Pavlova is a popular dessert in Australia and New Zealand, and this pavlova wreath gives it a festive twist. The combination of meringue, cream and fruit is one delicious and impressive dessert - so good it would work any time.
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This year I know the festive season may be a little unusual for many, including us, but in our case that's mainly because we're in Australia rather than our usual US home. Here, being the Southern Hemisphere, the festive season falls in the middle of summer rather than winter.
I'll admit, I'm finding it a little strange having my little one sing Christmas songs as we're walking around in short sleeves, but we're ready to roll with it and enjoy something different.
While some people here opt for a roast of some kind for their festive meal, many people instead enjoy cold cuts and salad, along with food cooked on the grill.
As a firm favorite in general, pavlova is a common festive dessert choice. Yes, you need to bake it, but otherwise it's a great choice for warmer weather. You can partly prepare it ahead and especially made into a wreath like this, it's more than ready to take pride of place on the table.
What is pavlova?
The mixture for pavlova is essentially a meringue made with egg white and sugar, whipped together. However unlike meringues, instead of drying the whole way through, it is cooked for a shorter time so the inside remains soft. The result is a crisp shell and a slightly chewy, marshmallow-like middle.
You can decorate this dessert in various ways, but the classic way is topped with whipped cream and fruit. In most cases, it's made as one relatively high cake-like round (like my pavlova with raspberries). But it can be made as thinner rounds to make a layered dessert, or in a different shape such as a wreath like this.
For me, it's one of my favorite desserts so I'm happy to enjoy it any form it comes.
Where is pavlova from?
You'd think that may be easy, but it's one hotly disputed question. Pavlova is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, but after that, the origins become less clear. She toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926 during the height of her career. Both countries lay claim to the dessert being created to honor her visit.
In reality, though, it seems that probably neither are correct. A pair of researchers investigated the origins not so long ago and shared some of this in a Good Food article. They found a number of dishes that have a lot of similarity created earlier in Germany, in particular, and also in the US by German immigrants.
Origins aside, though, it has been firmly adopted in both Australia and New Zealand, though with slight variations. In Australia, passion fruit is a favorite topping (I have been pleased to find they're a popular fruit in general!). In New Zealand, meanwhile, cream and kiwi fruit are more popular.
Tips for perfect pavlova
- Make sure you don't have any traces of yolk in the egg whites before you beat them or they won't whip up properly.
- Whip the egg whites so that they form stiff peaks before you add the sugar.
- Add the sugar gradually, a little at a time, then add the other ingredients.
As mentioned, the basic mixture for this dessert is pretty simple, being egg whites and sugar. Then there are a couple additions: vanilla, an acid (typically vinegar or cream of tartar) and cornstarch.
The cornstarch helps the texture, particularly to get that fluffy inside. Then the acid helps to hold up the pavlova's shape and save it collapsing. Vanilla is purely for flavor.
The key to cooking the pavlova is low and slow. If your oven tends to run hot, cook it even lower than the temperature here (anywhere in the 250-300F/120 - 150C range is good).
Then, let it cool gradually by leaving it in the oven after you turn the oven off.
Forming the wreath shape
To make the wreath shape, if you like you can draw a circle on the underside of the parchment to help guide you. Alternatively, fold the paper slightly in half both ways to form a cross shape in the middle, to help guide you in forming the ring. Make sure you leave enough of a gap in the middle as it will expand slightly as it bakes.
See how it comes together in the short video!
The wreath shape will cook slightly faster than a round since there is more surface area, so either be aware the middle will be a little more chewy or cook on the lower end of the time range.
You can make the pavlova a day or two ahead and then just store it at room temperature, ideally in slightly cool, dry conditions. Just cover it with an upturned plastic box or put it in a large plastic food bag.
You are best to leave adding the cream and fruit until shortly before serving, however. The cream will soften the meringue and the fruit can leak color into the cream as well. However it doesn't take long to decorate, then you are ready to enjoy.
This pavlova wreath is a relatively easy dessert that everyone is sure to love (plus it's gluten free, as a bonus). It's elegant, beautiful and a delicious end to any meal.
Try these other favorite desserts:
- Banoffee pie (a tasty mix of pastry crust, dulce de leche caramel, banana and cream)
- Tarta de Santiago (almond cake, also gluten free and very easy)
- Mango passion fruit Eton mess (similar theme to this, but even easier)
- Plus get more dessert recipes in the archives.
For the pavlova
- 2 egg whites large
- ½ cup sugar 100g
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon white wine vinegar can also use red wine or rice vinegar
- ½ cup heavy cream 120ml, or whipping cream
- ½ kiwi fruit
- 2 strawberries or 3 if smaller
- 8 blueberries approx
- 1 passion fruit
- Preheat the oven to 300F/150C, with a rack in the lower third, and line a baking sheet/tray with parchment paper that's at least 9 inches square (if you like, draw an 8in circle on the bottom in pencil to help guide the shape or mark the middle).
- Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff peaks - the way to know if they are stiff enough is if you try to tip the bowl, if they slide they are not stiff enough, if they don't, they are fine. Avoid beating beyond this point as you may over-beat.
- Gradually add the sugar roughly 1tbsp at a time, beating in after each addition, until it is all added and the mixture is glossy and still forms peaks.
- Add the vanilla, cornstarch and vinegar, whisk in then turn the mixture out into the middle of the parchment-lined tray. Form a ring about 8 inches in diameter (outside edge to outside edge) with a hole of around 3 inches in diameter in the middle.
- Bake in the preheated oven, in the middle of the oven, for approximately 40-50 minutes until it is lightly golden and dry to touch. It will seem crisp when touched (although be gentle so you don't break it). Turn off the oven and leave the pavlova inside with the door closed for a further 1 hour, approx, or you can leave it longer if you wish. This will help avoid it sinking and cracking.
- Up to around 2 hours before serving, carefully remove the parchment from the bottom of the pavlova and place on a serving plate.
- Peel the kiwi and cut into slices, and cut each slice in quarters. Trim the end off the strawberries, cut in half then slice.
- Whip the cream until lightly whipped (soft peaks) the spoon a layer of cream over the middle of the ring of the pavlova. If possible, try to stop it dripping down the side too much but it's OK if it does a bit.
- Decorate with the fruit - it's often easiest to place the blueberries at even intervals around the ring then fill in the gaps with the strawberry and kiwi slices. Finish by spooning passion fruit over the top. Cut in slices to serve - it may well crack as you slice but just try to use the cracks as your slices.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
I first shared the recipe for Christmas pavlova wreath on Curious Cuisiniere where I am a contributor.