Everything you need to know about the pavlova

Where did the name for this delicious summer dessert come from? And where was it invented, Australia or New Zealand? All your important pavlova questions are answered right here.

Pavlova served with strawberries and kiwis.
  • Kaitlyn Palmer-Allen
  • December 2019

While the origins of this deliciously sweet, tart and chewy dessert are hotly debated in Australia and New Zealand, everyone agrees that no Christmas feast is complete without a slice (or two!).

What is a pavlova?

A magnificent meringue-based dessert made from egg whites, caster sugar, cornflour and white vinegar, topped with lashings of whipped cream and a mountain of fresh seasonal fruit.

What is the secret to a great pavlova?

It’s often hidden beneath a blanket of cream and fruity toppings but the cloud-like meringue is what truly separates a good pav from a great one. A real ripper has a deliciously crisp and crunchy shell yet remains soft, chewy and almost marshmallow-like on the inside.

What are the best toppings for a pavlova?

We can’t forget the flavours and fillings. Pavlovas are a versatile dessert and can be dressed up with all sorts of colourful toppings – imagination is key. But the classic choice is whipped cream and fresh fruit such as strawberries, blueberries and kiwifruit. This combination balances the sweetness of the meringue and richness of the cream with the acidity of the sweet-tart fruit.

Pavlova topped with strawberries and whipped cream.
Whipped cream and strawberries are the classic topping for this versatile dessert.

Is this the world’s biggest pavlova?

Pavlovas come in all shapes and sizes. These include the classic plate-sized round, mini one-person pav and large baking-sheet-sized slab. In 2018, a Norwegian chef decided bigger was better, and he and his 35 helpers created an 85-metre-square behemoth that used 4200 egg whites and 800 litres of cream.

How did the pavlova get its name?

The dessert is said to be named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s.

Who invented the pavlova: Australia or New Zealand?

Time-honoured tradition has the Aussies and the Kiwis vying for bragging rights over who created the famed pav. While dates of origin are tossed around (1926 for the Kiwis and 1935 for the Aussies), who made it first remains a sticking point. One thing we can all agree on is you’ll want to go back for more once you’ve cleaned your plate.

Another hotly contested Aussie/Kiwi invention - the flat white. Here's the lowdown on this beloved coffee.