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Tuesday 6th February 2007

Pavlova - or “how to lose friends and influence people”!

Today is February 6th, and that means “Waitangi Day”, a day off and the closest thing we Kiwi’s get to a National “New Zealand Day”, so naturally it makes sense to celebrate with a Uniquely Kiwi Dessert!


Yes that’s right…

The Mighty Pavlova!


There ain’t one thing “true blue” or “Aussie” about this dessert… it’s all KIWI! Plainly put, the Pavlova ‘debate’ has always been the bigger guy on the left (Aus) thinking he can steal our, the little guy’s (NZ) lunch. Now come on, how pathetic is that, really?!

It’s time for the facts!

It was only just down the road from my place, in Rangiora (North Canterbury) where an authentic recipe for Pavlova was published in 1933, 2 years before the first Australian claim.


The recipe was submitted by a Laurina Stevens for the Rangiora Mother’s Union Cookery Book, it was called “Pavlova” - the correct name, the recipe was for one large cake and contained the correct ingredients, egg white, sugar, cornflour, and vinegar, and it had the correct method for cooking. This has been proven thanks to the research of Professor Helen Leach, of the University of Otago’s anthropology department. Prof Leach also uncovered a 1929 pavlova recipe in a New Zealand rural magazine which had the correct ingredients and correct method of cooking, however it was unfortunately published under a pseudonym.

In truth many New Zealand rural cookbooks featured Meringue or “Pavlova like” Cakes during the later 1920’s and early 1930’s, whereas they apparently didn’t really start appearing in Australian Cookbooks until the 1940’s.

The Australians’ earliest claim to the Pavlova, is based on a cake Chef Herbert Sachse baked at Perth’s (Western Australia) Esplanade Hotel in 1935. He presented this “new” cake, which he named Pavlova, “because it was as light as Pavlova.” However, in 1973, Sachse stated in a magazine interview that he sought to improve the Meringue Cake recipe that he found in the Womens Mirror Magazine on April 2, 1935. That recipe was contributed by a New Zealander! Recently in desperation, Sachse’s Australian descendants have been clutching at straws inferring that he may have come up with the recipe earlier than that, since Anna Pavlova visited several years earlier - so does that mean he was lying in that 1973 interview?

Perhaps you can understand it kinda erks me a little as a proud Kiwi, when I purchased “Rick Stein’s Food Heroes” book and saw he’s also one of the many who has been misguided and called Pavlova “an Australian dessert.” IT’S NOT!

There is one thing we can agree on, though, that it is named after after Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian ballerina who toured both Australia and New Zealand in 1926 and Australia again in 1929.


Kiwis not only have claim to this dessert, we actually make most of them, and ours are naturally better than Australian forgeries bearing the same name. But to be perfectly honest, it’s my Auntie Yvonne who makes THE BEST one!

I’ve heard, through I admit only ‘hearsay’, that apparently only few Australians can make pavs. Well, I know very few Kiwis who can’t!

Here in NZ they feature at every pot luck meal, BBQ and summer or winter celebration. However, I hear you usually have to go to a restaurant and pay through the nose to experience one in Australia. It’s no surprise then, that Ex-pat Kiwis living in Australia come home to Mum’s Pav!


Another thing. I’m not sure how, why or when this started, but I’m seeing this more and more internationally and again it’s rather irritating … you just can’t call any baked egg white and sugar dessert a Pavlova! That is a no no. I’m afraid any old meringue variation is just not a “Pavlova”. To be a true KIWI Pavlova you MUST include vinegar in your recipe and the result MUST be crusty on the outside, yet soft and marshmallowy on the inside.

If, sadly, you overcooked yours, or let it dry out, well I’m sorry but all you have now is just a plain old large meringue! We didn’t invent meringue, so please don’t call it a Pavlova!


Of course you can garnish and top your delicious, crunchy on the outside, marshmallowy on the inside Kiwi Pavlova, with whatever you like. Whipped cream and kiwifruit (known as Chinese Gooseberries in the 1920’s - oops did we steal that one?!) are very traditional, as they were said to represent the green silk cabbage roses that draped the tutu Anna Pavlova wore during her performances during the 1926 tour of New Zealand and Australia. Berries are a natural choice and my personal favourite as seen here, but passionfruit, pineapple or mangoes are all good choices too.

Pavlova come in many sizes. You can make 6 or 8 and even the legendary 12 egg white Pav is common. However, a Pavlova really doesn’t keep well after it has been creamed and garnished - it will start to weep, the cream will turn ‘hard’ and it also tends to take on any strong flavours from your fridge. I therefore prefer to make a smaller 4 egg white recipe for our family. You can easily double the recipe if you’re feeding a crowd, or you’re feeling extra indulgent.

Finally, if anyone (Australian) feels the need to dispute the information in this post, forget it! I’m right… you ARE wrong! Get over it! It’s my blog! Go pick on someone your own size! Get yourself a cuppa and a Lamington (or a Tim Tam!) and calm yourself down. After all, I didn’t totally humiliate you by bringing up Phar Lap or Crowded House … oops!

Besides, I have total editorial control and the power to moderate and even edit (evil laugh) all my comments - so personally I wouldn’t waste your time arguing with me! hehe (gentler but still pretty evil manic laugh)


My sources:


To recreate the delicious All Kiwi Pav you see here you will need…

  • Pavlova!
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 ¼ cup of castor sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of cornflour (aka: corn starch / wheaten starch)
  • 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
  • 300 ml / ½ pints of cream, softly whipped
  • Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries
  • White chocolate curled with a peeler
  • Icing sugar to dust
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  2. Beat the egg whites to a foam, add the salt and beat until soft peaks form which fold over when the beater is removed.
  3. Slowly beat in the castor sugar a little at a time.
  4. Keep beating until the mixture is stiff and the peaks stand strong when the beater is removed.
  5. Lastly add the cornflour and vinegar and just mix until just combined.
  6. Line an oven tray with baking / silcon paper.
  7. Spread the meringue into approximately a 20cm circle, smooth the top flat or swirl with a spoon if desired.
  8. Lower the heat and bake in a cool 80°C oven for 1 to 1½ hours.
  9. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven overnight to cool completely.
  10. Just before serving top your pav with softly whipped cream and decorate with a selection of berries, or other fruits, white chocolate curls and icing sugar.
  11. Serves 4 to 6


Enjoy this gorgeous All Kiwi Creation!


  1. Have I died and am I now in heaven? Bron this looks totally heavenly. I’m not going to get into the Kiwi-Aussie discussion but I will take the recipe of this dessert down. Thank you!

    Meeta — Tuesday 6th February 2007 8:04 pm

  2. Bring it on !! I’ve been telling this to Australians for years but noone believes me… mind you, I don’t think they’ll believe me now either, I think it’s a subject that has ascended to the realms of theological significance on both sides of the trench.

    Still, one thing I can testify is that my Mum does indeed make the worlds greatest Pavlova… to the point where I have never bothered trying to compete.

    Yours does look lovely though Bron, except I think you need some Kiwi fruit slices on top for true patriotic expression :)

    Love your work.

    Matt — Tuesday 6th February 2007 9:53 pm

  3. oh my. that is a very proud and majestic pavlova if i’ve ever seen one. once again you’ve out done yourself, bron! not too many desserts actually make me salivate at first site, but i’ll admit it. this one has me craving something sweet!

    amanda — Tuesday 6th February 2007 11:10 pm

  4. Wow, what a gorgeous Pavlova! We have them in Southern Africa too, but we know they’re a kiwi thing!

    Ash — Tuesday 6th February 2007 11:38 pm

  5. Hi Bron,
    your Pavlova simply look amazing.
    As a soon-to-be-kiwi, I can only agree with you and say that pav is from NZ :)

    - fanny

    fanny — Wednesday 7th February 2007 12:09 am

  6. Goodness that is beautiful…be perfect in the summer up here…not when it is 15 degrees (F) :)

    Jeff — Wednesday 7th February 2007 2:41 am

  7. I don’t care who invented it, I’m just glad someone brought it all the way to Canada so that I could eat it!

    Brilynn — Wednesday 7th February 2007 4:30 am

  8. Well, I’m convinced it’s from New Zealand now! But to be honest, when food looks that good, it could be from anywhere and I would eat it with abandon!

    Freya — Wednesday 7th February 2007 5:16 am

  9. Bron - My heart is stirring with pride. What a great post! Great patriotic text, “correct” recipe, and beautiful photos. My fave topping is the tart combination of kiwifruit and passionfruit. Though I’m not ready to leave the States yet, well, not ready to temporarily separate from my partner (due to pursuing my masters, not anything else!), one of the things I’m looking forward to upon returning to NZ is indeed my mum’s perfect pav. Cheers!

    Shaun — Wednesday 7th February 2007 5:28 am

  10. Hi Bron! Wow, is this ever gorgeous! Thanks for the background information on the origins of the beloved pavlova!

    gilly — Wednesday 7th February 2007 7:08 am

  11. wow is about the only word i can muster right now. i’m too distracted by your photos!

    Linda, The Village Vegetable — Wednesday 7th February 2007 10:53 am

  12. You do know I’m an Australian Bron! Check out Janet’s post on the subject of the pav.

    Actually I don’t really care about the Pav debate but the Crowded House one really gets me. The band had it’s beginnings in Melbourne so doesn’t it make it an Australian band with a NZ member? Hehe.

    But as an Aussie would say “Bloody brilliant Pav, Mate”

    barbara — Wednesday 7th February 2007 11:09 am

  13. Hi Bron,
    My Kiwi hubby will be so pleased when he comes home to a lovely KIWI pav tonight.

    Thanks for the recipe it looks marvellous.

    Whistler Canada

    Paula — Wednesday 7th February 2007 11:44 am

  14. Wow! I am hoping if I stare at the screen long enough, this Pavlova is come to life in front of me - with a fork. Thanks for this!

    Chris — Wednesday 7th February 2007 12:35 pm

  15. Hello Bron - A great post, and am only too happy to be corrected on my recent posting on the Pavlova. Nationalistic feelings must not stand in the way of accurate history!. I have posted an update, and linked to your post. I’ll be a regular reader of your blog from now on.

    The Old Foodie. — Wednesday 7th February 2007 12:52 pm

  16. Way to kick ass, Bron. I didn’t realize Pavlova inflamed such passions in the antipodes. Wow! Nonetheless, I’m thrilled to see this dish. It has a certain significance for me, because it was one of the first dishes my wife ever made especially for me. Thanks for rekindling some wonderful memories.

    rob — Wednesday 7th February 2007 1:34 pm

  17. Bron! This looks divine!! Beautiful!

    Fer — Wednesday 7th February 2007 6:44 pm

  18. Go Bron! as an anthropologist myself, I am very pleased to see some research dollars going into important issues such as this.

    and of course awesome looking pav, too! hope your waitangi day was filled with other lovely things, my mother cooked a hangi at home, wish I had been there! do you think I can post on puku about meals that happen without me, and in other countries? :)

    zoe — Wednesday 7th February 2007 11:40 pm

  19. Fantastic! Such great enthusiasm and passion is what is required to produce such a master piece. And this is a master piece. This will probably haunt me for a long time before I work up the courage to make it.
    Thanks Bron. Wonderful write up and beautiful photos.

    Tanna — Wednesday 7th February 2007 11:49 pm

  20. Great Pav Bron…
    Like Barbara, I also reign from the Proud West Island. (we can cook pav, we do take them to bbq’s and my mum (Aussie) and my Mum (Kiwi) both agree theirs are as good….your’s look yummy as well.
    ohh…and Happy Waitangi Day. Did you know it is also Bob Marleys Birthday??

    Paul — Thursday 8th February 2007 2:25 am

  21. The most beautiful Pav I have EVER seen! Gorgeous!

    Dianka — Thursday 8th February 2007 8:43 am

  22. Hi Bron,

    As a former ballerina I am very much in love with this stunning pavlova. The only thing coming closer then those pictures is actually eating a piece of it (if only I could…)

    Greetings from Holland


    Marieke — Friday 9th February 2007 5:19 am

  23. Hi Bron–the pictures are marvelous, and I can’t wait to try this out (it fits in well with my whipped eggwhite obsession lately). My only question is, what is cornflour in the Kiwi context? I’m guessing it’s not cornmeal–wikipedia translates it into “wheaten starch,” but I’m just as lost as with cornflour.

    Mari — Friday 9th February 2007 9:13 am

  24. Makes me want summer to come early here in the states.

    peabody — Friday 9th February 2007 3:17 pm

  25. Hello Meeta, thank you, it sure is a heavenly dessert.

    Hi Matt, thanks heaps mate, yes I’m sure your Mum’s pav is grand, with kiwifruit! ;-)

    Thank you Amanda, I hope you found something delicious to settle your sweet craving

    Hi Ash, thanks so much

    Hehe Fanny, right on! When do you arrive in our fair land?

    Hi Jeff, thank you, it’s still yummy in 15 F / -9 C, especially backed up to a warm fire, stay warm!

    Hehe, Brilynn ;-)

    Thanks heaps for your kind words Freya

    Hi Shaun, thank you so much, I bet your Mum can’t wait to see you and whats more make a pav for the occasion!

    Thanks so much Gilly

    Hi Linda, thank you so very much

    Hehe Barbara ;-) Thankyou, and thanks heaps for the link to Janet’s post!
    Great stuff!

    Hi Paula, thank you, hope your pavlova worked out well!

    Thanks Chris, I know that feeling, it feels to me that the photos in the food blogosphere just get more and more droolworthy!

    Thanks so much Old Foodie, loving your blog!

    Hi Rob, that’s so cool, my hubby wooed me with cheesecake! ;-)

    Thanks heaps for your comment Fer

    Hi Zoe, yes I’m so pleased dollars are going into worthwhile projects such as this too, very important stuff, this! ;-)
    Oh yes, I’m all for posting on and about a hangi on Puku, or should that be posting in (my) puku! Yum!

    Thanks so much Tanna, hehe yes, I’m full of passion for many things, however empty on time to fulfil each of my passions to their full potential.

    Hehe Paul, Bob Marley’s birthday eh, no kidding! We’re not trying to change the subject by any chance?! ;-) hehe! Thanks mate!

    Thanks so much for your lovely comment Dianka!

    Hi Marieke, thank you so much, I would have loved to offer you a slice.

    Hi Mari, Kiwi ‘cornflour’ is indeed either a “Wheaten starch” or “Maize cornstarch” and NOT cornMEAL, I’ve have updated the recipe and I’ve also emailed you, I hope this helps.
    Thanks for your comment

    Thanks heaps Peabody, however I’m afraid I don’t really want your summer to come quickly, as that will mean that our winter has returned! :-(

    Thanks so much to YOU ALL for your fantastc comments, this post was a lot of fun!
    ’til next time, take care, and if you happen to be in the snowy part of the world, keep warm and take extra care! Cheers!

    bron — Friday 9th February 2007 10:17 pm

  26. I could rest my head on one of those…or my mouth..Looks heavenly!

    Helen — Sunday 11th February 2007 11:00 am

  27. John’s favorite dessert, ever!!! Unfortunately, it’s way too sweet for me. I guess, I’m not a sweet tooth after all. Your pictures are gorgeous!!

    arfi — Monday 12th February 2007 7:15 pm

  28. Oh what a great posts - LOL! I also didn’t realise that Pav inflamed such national passions down there ;-) I have had pavlovas ever since I was a kid growing up in South Africa. I don’t think I was ever aware that a) they were a Kiwi thing or b) that they were evern called pavlova! My mom used to make strawberry pavlovas for dessert all through summer and I adored them. Usually she’d make her own meringue (which was indeed crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside - my favourite!) but occasionally she ran out of time and bought meringue nests from the supermarket. These were always crispy right the way through and (to my mind) far inferior to the crispy/chewy homemade ones. Who would have known that I was such a stickler for culinary correctness at such a young age?! ;-)

    Jeanne — Tuesday 13th February 2007 3:13 am

  29. What a grand looking Pavlova! I didn’t realised that they’ve originated in NZ. I love love love pavlova. I’m moving to NZ! ;)

    Mae — Tuesday 13th February 2007 2:07 pm

  30. Kia ora! I am so glad you pointed out that Pavlova originated with the Kiwi’s! I’m always having this discussion with my Aussie friends who insist it’s their national dish! Anyway, beautiful looking & your photo’s are fab. Cheers!

    The Culinary Chase — Tuesday 13th February 2007 9:38 pm

  31. Fantastic blog. I also have spent years here in blighty debating at length with all my ocker colleagues the origin of pavlova - I shall forward your article to them to finally put to rest the argument. So glad the recipe I use is just like yours although can’t say that my results come any way near the masterpiece you displayed. Keep up the grand work. Sharon

    Sharon — Sunday 4th March 2007 1:14 am

  32. Hi Bron,

    I have enjoyed the fruits of your culinary creativity since researching pav a few years ago for Japanese friends (you may even have convinced this Aussie that pav may have come from your shores). I have since started my own food blog and mentioned your beautiful site on it today.

    Saffron @ Yokohama and dreaming of the day I can take photos as gorgeous as yours

    Saffron — Thursday 21st February 2008 3:03 am

  33. I’m attempting to make this for a friend for her birthday. I gave it a test run last weekend and made sure to consult a wide range of recipes for it before selecting the one that seemed the most authentic (i.e. one that seemed to agree on most of the ingredients). I followed the recipe to the letter but…..something just didn’t come out right. The outside was just as I’d heard described but the inside was mostly just an empty shell. The marshmallowy center that there WAS was still edible, even good by all accounts, but it comprised only about half the volume of the dish. So where did I do wrong?

    Perhaps of some relevance, the recipe I used did not call for salt or cream of tartar (which I saw called for in other recipes but didn’t seem universal to pav).

    I’m really pretty keen on making this for my friend next month as it’s nearly impossible to find here in the States.

    Matt — Tuesday 26th February 2008 5:48 am

  34. You’re post really made me laugh :)
    I have been wanting to make a pavlova and thought you’d probably have one in your archives. And you very proudly do, I see!
    Well, as a former NZ resident, I am glad to give your beautiful land full credit for pavlova, after all that’s where I first had it. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I look forward to making it!

    Lael — Wednesday 8th October 2008 7:30 am

  35. Hi Bron,
    We decided to celebrate Waitangi Day this year, as my partner Andy has such fantastic memories of his trip to New Zealand in 2002, so luckily I found your blog with your wonderful recipes, and we made the most delicious pavlova we’ve ever tasted following your recipe! Thankyou for sharing it with us.

    Sue, Cumbria, U.K.

    sue — Sunday 28th February 2010 5:12 am

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