Pavlova Is the Nostalgic Dessert You Need Right Now

Light and pillowy, Pavlova will be the dessert that can take you through the decades any time of the year.

August 17, 2022

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Mixed Berry Pavlova

©2012 Food Network

2012 Food Network

Mixed Berry Pavlova

The almighty Pavlova is a showstopping, elegant, yet deceptively simple dessert with hotly disputed origins. Both Australia and New Zealand lay claim to the meringue-based marvel named for the prima ballerina Anna Pavlova.

In 1926, Anna Pavlova toured around Australia and New Zealand, dancing her famed routine “The Dying Swan” with her ballet company. New Zealanders believe that a chef at a hotel in Wellington made the light and ethereal dessert that was inspired by the dancer’s tutu while Aussies claim that it was a Perth hotel chef’s dish that took the name after a diner said it was “light as Pavlova.” However, researchers from the rivaling factions came across a shocking revelation for both sides.

Dr. Andrew Paul Wood and Annabelle Utrecht, a Kiwi and an Australian, discovered the fluffy, marshmallowy meringue cake actually predates both countries claiming its origin. The two discovered recipes that pre-date the ballerina’s tours across the Oceanic countries or even the world! These recipes date back to the 18th century in German speaking countries and feature meringue, cream and fruit. German immigrants brought these recipes to the states, and similar recipes were found in the U.S. and Britain by the latter half of the 1800s.

While the meringue cake may not belong to either country, the dish is the perfect canvas for all your favorite flavors. The torte’s exterior is hardened, taking on a crisp, chewy texture while the interior is light and pillowy, like marshmallow fluff from those elementary school days. Dress it up with a bounty of summer fruit or try your hand at a variation perfect for your spring, the sweet and neutral flavor of the meringue takes well to any flavor you throw at it (and don’t worry, vegan cooks and diners can join in on this Pavlova party, too).

Here are some Pavs that will remind you of some classic favorite treats!

There is no dessert as classic and perfect as the lemon meringue pie. This pavlova ditches the crust and flips the whole thing upside down into miniature form! Billowing mounds of meringue are baked until crisp and chewy then filled with dollops of a zingy, citrusy lemon curd. This is the perfect meeting point for two timeless desserts – and to add to the fun they even look like little sunny side up eggs!


Photo by: Ryan Dausch

Ryan Dausch

What better combination exists than strawberries and cream? It’s the simplest summer dessert that anybody can whip up. Though, chocolate-covered strawberries are certainly a close runner up. I always loved Valentine’s Day growing up when my family would buy little boxes of these chocolate encased, jewel-like berries from the grocery store, lest we make our own. This riff on pavlova’s got the best of both worlds with a chocolatey foundation, and an extra creamy topping for you to enjoy your strawberries whichever way you please.

Citrus Pavlova as seen on Valerie's Home Cooking Gal-entine's Day episode, season 7.

Citrus Pavlova as seen on Valerie's Home Cooking Gal-entine's Day episode, season 7.

Nothing screams nostalgia like an orange creamsicle and this pav has all those vibes. From a dreamy vanilla whipped cream to the decadent orange curd, darling little clementines and grapefruit that adorn this cake, every bite will scream summer and transport you back to those days waiting outside for the ice cream truck.

Iconic doesn’t even begin to describe the red and white swirl of a candy cane or piece of peppermint candy. The vibrant red and stark white are heralds of the holiday season, and this pavlova truly seeks to do it justice. The meringue is perfumed with peppermint and painted with red food coloring, creating stunning crimson streaks on this delicate cake. Crushed candy canes tie the whole dessert together for a showstopping dessert that will make holiday memories for generations.

Photo by: Photograph by Mike Garten

Photograph by Mike Garten

This pavlova might just be all my childhood fantasies come to life. You don’t need to break out the ice cream maker for this banana split, the marshmallowy meringue cake makes a perfect base for this version of the classic dessert. Chopped fruit and hot fudge really transform the blank canvas meringue provides into an “ice cream” sundae worth singing about.

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