Pavlova might be a classic summertime dessert – but an outsized swirl of meringue topped with jewel-bright fruit is an Instagram-friendly dish perfect for winter celebrations, too.
Created in honour of the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in 1926, the pavlova is a joyously easygoing combination of feather-light meringue, fresh cream and seasonal fruit. In the UK, it’s often synonymous with summer parties – yet it’s a go-to festive dessert in Australia and New Zealand, where it’s often served on Christmas Day.
Thanks to their easy adaptability and showstopping aesthetic, pavlovas are an ideal (and extremely photogenic) candidate for holiday entertaining. With that in mind, we’ve three special pavlova recipes to impress your housemates, family, friends and/or Instagram followers this festive season.
James Rich’s fruit pavlova with apple and vanilla cream is a beautiful tiered dessert topped with jewel-toned figs and pomegranate, but can easily be customised with your favourite fruits, too.
Next up, three words we love: chocolate, meringue, cream. Sue Quinn’s chocolate swirl pavlova with cacao nib cream puts them all together, topped with a pretty pink crown of roasted rhubarb.
Lastly, Katherine Bebo’s aquafaba pavlova – featuring coconut cream and crunchy meringue – is 100% vegan. Simply make the “pav” the day before and whip the cream just before serving.
James Rich’s fruit pavlova with apple and vanilla cream
James says: “Pavlova is always a popular treat. I like the fact that you can mix and match the fruit depending on what’s readily available. Heading out into the orchard or on a country walk and picking blackberries to add to the pavlova makes a lovely addition, for example. You could also use pears, plums, cherries, figs… just try it with your favourites.”
Prep: 35 mins, plus cooling
Cook: 45 mins
For the apple and vanilla cream:
- 1 large cooking apple, such as a bramley, peeled, cored and chopped
- 4 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- ½ vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
- 400ml double cream
- zest of ½ lime
For the meringue:
- 6 egg whites
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 350g caster sugar
For the topping:
- selection of fruits: apples, blackberries, pears, plums, figs, pomegranates
- juice of ½ lemon
- mint, finely sliced
- lime zest
To make the apple and vanilla cream, heat the apple, half of the sugar and the water in a pan over a medium heat. Stir until the apple begins to break down, then simmer for 5 minutes until you have a smooth apple sauce. Stir in the vanilla seeds and leave to one side to fully cool.
Whisk the cream and the remaining sugar in an electric mixer until you have stiff peaks. This will take about 5 minutes. Add the lime zest and mix through.
Once the apple sauce is fully cool, lightly stir through the cream. You don’t want to mix it completely; it should have a marbled effect.
To make the meringue, preheat a fan oven to 120°C/gas mark 1 and cut three pieces of baking parchment to fit three baking sheets. Draw a 20cm circle clearly onto each piece of parchment, then turn the paper upside down on the baking sheet; you should still be able to see the circles.
Now make the meringue. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and vinegar on a medium-high speed for a couple minutes.
Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until you have very stiff peaks.
Using a spatula divide the meringue between the three circles and use the back of the spatula to spread the meringue into even discs that fill the circles.
Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until firm.
Turn the oven off and leave the oven door ajar to allow the meringues to cool and harden in the oven. This will take about 1 hour 30 minutes.
To assemble the pavlova, slice and prepare your chosen fruit. For the apples, slice with the skins on and soak in some cool water with the lemon juice for a few minutes so that they keep their colour. Drain before adding to the other fruit.
Just before serving, place one meringue disc on a cake stand and spread a third of the apple cream on top. Then add a third of the fruit.
Top with the next meringue disc, spread a third of the cream and another third of the fruit. Finally repeat with the last of the ingredients. Garnish with mint and lime zest, then serve.
From Apple: Recipes from the Orchard by James Rich (£20, Hardie Grant), out now
Sue Quinn’s chocolate swirl pavlova with roasted rhubarb and cacao nib cream
Sue says: “Australia and New Zealand may bicker over where pavlova was invented, but it certainly played a starring role in celebratory meals when I was growing up in Sydney.
“This version of the classic meringue-topped-with-fruit-and-cream dessert is gloriously gooey and, to be honest, a little messy. The crisp meringue conceals a decadent heart of oozing chocolate, and the rhubarb provides a tangy counterpoint to all the richness.”
- 150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
- 4 large egg whites
- 200g caster sugar
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
For the cream:
- 300ml double cream
- 2 tbsp cacao nibs
For the rhubarb:
- 250g rhubarb, cut into thumb-sized pieces
- 40g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 120°C/gas mark ½. On a sheet of baking paper, mark out a circle roughly 20cm in diameter using a plate or pan lid as a guide. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Remove the bowl from the pan and set aside to cool to lukewarm or room temperature.
In a scrupulously clean bowl with electric beaters or in a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Gradually add the sugar and salt, beating constantly, until thick and glossy. It’s crucial that the mixture is very stiff.
Pour the cooled chocolate over the meringue – don’t stir or beat it in. Scoop the mixture into the circle marked out on the baking paper to make a neat round, retaining some swirls of chocolate in the meringue. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes until crisp on the outside.
Meanwhile, make the cacao nib cream. Pour 120ml of the cream into a small pan and add the cacao nibs. Bring almost to the boil, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to infuse and cool.
When the meringue is cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 200°C /gas mark 6.
Place the rhubarb pieces in a baking dish, add the sugar and toss together, then spread out in a single layer.
Cover with foil and roast for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender but still holding its shape.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Strain the cooled infused cream and discard the nibs. Whip the remaining cream until it barely holds its shape, then stir in the infused cream.
To assemble the pavlova, top the meringue with the cream and then the rhubarb and any pan juices, and serve immediately.
From Cocoa: An Exploration Of Chocolate, With Recipes by Sue Quinn (£25, Quadrille), out now
Katherine Bebo’s aquafaba pavlova with fresh fruit
- 150g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornflour
- a pinch of salt
- liquid from 1 x 400g can of no-added-salt organic chickpeas, chilled in the fridge overnight
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 x 400g can full-fat coconut milk, cooled in the fridge overnight
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 220g mixed prepared fresh fruit
- icing sugar for dusting (optional)
- a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper
Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2.
Place a large mixing bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to make it extra cold. In another bowl, combine the sugar, arrowroot (or cornflour) and salt.
In the large chilled bowl, put the chilled aquafaba liquid and vinegar and beat with an electric hand mixer or in a stand mixer at medium speed for about 2–4 minutes until soft peaks begin to form, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
While still mixing, start adding the sugar mixture, one spoonful at a time. When all the sugar has been added, beat for about 3–6 minutes until stiff, glossy peaks form. Add the vanilla and beat for another 10 seconds.
Tip the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and form into a 20cm-wide circle using a rubber spatula. Leave space around the edges, as it will spread a bit.
Put in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 120°C/gas mark ½. Bake for 1 ½–2 hours until the outer shell is hardened when you tap it.
Meanwhile scoop out the hardened coconut cream from the top of the can (reserving the coconut water for something else) and put the cream in the chilled mixing bowl.
Whip for 1–2 minutes using an electric hand mixer until light and smooth. Add the maple syrup and vanilla and whip again to combine for about 1 minute more. Set aside.
Turn off the oven and let the pavlova cool completely inside the closed oven. When ready to serve, top with the coconut whipped cream, fruit and icing sugar, if using.
From Big Night In: Delicious Themed Menus to Cook & Eat at Home by Katherine Bebo (£14.99, Ryland Peters & Small), out now
Photography: Ryland Peters & Small; Jacqui Melville; Yuki Sugiura