The Thing About the Pavlova

Recently updated on July 11th, 2023 at 07:06 am

For something so delicious, the Pavlova has been causing rivalry for nearly an entire century. Australians and Kiwis have been arguing over who invented the fruity dessert for years.  Both countries agree on where the name comes from; it was named after Anna Pavlova, who visited both countries in the 1920s. But the answer as to who created the first one, was only settled a few years ago.

For years Australian and New Zealand Pavlova experts tried to prove who made it first, by researching last century’s cookbooks finding many recipes dating as far back as the 20s and 30s.

Photo by Cathrine Nyberg under Creative Commons Licence
Photo by Cathrine Nyberg under Creative Commons Licence

A recent listing in the Oxford English Dictionary however,  states that the meringue-based dessert was invented in New Zealand and not in Australia. Apparently a hotel chef in Wellington made the cake for the prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, when she stayed at his hotel. Although many an Australian might claim the contrary. In fact relatives of Herbert Sachse who worked at the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, claim that he was the one who invented the dessert and that the name came about because he said of his creation that “It is as light as Pavlova”.

So what is this thing anyway?

Well, it’s a meringue which is crispy from the outside and and soft, light on the inside, usually topped with fruit and whipped cream.  It’s kind of like an Eton Mess, but less messy.

Does it matter who made it first?

Not really. What matters is how can you make one yourself. Here’s a Pavlova recipe from one of Trafalgar’s Be My Guest hosts, Angie, who welcomes guests on our Contrasts of Australia and New Zealand in her and her husband’s working sheep farm, giving her guests an in-depth experience of rural life.

Angie and her pavlovas

Angie’s Kiwi Pavlova (serves 8)


4 eggs

225g Sugar

4tbsps Water

1 tbsp Cornflour

1tsp Vanilla essence

1tsp Malt vinegar

250ml Whipping cream

2 to 3 kiwi fruit


Crack the eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. Beat the whites and water together, and slowly add teh sugar to the mixture, beating until it forms peaks. Fold in the cornflour, vanilla essence and malt vinegar and put the mixture on a baking tray.

Place the tray in a very hot oven pre-heated at 220 celsius. Turn the oven off and leave the mixture in overnight.

In the morning, remove the baked meringue. Top with whipped cream and kiwi fruit and enjoy.


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