Everything you need to know about how to make The Perfect Pavlova! This is admittedly a long post, so feel free to jump straight to the recipe if you like, but do take some time to read the post if you’re having issues perfecting your pavlova.
A step by step recipe on how to make the perfect pavlova, with troubleshooting tips.
Pavlovas are a creation of love. They take some time, some planning, and some patience. The results however are absolutely worth your while! As a kiwi, pavlovas (or pavs) were an integral part of summer (or any other time of the year for that matter) for me growing up, and it’s a dessert that I’m particularly fond of! So in this post, I will share with you all the tips and tricks to make the Perfect Pavlova!
Why you should be making this perfect pavlova recipe
- This is a detailed step by step recipe/guide showing you what to expect at each stage of the recipe, to ensure success!
- This recipe has been tested multiple times, under different conditions, so I have detailed all the ways to make sure you get perfect results.
- This post will explain the role of each ingredient that makes a perfect pavlova.
- This recipe will also explain the science of pavlova, so you’ll know why each step is important.
- If your recipe fails, this post will help you understand what might have gone wrong, so you can troubleshoot and ensure perfect results next time! Plus, I also provide a couple of ideas on what to do with failed pavlovas.
What is a Pavlova?
Yes, pavlovas are a New Zealand creation (no matter what the Aussies say). It’s a popular dessert in that part of the world, and one of several national desserts for both New Zealand and Australia, and both countries claim the dessert as their own.
It is said that the recipe was created in honor of Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina, in the 1920s, when she toured New Zealand and Australia. The pavlova is so light and airy – just like a ballerina’s dance performance, hence the name.
And for more proof of the origins of the modern day pavlova – Anna Pavlova’s autobiographer has stated that the dessert was created by a chef in Wellington, NZ when she toured the country in 1926. So there.
That being said, there have been a number of recipes called pavlova that existed before that in Europe. However, these “pavlovas” were more like torte-like cakes, not the airy, marshmallowy, meringue-based dessert that we all know and love, and have come to recognize as pavlova today.
But whatever the origin, we can all agree on one thing. Pavlovas are a show-stopping, kick-ass dessert.
What’s the difference between meringue vs pavlova?
Some confuse meringue and pavlova, so let me explain the difference between these two.
Both meringue and pavlova are egg white desserts, and are made in a similar way. They both require egg whites to be whipped into a foam, with sugar mixed in, and are then baked at a low temperature until dry. However, meringue is crispy and dry throughout, while pavlova is crispy on the outside, but fluffy, soft and marshmallow-like on the inside. So a pavlova is a meringue based dessert, but not a classic meringue.
This perfect pavlova is a supremely light and fluffy dessert, with an amazingly crisp texture on the outside, and a marshmallow-like, melt-in-your-mouth texture on the inside. A pavlova is topped with sweetened whipped cream (or chantilly cream) and lots of seasonal fruits. It’s a summer classic in New Zealand and Australia, and no BBQ (or Christmas) would be complete without a pav.
Common pavlova recipe pitfalls (pavlova troubleshooting)
First let’s take a look at some really common pavlova recipe fails, and why they happen.
Why is my pavlova weeping?
This is when there’s liquid seeping out of the pavlova (i.e. weeping). This can happen while the pavlova is cooling, or even while it’s baking. The liquid “weeps” (seeps out) and puddles at the bottom of the pavlova. The culprit here is the sugar in the meringue, which “melts” out of the pavlova. This can make the pavlova collapse and become soggy.
High humidity – If you make your pavlova on a particularly humid day, this would most likely be the reason for a weeping pavlova. Sugar in the pavlova is hydrophilic (water-loving), and will absorb water from the environment. Then the egg whites in the structure will not be able to hold the sugar molecules that absorb water, resulting in a collapsed and weeping pavlova.
Undissolved sugar – When making pavlova, it’s absolutely crucial to add the sugar in 1 tbsp increments, SLOWLY, so that it dissolves well. Plus, you will be whisking it after the addition of sugar as well, to make sure the sugar crystals are fully dissolved. Any undissolved sugar crystals won’t be integrated into the egg white structure and will readily absorb water and cause weeping.
Over-whisked egg whites – When you over-whisk or over-beat the egg whites to a grainy texture (before or after adding the sugar), the proteins in the egg whites may lose their structure. This will make it harder for the egg whites to hold onto the air and sugar that are being whisked into the foam. The result is sugar seeping out of the pavlova as a syrup.
How to prevent a weeping pavlova?
So as you can tell, pavlovas can be a little temperamental and fussy. So don’t bake your pavlova on high humidity days. Avoid very rainy days as well, since this also increases humidity. A dry climate will make baking a pavlova that much easier. If you do live in a high humid environment though, these following precautions will help you achieve that perfect pavlova.
Avoid doing any dishes or boiling water in the kitchen before, during and after making a pavlova (until the pavlova has cooled down completely), to help reduce the ambient humidity in the kitchen. So this requires a little bit of planning ahead. I prefer to make my pavlova at night, after I’ve done all the dishes, and don’t need to use the stove until the next day.
Use caster sugar, or you can pulse regular granulated sugar in a blender or food processor to make it fine. This helps dissolve the sugar more easily. And add the sugar slowly. Making a perfect pavlova is not something you can rush.
Keep an eye on the egg whites and make sure they are not over-beaten before you add the sugar. If they become grainy, start again with fresh egg whites. Also whisk the eggs on low or medium speed. NEVER exceed medium high. Only beat the egg whites until the sugar has completely dissolved and it looks thick and glossy.
Why did my pavlova collapse? (Why did my pavlova crack?)
If your pavlova has cracks on it, or it collapsed, it’s usually because the mallow center shrunk away from the meringue, causing the outer shell to collapse.
Over-whisked egg whites – A meringue base is made by whisking egg whites to a soft, foamy consistency and then slowly adding sugar to be incorporated into the foam. The egg proteins unravel in the whisking process, and this allows air to be trapped in the foam, as well as for the sugar to be dissolved and incorporated. But if the eggs are over-whisked, these egg proteins will break up and cause the cross-links in the foam structure to break apart as well.
As a result the air (and sometimes the sugar) in the structure will be “pushed out” causing the structure to deflate. This causes the pavlova to crack, collapse and sometimes even weep.
Baking in too hot of an oven and cooling too quickly – Pavlova is baked very slow, at a low temperature. What you’re trying to achieve here is to expand the meringue slowly and make it crisp and dry on the outside, while keeping the middle at a mallow-like, stable consistency. If you bake the pavlova in a hot oven, it will expand too fast, and will deflate when cooling down. So make sure to bake it in a low temperature oven.
Even if the pavlova is cooked in a low temperature oven, it needs to be cooled down gradually, to prevent any rapid temperature changes. If the pavlova cools down too quickly, this can cause the mallow center to shrink rapidly, causing the pavlova to crack and collapse.
Pavlova is weeping – See the reasons for pavlova weeping above. If a pavlova weeps too much, it’s because the sugar wasn’t mixed in properly with the egg whites, or it was too humid in the kitchen. A pavlova weeping will cause the mallow to shrink in size, leading to not only a cracked and collapsed pavlova, but a soft, soggy pavlova too.
How to prevent a cracked or collapsed pavlova
Make sure to use fresh eggs, and whisk the egg whites on a lower speed. Most people make the mistake of whisking egg whites on high, in order to dissolve the sugar faster, and thicken the meringue faster. This can introduce a lot of air quickly, but can also deflate the egg whites just as quickly, because the egg white foam structure is unable to hold on to all the air that’s been introduced.
Whisking slowly means air is introduced slowly, with no risk of over-beating egg whites, and the sugar still dissolves well, and you get a more stable foam structure. Using fresh egg whites will also help create a stable foam.
Bake the pavlova in a low heat oven, and do not open the oven during the baking process. Once baked, let the pavlova cool down in the oven. This will allow a gradual cool down, preventing it from collapsing. This is another reason why I like baking pavlova at night, because I can leave the pavlova in the oven overnight to cool down.
Also make sure to follow the tips for preventing a weeping pavlova (explained above), which can also contribute to a collapsed pavlova.
Why is my pavlova brown (or not white)?
Oven too hot – If the oven temperature is too hot, the pavlova can caramelize and have an off-white color.
Addition of flavoring – Usually vanilla isn’t added to a classic pavlova. However, some people like to add vanilla to offset an “eggy” smell. Adding vanilla can cause the meringue to have an off-white color as well. If the vanilla extract has water, then this can also cause the pavlova to weep as well.
How to prevent pavlova from browning
Reduce the oven temperature. If you followed my recipe, and still had a burnt pavlova, then just check and make sure there are no hot spots in your oven. If you’re not sure about hot spots, then just reduce the oven temperature another 25°F for next time.
I prefer not to use vanilla. I like my pavlova to be snowy white, and I’ve never had an eggy smell in my pavlova. But if you do find your pavlova to have an eggy smell, you can add some lemon zest instead of vanilla. This will add a subtle lemon flavor, and a wonderful fragrance to the pavlova. Just make sure the lemon is completely dry before zesting.
My Pavlova is soft and sticky/soggy. There is no crisp shell.
This happens because the pavlova is weeping. The liquid that’s seeping out of the pavlova is causing the pavlova crust to get soggy. Baking the pavlova on a high humid day can make it become soft and sticky to the touch too.
How to prevent a soft and sticky pavlova
Follow the same instructions as preventing a weeping pavlova (explained above). Since weeping is usually followed by a soggy pavlova.
- Avoid baking your pavlova on high humid days (and rainy days).
- Make sure the sugar is incorporated properly, and completely dissolved, at each step.
- Make sure not to over-whisk the egg whites.
My meringue base is too runny and won’t thicken
Egg whites require clean and dry utensils to be whisked into a stable foam. It’s very important to not introduce water, or any fat (yolks or otherwise), in the process of making a meringue, because this will interfere with the egg whites’ ability to create a foam-like structure. If the utensils/bowls you used have any fat/liquid in them, even a drop of egg yolk, this will prevent the egg whites from foaming up properly.
And you’ll end up with a runny egg white mix that never gets stiff.
How to prevent a meringue base that is too runny
Make sure ALL your utensils are bone dry. This includes the mixer bowl, whisk, spatulas and any other bowls you use to transfer ingredients.
Another tip is to avoid plastic mixer bowls for your egg whites. Plastic bowls can cling on to fat molecules that can contaminate the egg white mix. I always use my metal bowl. You can also use a copper bowl (best option!), or even a glass bowl if you are sure it’s absolutely clean and dry.
Why is my pavlova flat?
Pavlovas can go flat for a few reasons – not enough air was incorporated into the egg white mixture, or the pavlova shrunk during the cooling period and collapsed.
Once you add sugar to the egg whites, you will find that the meringue mixture deflates and becomes runny. This is normal. However, as you whisk the mixture to dissolve the sugar, the mixture will become more stiff and stable. If not, the runny meringue mixture will result in a flat pavlova.
Also the pavlova meringue mixture should be shaped on a parchment paper the proper way as well.
How to prevent a flat pavlova?
Make sure you whisk the egg whites until they are thick and glossy. If runny, then the mixture will spread more as it bakes, resulting in a flat pavlova.
I also prefer to create furrows on the side of the pavlova with a small spatula, in an upward motion, to help the rising of the meringue. Just make sure that you use a spatula to shape the pavlova in an upward motion, before baking it in the oven.
These common pitfalls can be very frustrating and may sound intimidating, but I promise if you understand WHY these pitfalls occur, it’s that much easier to prevent them, AND help you make the most perfect pavlova! 🙂
Other questions about making a perfect pavlova
How far in advance can I make this pavlova?
While meringues can be made a few days ahead and stored in an air-tight container, pavlovas cannot be made more than 24 hours in advance.
I do recommend making the pavlova the day before you will be serving it and then letting it cool down in the oven completely (about 6 hours at least), to prevent it from collapsing or cracking. You might get lucky and may be able to keep it for two days, especially if you live in a particularly dry climate, but I wouldn’t risk it.
I frost the pavlova with whipped cream only minutes before serving it. As soon as you introduce whipped cream, it’ll start to get soft and soggy, and you want that crust on the sides to be crisp.
How to store the pavlova?
Once baked and cooled down in the oven, store the pavlova UNFROSTED, in an air-tight container. I like to keep the container in the driest room in the house, away from bathrooms and the kitchen where the humidity can be higher.
Avoid storing the pavlova in the fridge at all costs! The fridge will make the pavlova soggy.
Can I freeze the pavlova?
If you freeze and then thaw before serving, the shell will lose its crispness.
Why do you add cornstarch and vinegar to the pavlova?
An acid is an important component when making meringue. The acid helps stabilize egg whites as they foam up. If you don’t have white vinegar, you can replace it with half that amount in cream of tartar instead. You can also use an equal amount of lemon juice, but I prefer white vinegar or cream of tartar.
The combination of vinegar and cornstarch helps create that marshmallowy center that sets a pavlova apart from other meringues.
Now that I’ve gone over some common pitfall when making pavlova, let’s look at how to make pavlova.
How to make a perfect pavlova (step by step instructions)
Equipment needed, and how to prep them
- Stand mixer with a whisk attachment – I prefer this over a hand mixer.
- Mixer bowl – Copper, metal or glass. Avoid plastic bowls.
- Two spatulas – Avoid wooden spatulas. I like to use one spatula while the meringue is whisking, and the second spatula to transfer the meringue mixture to the parchment paper.
- Baking tray.
- Parchment paper.
- Offset spatula.
- Clean glass bowls – To help separate egg whites from egg yolks.
- Clean measuring jug (preferably not plastic).
- Blender/food processor – for sugar (only if you’re not using caster sugar).
- Kitchen scale.
- Clean hand towels and paper napkins.
Make sure all equipment is clean and dry. Use the hand towels and paper napkins to keep your hands clean and dry, as well as the equipment.
You will be checking if the meringue is ready by rubbing the meringue between your fingers, so you will need to wash your hands and thoroughly dry them off while getting the pavlova mix ready.
How to choose the right eggs for pavlovas
Using old eggs vs fresh eggs
Usually older egg whites are able to hold more air as they are whipped into a foam. The proteins in the thin egg whites expand faster to hold more air, and therefore will create more volume. Older egg whites also have a weaker protein structure. This also means the air will escape more easily, and deflate easily as well.
However, egg whites from fresh eggs may not whip as much as older egg whites, but the air that is whisked into it is far more stable. This is because the protein structures in fresh egg whites is stronger than that of older egg whites.
Room temperature eggs
It’s important to use eggs that are at room temperature. Colder eggs don’t whip as readily as eggs at room temperature. This is also why room temperature eggs are vital for all baking recipes.
Which sugar to use to make a classic pavlova
Sugar is one of the two main ingredients in a classic pavlova. So it’s crucial to get this right.
The sugar needs to be dissolved easily in the meringue mix, so try to use caster sugar, which is ultra-fine sugar that has small sugar granules that dissolve easily.
If you don’t have access to caster sugar, you can use regular granulated sugar, but make sure to pulse it in a food processor first to make it finer.
DO NOT use confectioner’s sugar. Confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar) is not pure sugar (it has cornstarch mixed in) and will not create desirable results.
Measuring the ingredients
I have emphasized this before with a lot of baking recipes on my blog, and it’s even more important when you’re trying to make a perfect pavlova.
Weigh your ingredients.
Pavlovas are delicate desserts that are sensitive to just about any variation. Using precise measurements will help you in creating the perfect pavlova!
Each egg will have slight variations in terms of how much egg whites are in it. The amount of egg whites will also obviously vary between different sizes of egg, and even between eggs in different countries. Having lived in a number of different places in the world, this is something I have noticed a lot.
But as a rule of thumb, 1 large egg will weigh 2 oz or 57 g (56.7 g).
Each 2 oz egg usually has about 1.1 oz (30 – 32 g) of egg whites.
This recipe uses 7 egg whites, which weigh 7.8 oz (221 g).
7.8 oz of egg whites in weight is about 255 mL (approximately).
Each egg white needs about 50 – 55 g of sugar to make a stable meringue.
The ratio I use is, each 30 – 32 g of egg whites, use 50 – 55 g of sugar.
How to separate the egg whites and yolks
Clean, dry hands and bowls are crucial.
I like to separate the egg whites from the yolk into a smaller bowl first, before adding them into the mixing bowl to be measured. This way, if you accidentally break a yolk and get it into the whites, you can just replace that one egg rather than having to discard ALL the egg whites that were contaminated with the egg yolk.
To make sure your egg whites whip properly, it’s important that you do NOT let even the tiniest drop of yolk, or any other water or fat, be mixed in with the egg whites.
Whisking egg whites
The whisking speed is crucial for a stable meringue base. Most people tend to increase the speed to get the egg whites to the right consistency faster, but this could cause the pavlova to collapse as it bakes (adding air too fast will also deflate the meringue quicker).
Going slow is the key. In a mixer with 10 speeds, I never go beyond speed 4 for the whole duration of whisking my pavlova base. I only increase the speed to about 6 in the last 30 – 45 seconds (to mix the cornstarch and vinegar).
This means it takes a while to get that pavlova ready… but you prevent the meringue from being over-whisked.
So at first, you will only be whisking the egg whites at speed 3 or 4 until it reaches soft peaks stage. This can take up to about 10 minutes.
Adding sugar to the egg white mixture
When the egg whites are at the soft peaks stage, you can add the sugar.
Don’t be in a rush to add the sugar. I prefer adding them a little at a time (about 1 – 2 tbsp at a time), with 30 seconds between each addition. You want the sugar to be almost completely dissolved before adding sugar again.
- Adding too much sugar can deflate the mixture, which means you will have a less airy pavlova.
- Adding sugar too fast without letting it dissolve first, can cause the pavlova to weep after baking due to undissolved sugar crystals.
This can take between 10 – 20 minutes, so keep the speed of the mixer low (3 – 4 speed).
Whisking to make the meringue
Once all the sugar is added, keep whisking it. The mixture would have deflated slightly, and look a little runny. So whisk it on speed 3 or 4 (I vary between them just by looking at the meringue), just until ALL THE SUGAR IS DISSOLVED, and the mixture is glossy and thick.
This can take as little time as 10 – 15 minutes (with caster sugar), or 20 – 30 minutes (with blended granulated sugar), or over 45 minutes (with granulated sugar – which is why you should avoid using it).
Take care not to mix the meringue longer than needed.
To check if the sugar is dissolved – take a little meringue to your finger tip and rub it between your thumb and index finger. If you feel any sugar granules, then it needs more time to whisk.
Adding cornstarch slurry
This is added right at the end. Make sure there are NO LUMPS in the slurry, and add it after all the sugar has dissolved, and then mix it into the pavlova within 30 – 45 seconds. This is the only time I increase the speed to about 5 – 6.
Prepping the oven and baking tray
Pavlova is baked in a low heat oven to make sure it dries out slowly. So the oven is preheated to 300°F/150°C, but immediately lowered to 225°F/110°C when you place the pavlova in the oven.
I use a regular baking tray that’s lined with parchment paper to prep my pavlova base. A parchment paper will ensure that your pavlova doesn’t stick to the tray once baked. Draw an 8 inch (20 cm) circle on the parchment paper, so that you have a guide for the shape of your pavlova.
How to shape a pavlova
Use a second, clean spatula to scoop out the meringue mix from the bowl. This is to avoid the meringue right at the top, just in case it might have any undissolved sugar crystals in them.
Next, draw an 8 inch/20 cm circle on parchment paper as a guide to shape the pavlova. However, I draw the circle on the underside of the parchment paper, so that the pencil marks don’t get transferred onto the snowy white pavlova as it bakes.
First use a spatula/offset spatula/spoon to spread the meringue out on the circle, with an even thickness and straight-ish sides.
Once you have the basic shape of the pavlova ready, use the offset spatula to create vertical furrows on the side of the pavlova,while moving the offset spatula from bottom to top. Create soft edges and flatten any pointed meringue. Swirl the middle of the pavlova as well to create a spiral furrow. See pictures in the post to get a better idea.
How to bake a pavlova and let it cool down
Once the pavlova is shaped, immediately place it in the center of the oven, and reduce the oven heat to 225°F/110°C.
DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN while the pavlova is baking. You will be tempted to, trust me, but don’t! Your pavlova is now in the hands of the meringue gods, and there’s nothing more you can do.
Once baked, you have to let it completely cool down in the oven as well.
And once completely cooled down, carefully place the pavlova in an air-tight container, in a draft free room, until you’re ready to serve it. For no more than 24 hours.
How to serve classic pavlova
Now that you know how to make a perfect pavlova base, you also need to know how to top it to make the classic pavlova that we all know and love!
A classic pavlova is topped with sweetened vanilla whipped cream (i.e. creme chantilly), and beautiful summer fruits. A classic version usually always has kiwi fruit (especially in NZ and Australia), but you can use whatever is available.
Here are some other alternatives
- To keep the pavlova dairy free – you can top it with sweetened whipped coconut cream. It won’t be as thick as regular whipped cream, but still a great alternative.
- Whipped cream + Greek yogurt is another great option. The yogurt adds a lovely tang that pairs really well with the sweetness of the pavlova.
Fruit topping options
- Classic fruit toppings – Kiwi fruit, passion fruit, mangoes (tangy but sweet fruits).
- Berry toppings – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries (and other berries).
- Drizzle lemon curd, along with other fruits on top.
- Other sweet but tangy fruits – currants (red, white or black), starfruit, peaches, plums or other stone fruits, pomegranate etc.
- Some like banana, but I don’t. I prefer having fruits that contrast well with the soft, sweet marshmallow center with a fresh, tangy taste.
So there you have it! That’s about everything you’ll need to know about how to make pavlova! 🙂
But even if you followed everything precisely, and your pavlova still collapsed (there’s only so much you can do to control humidity after all), don’t worry! You can still salvage your pavlova…
How to fix a collapsed or cracked pavlova
If the pavlova has collapsed a little in the center and on top, you can still serve the pavlova as long as it’s not weeping. You’ll be topping it with whipped cream, so no one is going to really know it collapsed, and your guests and family most likely won’t care either.
Your pavlova will still taste fantastic!
If it has cracked to the point that you feel like it cannot be presented to guests, don’t throw it out.
You can chop up the pavlova just before serving, and fold in some whipped cream + yogurt and the fruits that you were going to use. You now have an ambrosia salad with crunchy bits of meringue. (Not an eton mess exactly, because there will be marshmallowy bits in there.)
What to do with the leftover egg yolks?
- Make ice cream! Egg yolks are crucial for great-tasting ice cream, so choose from all of these amazing flavors!
- Make lemon curd – this is also perfect to top the pavlova.
- Make passion fruit curd – passion fruit curd is also a fantastic topping for pavlova!
A detailed, step by step recipe on how to make the Perfect Pavlova! A crisp outer shell and a soft, airy and fluffy marshmallow center! A classic New Zealand and Australian dessert.
Intermediate - Requires basic skills for creating egg white foam and the difference between the stages of meringue peaks. Information provided in the recipe + post will help achieve good results. Weather sensitive + long baking time.
Measurements provided in grams for accuracy. Common Measurement Conversions
Classic Pavlova base
- 221 g egg whites about 7 large eggs - 225 mL
- 350 g caster sugar or granulated sugar, pulsed to make it finer
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 ½ tsp white vinegar or ¾ tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest optional (from a dry lemon)
To serve the pavlova
- 1 cup whipping cream 35% fat
- 3 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 kiwi fruits peeled and sliced
- 1 cup halved strawberries or more
- 1 cup other types of fruit blueberries, raspberries, cubed mango, redcurrants etc.
- 2 - 4 tbsp of passion fruit pulp/syrup or lemon curd optional
Make sure all the equipment is clean and dry (mixer bowl, whisk, two spatulas, sugar bowl, bowls to separate egg yolks and whites etc.).
Preheat oven to 300°F / 150°C. Cut a piece of parchment paper that's big enough to line a baking tray. Draw a circle that's 8 in / 20 cm in diameter on the underside of the parchment paper. Line the baking tray with the parchment paper (with the drawn circle on the underside). Set aside until needed.
Carefully break an egg, and strain the egg white into a small clean bowl, taking care not to break the egg yolk. Once you've successfully separated the egg white, transfer this into a mixer bowl that is on a weighing scale. Repeat with more eggs, until you have 221 g of egg whites (give or take 5 grams). If you get any yolk into the egg white, you must discard the contaminated egg white and start again with another egg.
Do not throw away the egg yolks, since you can make other recipes with them (see end of the post for some ideas). Store egg yolks in an air-tight container, with a layer of water to coat them on top.
Once the egg whites are measured and in the mixer bowl, whisk the egg whites on speed 4 (on a 10 speed mixer) until it reaches soft peak stage (i.e. when you lift the whisk, soft peaks should be formed in the egg whites). This may take about 10 minutes.
When the egg whites are at soft peak stage, lower the speed to 3, and add the sugar, 1 - 2 tbsp at a time. Make sure each addition of sugar is dissolved before adding the next. I wait about 30 seconds between each addition. Also scrape down the sides of the bowl at least once, while adding the sugar. Do not rush this process. This can take about 10 -15 minutes.
Once all the sugar is added, increase the speed to 4, and whisk the egg whites just until the sugar has completely dissolved, and the egg whites are thick and glossy, and hold their shape well.
Here's how to check if the sugar has dissolved - take a small amount of the meringue mix between your fingers and rub it. If it feels grainy or has any granules, then there's undissolved sugar. If you don't feel any granules or grittiness, then the sugar is completely dissolved. I also like to make sure that I don’t see any undissolved sugar in a few other places in the meringue (under the whisk, in the bowl etc).
Whisking egg whites until the sugar completely dissolves can take between 15 - 30 minutes, depending on the sugar you use. Do not rush this, and check on the meringue periodically to make sure you won’t over-whisk it. Use the spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times as well.
- While the egg whites are being whisked, place the cornstarch and vinegar in a small bowl and mix to combine.
Once the sugar is dissolved, and the meringue is glossy and thick, immediately add the cornstarch and vinegar slurry. Increase the speed to about 5 - 6 and let the cornstarch slurry mix into the egg whites for about 30 - 45 seconds. Then stop whisking and remove the bowl from the mixer.
Using a clean spatula, scoop the meringue in the bowl out on to the parchment paper with the drawn circle. Pile the meringue in the middle of the drawn circle. Be careful not to scoop out the top edge of meringue in the mixer bowl to prevent any undissolved sugar getting into the mixture (see picture in the post).
Using an offset spatula, spread the meringue mix to fill the drawn circle on the parchment paper. Make sure the meringue mix is evenly tall.
Once you have shaped the pavlova (see pictures in the post), use an offset spatula or palette knife to create furrows along the sides of the pavlova, going from bottom to top. Smoothen the edges to get rid of meringue points (that can burn easily). The pavlova should have soft, rounded edges. Create some swirls on the middle of the meringue on top as well.
Transfer the cake into the preheated oven, and immediately reduce the temperature to 225°F / 110°C.
Bake the pavlova for 90 minutes. Do not open the oven door during this time.
When the 90 minutes are up, turn off the oven and allow the pavlova to cool down in the oven overnight (or up to 6 hours, until completely cooled down).
Transfer the pavlova into an air-tight container and store in a cool dry place (free of draft), until ready to serve. Do not store in the fridge or freezer.
To serve the pavlova
Place the chilled whipping cream in a chilled bowl. Whisk the cream on medium speed. (Do not over-whisk the cream as it can become grainy. If you whisk the cream on high, you risk over-beating it, and the cream will deflate faster, making the pavlova runny.)
While whisking the cream, add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla into it. Mix until you have stiff peaks, but the cream is still smooth.
Spread the cream on top of the pavlova, and top it with the prepared fruits. Drizzle/spread the passion fruit of lemon curd over the top as well (if using).
- Serve immediately.