I like to say that eating a pavlova is like eating a sweet cloud. Delightfully light and each bite just melts so perfectly. My first time having a pavlova was made by a good friend who is an absolute pro at commanding egg whites to do her bidding. I actually forgot about pavlovas until just last month. Was inspired to try my first pavlova cake! They might now be my favorite type of cake. 😉
What is a Pavlova?
Fair question since you don’t really see these at bakeries very often. Pavlovas are meringue-based desserts topped with fruit and usually with cream. The meringue is baked to form a crunchy outer layer with a soft, marshmallowy center. Fun fact, this dessert is said to be named after a legendary Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. Though it is most popular in New Zealand and Australia.
The pavlova I made is a cake, layering the baked meringue with whipped cream and a homemade mango curd. Since merginue is basically just sugar and egg whites, the tart mango balances the flavors out perfectly!
Meringue: Not sure who first discovered that if you beat egg whites fast enough and long enough, it turns thick and creamy. For this pavlova I used French meringue, which is the most common. Caster sugar is slowly added into the whipped egg whites while white wine vinegar and cornstarch act as a stablizer/binding agent. If you can’t tell, meringues are quite delicate so they can use extra support.
The meringue layer should technically be the same thickness as layered flour cakes. As you can see, I didn’t quite do that. I kept my layers thin, which means crunchier, aaand wanted to get two cakes out of one batch 😉
TIP: Use a stand mixer. You can definitely make meringue with a hand mixer or even a whisk (arm day!). However, it is so much quicker and easier when the stand mixer can do its thing while you work on the curd or whipped cream.
Cream: Nothing fancy here, just good ole whipped cream. Heavy whipping cream with some powered sugar to sweeten slightly.
Mango Curd: I love fresh lemon curd. I can put it on anything. But this time decided to try another one of my favorite fruits – mango! Tested a recipe from Smitten Kitchen and I was eating the mango curd straight with a spoon! Make sure you get really ripe mangos to get the most flavor. Also, this is best when it is made the night before so it can refigerate and really thicken.
Mango Curd Pavlova Cake
- 6 egg whites
- pinch of salt
- 1-3/4 cups castor sugar
- 3 tsp cornstarch
- 1-1/2 tsp white-wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extra
- 1 large ripe mango – peeled and cut into small chunks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 stick unsalted button
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Prep the baking sheet. On a piece of non-stick baking paper, trace two 7 inch circles on the underside with a marker. Flip right side up and place on a baking sheet. Set aside. If you want thinner meringue, you can make three layers! Just trace another circle on another baking sheet.
- Prep the meringue. Mix the sugar and cornstarch together. In a separate bowl, mix vinegar and vanilla together. Set aside.
- Beat the egg whites. Add the egg whites to the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk it medium. Let it work until it is at soft peak consistency. Don’t know what that means? Found this great image from Food With Feeling that shows you what soft vs firm meringue peaks look like.
- Beat in the sugar. Gradually add in the sugar mixture, one spoonful at a time. Wait 20-30 seconds in between each spoonful to allow the sugar to fully dissolve. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer as you go. Continue beating at highest speed until the meringue forms stiff peaks. If you aren’t sure, beat it for longer just in case. Really important to get the consistency right. Stop mixer and add in the vanilla and vinegar mixer. Mix for a few more seconds until fully combined.
- Shape the meringue. Scoop the meringue onto your baking sheet, dividing the batch into the middle of each 7in circle. Using a spatula, spread the meringue to the edges of the circles. Keep in mind that meringue keeps its shape and size when baked.
- Bake! Put meringues in the oven and immediatley bring the oven temperature down to 250° F. Bake for 60-80 minutes, depending how thick your meringue is. When done, it should be dry and crisp to the touch (though marshmallowy in the middle if you put a skewer through it.)
- Cool the meringue. When done, turn off the oven and leave the door ajar so the meringue can cool slowy. If it cools too fast, it will crack. Move meringues on a cooling rack and let it cool completely, especially if you are making meringue ahead of time! If you store the meringue in a airtight container before it is completely cool, the meringue will soften.
- Assembly the cake. Place a meringue layer down and add a healthy helping of whipped cream. Add spoonfuls of curd, topped with another meringue and repeat. Can top with your favorite fruits. Then grab a fork and enjoy!
Making the Mango Curd (best made the night before)
- Puree the mango. Add the mango, sugar, lime juice and salt into a food processor until well incorporated. Add in the egg yolks and puree until as smooth as possible.
- Strain through a sieve over a bowl, pressing the puree down to get as much juice as possible. Discard the solids.
- Cook the puree. Set a metal/glass bowl over a pot of simmering water (without touching the water) and pour the puree into the bowl. Whisk until the puree thickens, reaching about 170° F (about ten minutes). Remove bowl from the pot and add in the butter, one piece at a time until fully melted.
- Cool the curd. Curd should become thicker in the fridge overnight.
Making the Whipped Cream (best made right before serving)
- Freeze the mixing bowl. Place a metal bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes to chill.
- Whip the cream. Once the bowl has chilled, add in the heavy cream and whisk on low speed. Slowly add in the confectioners sugar a spoonful at a time. Increase speed to high until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla and whisky until fully incorporated.