Perfect Pavlova

Merry Christmas everyone!  

Ha! Fooled ya!

Don't you wish it was Christmas? I do - hot summer days and barbecues! Well, at least for us Kiwis.

I first posted this recipe back in 2013. It was quite light on the instructions and the pictures so I thought I'd update it and provide you with my updated tips and tricks on to how make the perfect pavlova.  

Pavlova is a New Zealand national dish (even though the Australians like to claim it as their own), it was developed in New Zealand.  We love to eat pavlova - we use any excuse/opportunity to enjoy it and really, it's very easy to make - if you know the tricks.

In fact, I'm using updating this post as an excuse to make one!

Hey, don't judge - it's cheat day!

Egg Whites

These need to be at room temperature. In fact, I never refrigerate my eggs. They are used up way too quickly in my house to ever go bad.

Separate the eggs and save the egg yolks to make custard (that's what I do.)

You can beat the eggs whites by hand, if you are a muscle man!

Over the years I've experimented with this a lot, as how you beat the eggs will determine the success of your pavlova. You won't believe it, but until about 10 years ago, my pavlovas were at best, hit and miss. Now they look like this one every time.

What I've learned:

When I use my Kenwood, I beat the eggs for a lot less time as it's so powerful. I have to watch very closely as it's really easy to overbeat the eggs. If they start to look dry, then stop beating them immediately!

When I use my hand beater, it takes longer but I can judge more easily when they are ready.


Castor sugar is vital! It will work better than standard granulated sugar. It needs to 'melt' into the egg whites so the fine castor sugar will do this more quickly. If you don't have castor sugar, you can pop your sugar into a food processor and give it a quick blat to chop up the granules and make it finer. Be careful though, otherwise you'll have icing sugar!

Some people add the sugar slowly, some people add the sugar all at once. I've tried both methods and, to be honest, I don't think it really makes a difference.

What you are looking for after you add the sugar is a nice glossy mixture which holds nice stiff peaks.

I always do the finger test - take a tiny amount between your forefinger and thumb and move back and forth. If you can feel the sugar, keep beating. It's OK to feel a little, just not the hard granules.

Cornflour / Cornstarch and Vinegar

In New Zealand it's called cornflour, in the US and Canada it's called cornstarch. Whatever you call it, it's a white powder that feels kind of squeaky in your hand.

The cornflour and vinegar work together to help stabilise the beaten egg whites and prevent them from completely drying out in the oven.

In this recipe I mix the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla together in a small bowl. Sometimes, this may go really hard (seize) but just keep mixing it and it will sort itself out. It's not essential that you mix them together prior to adding them to the mix - I just do this because it's easier to pop them into a small bowl why the eggs are beating, then add to the beaten egg whites/sugar mixture.

A Word About Vinegar and Gluten Free Pavlova

There is conflicting information about whether vinegar contains gluten - I suggest that you do your own research and figure out if it upsets you and make your own decision.  I have always been able to use white vinegar without it affecting me - the choice is yours. If you have any doubts, substitute it with lemon juice. Basically, you need the acid to stabilise the egg whites and prevent them from drying out too much.

Vanilla Essence

What can I say! Vanilla Essence is one of the best ingredient in the World! Good quality Vanilla Essence that is.

If you don't have any Vanilla Essence on hand, or feel like a change, switch it up with some Peppermint Essence. This is particularly good if you choose to use chocolate shavings as your topping.

Beating the Mixture

It may seem like a no brainer - you beat the egg whites and the sugar, add the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla and you're done. That's true, BUT, the beating makes the difference between a wonderful high pavlova that doesn't crack and a flat chewy pavlova. My Mum used to make those!

So here's what I can tell you:

The tool you're using (hand beater or stand mixer) will dictate how long to beat. My Kenwood stand mixer is very quick so I have to watch it carefully to ensure I don't overbeat the whites.

Watch closely - don't overbeat, but don't underbeat either - you're looking for a firm glossy mixture that holds peaks.

Test whether the sugar is dissolved properly by taking a small amount between your forefinger and thumb and rubbing them together - if it's grainy, it's not done.

The mixture should be lovely and glossy and hold good firm peaks.

Forming the Shape

I like mine tall - my pavlova, not my men (have to say that - my husband is quite short).

I draw a 22cm circle on a piece of baking (silicone) paper. This small cake pan is the perfect size. I use that as a template to shape my pavlova.

Place this on a cold flat baking tray.

First just dump the mixture into the circle, then, using a flat spatula or knife, spread it to fill the circle. I use the spatula vertically, moving around the circle to get the sides nice and flat.

Once you have it evenly spread and nice and tall, make the top flat. Basically, at this stage, you want it to look like a cake.

Next, grab a spoon and use the end of the handle to make some swirls around the outside of the top to form a raised rim. This gives you a little lip to stop the toppings falling off.


Whipped cream - no sugar added. It always surprises me that people add sugar to cream when they whip it. Maybe I just don't have a sweet enough tooth - oh wait - that's not right. I just don't like sugar in my cream.

Pavlova is sweet enough - you really don't need to add more sugar but if you must - go for it.

What you put on top of that cream is unlimited really. When I make Pavlova in summer I usually use some type of fruit - usually berries - strawberries and raspberries work great. Don't use frozen berries for this - they just won't work as well.

If you don't have berries, here's some suggestions:

  • Kiwifruit
  • Chocolate shavings
  • Sprinkles of any description
  • Passon fruit

I'm sure you can come up with some other wonderful ideas as well. Let me know in the comments section what you've tried.

One word of warning though - keep it simple. I was watching a video the other day of a man making pavlova - he added mango, passionfruit and coconut shavings. Not only did it look messy, I thought the mix of flavours was too complex. Also, his pavlova was flat and all cracked (what I would consider a fail but I'm not judging).

So, my best advice for toppings is choose one and use a lot. Pile those berries high!



  • 4 egg whites (use the yolks to make custard)
  • 1 ¼ cups castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (or lemon juice for gluten free)
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour (aka cornstarch)


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Using an electric beater, beat egg whites and sugar for 10 minutes or until thick and glossy.  Mix the vinegar, vanilla and cornflour together in a small bowl.  Add to the meringue mixture.  Beat again, ensuring the mixture holds firm peaks and passes the finger test.  Line an oven tray with baking paper.  Draw a 22cm circle on the paper as a guide of the size you want the pavlova to be.  Spread the pavlova within about 2cm of the edge of the circle, keeping the shape as even as possible.   Smooth the surface then take the handle end of a spoon and make little circles all around the outside (making little peaks).  

Place the pavlova in the oven and turn it down to 100 degrees celsius.  Bake for 1 hour.  Turn off the oven and leave the pavlova in the oven until it's entirely cool.  

Once it's cool, take it out of the oven and pile it high with whipped cream and strawberries (or kiwifruit, or chocolate sprinkles - whatever you like). For a dairy free option, use whipped coconut cream.


  • Beat it till you think it's done and then beat it for at more and then some.  The success comes with the beating.
  • Having said that, the mixture should not appear dry. I can't explain it but you'll know if you see it.
  • Leave the pavlova in the oven all night to cool.  
  • Try not to peek into the oven (open the door) while it's cooking.  Trust it.
  • Leave it out of the fridge when it's cooked for as long as you can (until you add the toppings) as the moisture is the pavlova's enemy.
  • Wait to add the cream and toppings until the last minute - the moisture from the cream will make the top of the pavlova soft and you want it to be crispy.
  • Once the cream is on, pile the top with strawberries, raspberries or shaved chocolate or all three!
  • If you want some extra tuition watch this Delia Smith lesson on using eggs.  It also shows you how to make the yummiest custard for trifle (another NZ Christmas must) with the egg yolks.
  • Most importantly, cross your fingers and toes.  Don't be fooled by the appearance when it's first cooked, it will crack a little as it cools down.

September 5, 2020