The Past of the Pavlova

The Namesake of my Novel has an interesting History!

With a book called, ‘Oh What A Pavlova!’ and an author blog to boot, naturally I just had to write a post about this delicious and somewhat unique dessert.

It’s hugely popular in Australia and New Zealand, but did you know how it came to get its name in the first place? Well, it was actually titled after one Anna Pavlova, the Russian ballerina, and appears to have been invented in her honour around the time of a dance tour to either country back in the 1920s… making it almost 100 years old.

*I feel a celebratory National Pavlova Day coming on in approximately three years!*

But the meringue based dessert, as is often the case with all things culinary, has some competition when it comes to its origin, with Australia and New Zealand often battling it out – in a friendly way, one would hope! – for ownership. In fact, in 2008, author Helen Leach went as far as to publish ‘The Pavlova Story: A Slice of New Zealand’s Culinary History’, an action speaking louder than perhaps her words. Yet since then, historians have also found links to the pudding having potentially been created in the USA, in an attempt to recreate a German recipe of earlier times.

I think just about the only thing we can all agree on is it is absolutely irresistible!

A traditional pavlova should have a meringue base with a crisp crust and a soft fluffy middle bit. It is typically finished off with whipped cream and fruit such as berries and/or kiwi. Unsurprisingly, it remains hugely popular today in both New Zealand and Australia, particularly for celebrations such as Christmas and holidays, perhaps in part because it is so easy to assemble.


In its honour, here is an equally simple recipe:


  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the real stuff tastes infinitely better)
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 475ml whipping cream, whipped up and ready to go
  • 1 mug full of mixed berries (but you can substitute for whatever is in season/whatever takes your fancy!)


  1. Switch the oven on to 150 C / Gas mark 2. Pop some baking parchment on a baking tray. Draw a circle of approx 23cm on the parchment.
  2. Beat the egg whites in a large mixing bowl until they are stiff – but do go careful not to overdo this as they could dry out! Add the sugar, little by little, beating continuously until the mixture has thickened up and is looking glossy. Carefully fold in the lemon juice, vanilla extract and cornflour.
  3. Next it’s time to spoon the mixture inside the circle on your parchment, spreading it towards the outer edge a little. If this is done correctly, it should leave you with a slight depression in the centre (of the pudding that is!)
  4. Now pop it in the oven for about an hour and once it is ready and the little peaks look stiff, bring it out and cool it on a wire rack.
  5. Here comes the fun bit: put the meringue on a plate and fill the centre with whipped cream, then top with fruit.

But rules are absolutely there to be broken, so feel free to jazz this up in any way you like. You could drizzle with chocolate sauce, top with caramel and banana, sweeten your whipped cream, add a little honey. The variations are endless. The most important thing is to enjoy!


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