On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

Pavlova, a New Zealand staple



There’s a tussle between New Zealand and Australia about who owns the Pavlova recipe. As far as I’m concerned, because I’m a NZer, it originated in New Zealand.  Besides, when I was living in Melbourne and I saw what they did to our Pav, I feel safe in saying it’s ours. What I saw while living in Australia was the beautiful pav being baked then unceremoniously tipped upside down onto a plate. What?! The indignation didn’t end there. The next thing was whipping up cream using normal granulated sugar. I mean given we live so close, our cultures are so close, they sure did muck about with ruining one of our national delicacies. Yes I know I’m winding people up and I’m expecting some backlash. That’s what the Aussies and Kiwis do. We dig and poke and point and call names but deep down we all get along famously and respect our cousins from “across the ditch”.


Given a Pav has so few ingredients it has so much going for it. I guess in some ways it’s a blank canvas. There are so many possibilities to the way you decorate and garnish a pav. You never lose it’s sweetness (yes it’s sweet), it’s delicate crunchy outer or its fluffy marshmallow inside.


To achieve all this you need to understand a little about soft and firm peaks. Whipping egg white is straight forward but there’s still the possibility of overdoing or underdoing the whipping.


When I begin, I start really gently. Getting the little air bubbles in the whites are so important, and it’s delicate. So you need to start slowly before gearing up into a full on whip. I’m not sure if you can see so clearly in the top two photos that the egg white is still quite loose. You can see it still a little bit foamy. This is the soft peak stage and the point at which you begin to add the castor sugar (fine granulated sugar).

You need to make sure the sugar has been properly whipped in. There shouldn’t be any grainy feeling when you take a little of the meringue mixture and rub it between you finger and thumb. There’s a fine line. You don’t want to over whip the whites and end up with a dry mixture. You still want it to be glossy.

After folding the cornflour (which is what makes the inside soft and marshmallow) and white wine vinegar you get to pile it sky high on a plate.


No, that’s obviously not how I left it. But it was fun.

Baking at the right temperature is really critical too. So long as all the sugar has been fully incorporated then you wont end up with any weeping as it bakes. Actually the more I write the more it seems like baking a pav is for the brave-hearted. But truly it’s not.

If you look at the following group of photos you’ll see how the pav changes as it bakes. I started out with a pav that had very straight sides, albeit at an angle. You can see that it expanded (the parchment paper helps you see this) and flattened as it baked.


One of the beauties of a pav is its whiteness. Again achieving this (and one of the hardest things I find) is down to the temperature of your oven. I’d say this is the best pav that I’ve baked when considering all of the things you’re looking for in a pav. And I’ve baked quite a few over the years. Each time you move house and have a new oven it’s like you have to start the experiment all over again until you finally have a meeting of minds with your oven.


I served the pav with Lemon Curd Cream. It’s the first time I’ve done that. I’ve only really heard about making Lemon Curd Cream when I was looking around for a Lemon Curd recipe. I made the same one I did prior to Christmas. It did not disappoint. Lemon Curd Cream is nothing more than using equal quantities of lemon curd and whipping cream. Gently whip the cream then fold in the lemon curd. It was spectacular with the pav. Even if the weight of it made the middle of my pav collapse and then spill out when I cut into the pav. That was completely forgotten when I took my first mouthful.


Because of the way I shaped the pav, this pretty much became a bowl for the lemon curd cream. What a great way to serve up the lemon curd cream.

I also had some frozen mixed berries which were taking too long to thaw, despite another 30 degree summery day. So I put them into the new Kenwood mixer/blender/masher thingee we recently bought and blitzed them a little and then mixed in a little icing sugar. We spooned the berry mixture over the lemon curd cream. Delicious. Really it was.

Pavlova – by Donna Hay (yes she’s Australian!)


  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 3 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar


  • Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F).
  • Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating well until the mixture is glossy.
  • Sift the cornflour over the mixture
  • Add the vinegar and fold through.
  • Pile into an 18cm-round on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.
  • Place in the oven, reduce the heat to 120°C (250°F) and cook for 1 hour.
  • Turn the oven off and allow the meringue to cool in the oven.
  • To serve, top with whipped cream and fresh fruit.
  • Serves 6–8.

My Notes:

Two of the four egg whites had been frozen since 17 November last year. I took them out of the freezer the night before and left them in the fridge.

Pull the whites out of the fridge the following day. The whites should be at room temperature when you whip them.

Wipe every thing that will be in contact with the egg whites with vinegar. I wipe out the bowl, the whipping attachment and the spatula all with a bit of white wine vinegar dabbed onto a piece of kitchen paper. Any trace of fat, oil, grease can prevent the whites from expanding.

I use a 9 inch circle of parchment paper. I put a small dollop of pav in the centre and then turn it upside down. This stops the parchment from sliding around on the oven tray.

I use a spatula to make furrows around the outside of the pav essentially making a bowl. Don’t hollow the pav out too much from the centre.

Expect the pav to both expand and flatten a little.

I used 1 cup of cream (35% fat) and 1 cup of Lemon Curd to make the filling.

This easily serves 8 people. Pav is sweet so you don’t need a lot. But who cares about need, it’s all about want. And you will want more of this.


Do you know what would be the horror of all our insistence that NZ or Australia were the creators of the Pavlova recipe, if someone else claimed they were first. Then you’d see both Kiwis and Aussies join force. And we have done battle together in the past (ANZAC), we’d do it again.

You can find out what the Wikipedia has to say about Pav from this link. And by the way, isn’t that an unattractive photo of a Pav. Surely they could have found a better example.


4 thoughts on “Pavlova, a New Zealand staple

  1. oh my gosh! I had to make one of these for my daughter for International day at school one time. It was a miserable failure. But after seeing the photos of your beautiful Pavlova~~ I’m going to risk it and try once again 🙂
    Maybe mine will come out a little more presentable this time. Whisk me luck ! hahaha couldn’t resist
    Kassie aka “Mom”

    • Hi Kassie, thanks for giving Pavlova another try. I hope you find his recipe a success. And I hope your oven behaves 😉 If it doesn’t work out, you can always serve it mixed up in the lemon curd cream a have a pudding with crunchy little bits of meringue in it. But I’m hoping this time you’ll be happy with the outcome. Please let me know how it works out. Good Luck!

  2. What a lovely tutorial on Pavlova making. I am glad that we can hold our heads up high and make one if we jolly well choose. I get tired of people saying that the pav is so yesterday. Long may it linger on our lips and our hips,

    • Hi Alison. Thanks for the lovely comment about my long winded description of making a pav 🙂 I wonder why some people think a pav is so yesterday. I wont ever tire of it. Plus it’s made each Christmas for those who don’t eat Christmas pudding. Sounds like there’s at least two of us that’ll continue to make pav.

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