“Use room-temperature eggs.”
“Don’t pour in the sugar too fast.”
“Leave it in the oven to let it cool; cold air could collapse it!”
There’s no shortage of tips on how to make the perfect Pavlova, something Christopher Thé, founder of Black Star Pastry in Sydney, calls the most Australian of all desserts.
There are only three parts to the Pavlova: the meringue, the cream and the toppings, which are usually fresh summer fruits.
“It’s like a working-class dessert… a really simple home dessert. It’s what we eat every Christmas,” the grinning chef explains.
But you don’t have to wait until Christmas to try it, because May 17 is World Baking Day. Let’s ignore the fact the holiday was originally created to sell margarine and use it as an excuse to attempt this finicky but irresistible dessert from Down Under.
But is it really from Down Under?
For decades, Australia and New Zealand have been locked in a heated quarrel over which country really invented the Pavlova.
According to legend, the dessert was named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova – who visited both countries in the 1920s – perhaps as a tribute to her effervescent tutu and light-as-a-feather grace.
In 2010, the Oxford English Dictionary seemingly settled the score by stating the first “true” recorded Pavlova recipes appeared in New Zealand in 1927.
But in 2015, Dr. Andrew Paul Wood, a New Zealand-based art historian, and Annabelle Utrecht, an Australian production company owner, said, “Not so fast.”
After nearly two years of scouring through tens of thousands of cookbooks and newspapers, the bragging rights, they determined, belong to the United States and Great Britain.
“The recipe appropriated as Pavlova is, in fact, much older,” they write.
“We have found more than 150 Pavlova-like meringue cakes in existence between 1901-1926, with most recipes originating in the USA.”
Most significantly, write the Aussie and Kiwi duo, the world’s oldest published recipe using the name Pavlova was found in New Zealand, but it was a berry and raspberry glacé.
It dates to 1911, 15 years before the ballerina graced the southern hemisphere.
But no matter where the contested confection really originates, as our pastry chef Thé says, “Baking is just about making people happy.”
Now there’s something we can all agree on.
Check out the above video of chef Thé’s quick Pavlova tutorial. Rather not attempt this one yourself? Next time you’re in Sydney head for one of Black Star Pastry’s four locations.