stiff and glossy, add the cornstarch and vinegar and gently fold them into the meringue using a rubber spatula.

5. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared parchment, staying within the circle. Smooth the sides and build the edges up to form a slight depression in the middle, which will hold the cream and the strawberries when you assemble it. 

6. Put the meringue in the oven, turn the temperature down to 300 degrees and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Leave the meringue in the oven, undisturbed for at least an hour after baking to allow it to cool.

7. 1-2 hours ahead of serving time, combine the strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Let them macerate (the berries soften and create a syrupy juice) in the refrigerator.

8. Just before serving, whip the cream to soft peaks.

9. To assemble the Pavlova, place the cooled meringue on a serving plate.  If the meringue puffed a bit during cooking, gently crack the top, forming a crater that will hold the strawberries and cream.

10. Spoon a little whipped cream into the depression, then the macerated strawberries, and the rest of the whipped cream. 

11. Garnish with a couple of the nicest-looking berries.