For many years, a family friend whipped up an over-the-top dessert party to celebrate their Valentine’s Day wedding anniversary. While most of the table was weighted down with something chocolate, always holding court at one end of the table was a large platter of baked meringue, topped with whipped cream, and fresh berries – a Pavlova. Named for a Russian ballerina, but first created ‘on tour’ in Australia or New Zealand (if you must pick your battles, this isn’t one), the dessert is one sure to take center stage. And it’s easy, fun to finish, and not messy. It’s also a great way to use those egg whites left over from any ‘yolks only’ dishes. Let’s whip one up!


For the meringue base:
3-4 large egg whites, at room temperature (see NOTES
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 
3/4 cup sugar, preferably caster sugar, if available (see NOTES)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (see NOTES)

For the topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar, preferable caster sugar, if available (see NOTES)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/12 teaspoon vanilla extract (see NOTES)
Fresh berries (see NOTES)


For the meringue base:
Separate one egg at a time into a small bowl, letting the white fall into the bowl and putting the yolks aside for some other use. If there’s any trace of yolk in the white, discard the white (or save the whole egg for scrambled eggs the next day) and start over. If it’s yolk-free, transfer to your clean mixing bowl. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
Add cream of tartar to the whites and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar has been added. Continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy. Add the vanilla and beat for 30 seconds more.
Position racks in the middle of the oven; preheat to 200°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a flexible spatula, scoop the meringue from the bowl, and starting in the middle of the parchment, spread the meringue into a round shape, about 8-10″ across, leaving a depression in the middle.
Bake until dry and crisp throughout, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the meringue cool to room temperature, about 15-20 minutes. If the day is particularly humid, leave them it the oven with the door slightly ajar until it’s cool.

For the topping:
Once the meringue is cool, place the whipping cream in the chilled bowl of your stand mixer (with whisk attachment), and start whipping. Once the whipping cream has become stiffer and more voluminous, add the sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla, and continue whipping until it’s really holding its shape, but not too, too stiff.
Spread the whipped cream over the meringue, staying within the boundary of the depression.
Cover the whipped cream with fresh berries, and you’re ready to go!


This recipe is just a guide. You can adjust quantities based on the number of egg whites you have on hand, and you’ll find the recipe very forgiving with the exception that you want nothing containing fat to get into the mix. That’s why you see it recommended that you crack and separate your eggs into separate bowls before introducing egg whites in any recipe where they are going to be whipped into peaks.

I have used measure-for-measure artificial sweeteners before, with no negative impact on the result.

Caster sugar is a very finely granulated sugar, close to, but not powdered. It incorporates more readily into egg whites and avoids a meringue or whipped cream that appears granular.

While vanilla is the traditional flavor, depending on the berry topping, you might want to use almond, or some other. Regardless, you don’t want to use any flavoring that is oily (like orange or lemon oil), as this will keep your meringue from ever doing what you want meringue to do. It won’t, however, negatively impact the whipping cream.

Traditionally, it’s strawberries and blueberries, but raspberries and blackberries like to be included, as well. Cherries (a fruit, not a berry – but you knew that) work well; and sliced kiwi fruit add a change to the color palette.

A citrus array would work – orange, tangerine, pineapple – but you want to drain the fruit before applying, of you might get rivulets of juice running and ruining. Add some coconut and a few maraschino cherries and you’ve got a somewhat Southern take – ambrosia.

The Pavlova pictured above was made for a holiday event. As you can see, the meringue was formed into a wreath shape, with a trench all around. The trench was filled with the whipped cream, and the whole was topped with a mixture of cranberry sauce (fresh, or canned that you’ve heated to soften) and fresh raspberries (added to the softening cranberry sauce), garnished with springs of mint.

When fresh cherries were in season (and you could use frozen other times), this smaller Pavlova – serving for two, perhaps – was made using fresh, pitted cherries and shaved bittersweet chocolate.

A smaller, closer to bite-sized version of the Pavlova just above, this was created by piping the meringue into a cup. the cup was filled with whipped cream, topped with a single pitted fresh cherry, and dressed with shaved bittersweet chocolate.

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