Thursday, May 26, 2011

Birthday (Angela) Jean

We have a fun little tradition at our office. When it's your birthday, you get to request your favourite cake and someone (usually Ruth) makes it for you. Someone sends a (fake) meeting request, and we all gather around a specified cubicle. Because we're a bunch of nerds, each cubicle is named in honour of its occupant...Playa del Mendez, Chateau Desrosiers, Piazza d'Alessandro etc.

Today was Carol's birthday.

I have been sitting beside Carol for a few months now, and from time to time she shares stories of her world travels. More than once I have heard tales of New Zealand; the hunky tour guide she picked up there, and his mother's Pavlova. I think she liked the Pavlova best. In fact, I have heard the Pavlova story so many times that I thought I should make her one for her birthday.

I have never even heard of Pavlova until Carol's story, so of course I have never made one.

My friends at Wikipedia tell me that:
Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer, Anna Pavolva. It is a cake similar to meringue with a crispy crust and soft light inner. The dessert is believed to have been created in honour of the dancer either during or after one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920's. The dessert is a popular dish and an important part of the national cuisine of both countries, and is frequently served during celebratory meals.

The recipe I decided to use was this one from It seemed quite traditional, and had lots of good reviews. I read several of the comments and took their advice to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe.


  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar (I used about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 6 kiwi, peeled and sliced


  1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw a 9 inch circle on the parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually add in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until thick and glossy. Overbeaten egg whites lose volume and deflate when folded into other ingredients. Be absolutely sure not a particle of grease or egg yolk gets into the whites. Gently fold in vanilla extract, lemon juice and cornstarch.
  3. Spoon mixture inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper. Working from the center, spread mixture toward the outside edge, building edge slightly. This should leave a slight depression in the center.
  4. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. In a small bowl beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form; set aside. Remove the paper, and place meringue on a flat serving plate. Fill the center of the meringue with whipped cream, sweetened if desired. Top whipped cream with kiwifruit slices.
ready to go into the oven
finished baking-light as a feather
One of the secrets of getting perfectly whipped egg whites is to make sure that your bowl and beaters are perfectly clean and dry. You also have to make sure not to let any yolks mix in with your egg whites.

I used silpat liners on my baking sheet instead of parchment paper. The trickiest part of the whole thing was getting the baked meringue from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack and from the cooling rack onto the cake plate. It did crumble a little, but most pavlovas I've seen are a little cracked.
Carol requested that her pavlova be covered in whipped cream, strawberries and kiwis. I'm sure you could shake it up and substitute yogurt or ice cream instead, and any fruit would be fine.

I assembled the cake at work, right before serving.
I think it was a hit with my colleagues. There wasn't a crumb left. But most importantly, the birthday girl was happy!
Happy Birthday, Carol.

1 comment:

  1. This looks fantastic! I can't wait to try the recipe!