Pavlova: A summer cloud of fruit and cream

Oh happy day, oh happy day! The first fruits of summer are starting to appear and it’s time to start the feast.

While fresh berries, warm from the sun, are a perfect breakfast or snack, to me they need a little bit more to elevate them to dessert status. A scoop of ice cream is good; fresh whipped cream is better.

But how about when you need a knock-their-socks-off showcase dessert for graduation, a bridal or baby shower, or 4th of July celebration?

Consider pavlova. Pavlova is a perfect warm-weather treat because it’s light and airy, doesn’t heat up the kitchen, and uses sweet juicy fruit, instead of heavy chocolate or caramel.

What is pavlova? Essentially, it’s baked meringue topped with fresh whipped cream and fruit. It doesn’t get much easier than that. The dessert was created for and named after Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova, who wanted a dessert that was as light and graceful as she was.

Pavlova hails from New Zealand, where Kiwi refers both to the people, and the bird that’s their national symbol; and kiwifruit is known as Chinese gooseberry. Many pavlova are served with fresh kiwifruit on top, its bright green color sparkling like a gem in the cream.

Meringue in general  is best made on dry days. Humidity can cause weeping in meringue, and a soggy meringue is no fun. You can also whip this dessert up right before bedtime, as it only bakes for an hour at 200°F and then sits in the oven overnight. You won’t heat up the kitchen, and it’ll be cool when you get up. It’s almost like having magical elves making the meringue while you sleep.

Eating pavlova is a bit magical, as well. The crisp shell crumbles just a bit as you cut through the layers. You get a bit of sweet crunch followed by the cool melting sensation of the sugar on your tongue. A burst of berries followed by sweet cream will make you want to get up on your toes and pirouette across the room. Of course if you do, please send us the video!

Come on Twinkletoes, let’s make Pavlova.

First, preheat the oven to 200° F.  Prepare a piece of parchment paper by tracing the outside of a 9″ round pan or other large circle.

Be sure to flip the parchment paper pencil-side down, so that your meringue will stay clean and safe.

Now that the parchment is prepared, let’s talk sugar.

On the left you see regular table sugar, on the right Baker’s superfine sugar. Normally we think of granulated sugar as very tiny grains, but compared to superfine sugar, granulated look enormous. In a cookie or brownie, the difference would never be noticed, as the sugar is dissolved and blended into the batter. In meringue, though, the size of the sugar grain can make a huge difference.

If you only have regular granulated sugar in the house, grind it in your food processor or blender to break it down into finer crystals. Work with more than you need for the recipe, at least 2 cups. It’s easier to grind a larger amount than a smaller amount. Just use the extra in any recipe as you would regular granulated  sugar.

Beat 3 large egg whites with a pinch of salt on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. You want to use medium-high rather than high speed at this stage, to form slightly smaller bubbles for a finer-textured foam.

With the machine still running, slowly pour in 1 cup superfine sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Aim for the sweet spot between the whisk and the side of the bowl to reduce the amount of sugar that’s spun off to the side. Once the sugar is all in, blend in 1 teaspoon lemon juice by hand.

The meringue will be thick, fluffy, and glossy, but won’t hold a stiff peak.

Rub a bit of the meringue between your fingers. You should feel no grittiness from the sugar.

So, let’s say you used regular table sugar in your meringue. At this stage, you’d still be seeing grains of sugar in your meringue. It’s worth the extra effort to grind your sugar fine, or use superfine.

Can you use confectioners’ sugar? Yes, you can. You need to increase the amount to 1 1/2 cups, and eliminate the cornstarch from the recipe, as it’s already an ingredient in most commercial confectioners’ sugars. Check the label to be sure.

Be absolutely sure to sift your confectioners’ sugar before adding to the egg whites. Little clumps won’t always beat out of the meringue.

Let’s get back to our meringue. Place your pencil-side down parchment on a half sheet baking pan and spoon a large dollop of meringue in the center. Save about 1 1/4 cup of meringue in the bowl for later.

Use an offset or flat spatula to spread the meringue into an even layer over the entire circle.

Don’t worry about a perfectly flat disc. It’s a nearly impossible goal, and the swirls add character and make the meringue look cloud-like.

Spoon the reserved 1 1/4 cups meringue into a piping bag and snip a wide hole. Pipe a rim around the entire disc. You should have enough for 2 rounds.

Smooth the ring to the base with your spatula. This will bake up to a nice edge to hold in your cream and fruit.

Place the pan in the 200°F oven and bake for 1 hour. The meringue will billow up beautifully. Don’t worry about cracks; they’re normal.

At the end of the hour, turn off the heat and leave the pavlova inside the oven to cool for at least another hour, or up to overnight. This helps the last bits of moisture wick away, and leaves your meringue very light and crisp.

The pavlova will color slightly, going from pure white to light beige.

If you’d like to do individual pavlovas, just trace smaller circles on your parchment. The yield you get from one batch will depend on how large you make your pavlovas.

When making smaller discs, it’s easier to pipe your meringue onto your circles. A disposable piping bag or even a zip-top bag with a corner cut off makes this a snap to do.

Use a spoon to form a slight depression in the meringue instead of piping an extra ring.  You can also leave the smaller pavlova flat.

While I was piping away Sue Gray, our test kitchen leader and baker extraordinaire, told me about a friend of hers in New Zealand who said that the traditional Kiwi shape for pavlova is a soft mound, as opposed to the American flat style. This keeps the outside crisp but the inside very soft, fluffy, and moist. There was just enough meringue left over from my last batch to make a small 6″ mound, so into the oven it went.

Here’s the finished large pavlova. You can see it cracked a wee bit too much. Unfortunately my oven fluctuated during the bake, so it was at nearly 300°F for awhile. Fortunately, it will still taste amazing!

Did I mention that this is a light dessert, and that I mean that literally? I weighed the empty shell, and it clocked in at 7 1/4 ounces. Now that’s light!

To fill the pavlova, whip up some sweetened whipped cream and mound it in the center of the disc. It should fill the center and slightly over the inner edge of the ring, but should not overflow onto the sides. About 1 to 1/4 cups of heavy cream should do it.

You can toss your fresh fruits together and pile that on the cream, or you can arrange patterns. With July 4 around the corner, I chose red and blue berries.

A couple of rounds of berry slices…

And some plump blueberries make for a pretty presentation.

If you chose the traditional mounded pavlova, place it in the center of the serving plate.

Cover the outside of the mound with the whipped cream all the way down to the plate.

Arrange your fruits over the entire mound. I really like the height on this style of pavlova.

Inside, you can see that the top 1/2″ of the meringue is crisp, while the center is set but still soft and creamy. It was like eating sweet air that just collapsed in your mouth.

Whatever shape, style, or size pavlova you choose, it will make a stunning presentation at your next party or picnic. Your guests, including vegetarians and those eating gluten-free, will delight in this cloud of crisp, creamy, colorful goodness.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Pavlova.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. "Scrap Lover"

    Stunning summertime dessert. I’ve never made Pavlova, MaryJane. Will have to try this as soon as I recover from my sugar consumption while at KAF the last two days. Thanks for sharing this! -Maryellen
    Thanks girl! It really is very simple, yet so special. Had so much fun with you all these last 2 days. We’ll have to do it again soon. ~ MaryJane

  2. sandra Alicante

    Amy, perhaps my lemon meringue pie recipe is slightly different to some as it only uses 3 tbsp sugar to 3 egg whites but the point I was making is that using the method of allowing the sugar to sit in the egg white with the sugar, I don’t have a problem with weeping- at all, the sugar is fully dissolved (and the sugar here is quite coarse). As for loft, my LMPs are famous among my friends! I merely wondered if the method would work for Pavlova since so many people are scared of making it but presumably in this case the amount of sugar would cause a problem with loft. I’ll have to try it next time I make a pavlova and let you know!

    We ‘re looking forward to the results of your action-research! Sounds like you’ve mastered LMP’s, there are many bakers who envy that skill – so thanks for sharing your tips here. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

  3. annmarie

    I’ve also seen pavlova recipes using vinegar (another acid instead of the lemon), some added before the whipping and some after. The acid makes the inner meringue more “marshmallowy”.
    Yes, some recipes I saw had the vinegar. I decided to stick with the lemon juice, it just “feels” right. 😉 ~ MaryJane

  4. Coco

    I have several question for the pavlova, as for the individual servings that you mentioned in the post, how many inches are they? and how long should i bake the individual servings and the traditional mold? Thank you very much for sharing this recipe! will make it soon!
    Hi Coco,
    You can really make the pavlovas any size you desire. The ones in the post are about 4 inches across. Baking time on that size was about 40-45 minutes. You want to see a very dry surface that just begins to take on color to know that they are done. Hope this helps! ~ MaryJane

  5. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, RJ- BRAZIL

    Mary, here this dessert is a ´must`in some restaurants, specially at major cities like São Paulo. Anna Pavlova, Russian dancer inspired the dessert. Australia and New Zealand evokes the creation of the marvellous.Here we love it with ice cream and Portugal´s Port Wine, sometimes orange or lemon liquor drops.
    Nice post, as everrrrr!
    Hi Ricardo,
    I’ll have to tell my friend Haley, as she will be spending the next year in Brazil. I know she would love it with ice cream and strawberries. Thanks for sharing. ~ MaryJane

  6. Cindy leigh

    Can a flavoring like lemon or almond be added to the meringue? Which would be better, an extract, emulsion, or oil?
    Hi Cindy Leigh,
    Yes, you can absolutely flavor the meringue. You can use any of the above, depending on what you have on hand. I think a light lemon pav with raspberries would be fabu! ~ MaryJane

  7. Leanne Shawler

    I’ll be the first Aussie to weigh in and say the pavlova was an Aussie invention — we Aussies and Kiwis like to bicker over the important things in life 🙂

    I usually make pavlova with a bit of salt and cream of tartar, not cornstarch. Is there a reason for the latter?

    Also, you don’t need to go to the hassle of piping the outer rim, just swirling with your spoon will create enough of an indentation.

    And finally, it doesn’t matter if it cracks, splits in two or weeps. Whipped cream covers it all! My mum (which is where I got my recipe) whips in passionfruit pulp with the cream for some tanginess.
    Hi Leanne,
    Do Aussies and Kiwis bicker over which chocolate vs. vanilla? THAT’S important to me 😉 . For the cornstarch, it’s to stabilize the pav, much like the cream of tartar. I love the idea of whipping some pulp into the cream. I’m picturing a light pink strawberry cream. Mmmmm! ~ MaryJane

  8. ""

    I am a Kiwi and love to make these – I grew up with them all summer long and even in the winter too. I now live in the USA and make these for family get togethers etc. they are always a big hit. I also like to make the small individual size ones and store them in an airtight container and use them over about a week, adding the freshly whipped cream and fruits as I use them. We traditionally put strawberries, kiwifruit, peaches and pineapple on ours at home – any fresh fruit!

    This recipe is slightly different from the one I use but I want to try this one too.
    Hi Angela,
    Thanks for weighing in as a genuine Kiwi, I’m so excited. :). I wondered if pineapple was traditionally added, it’s one of my favorite fruits. Sue Gray lent me a copy of Genevieve Knights book “Pavlova” that is only available in NZ, and I LOVE IT!
    I’m saving my pennies so I can get my own copy before summer is over.
    Let us know how you like the recipe. ~ MaryJane

  9. bakinginoregon

    Great timing for this post. I just had my first ever Pavlova last week on a cruise – loved it! I can’t wait to try this recipe myself. One question – I’ve seen people talk about Chocolate Pavlova – with chocolate in the meringue. Any thoughts on the necessary modifications to this recipe to turn it to chocolate?
    You could try folding in some cocoa powder, though, just like an angelfood cake, this is quite delicate and not so versatile for adding a heavy amount of chocolate. You could try adding some cocoa powder for a little color and a few teaspoons of chocolate extract for a flavor boost. ~Amy


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