The year is 1926 and Russian Prima ballerina, Anna Matveyevna Pavlova, is touring Australia and New Zealand. She does not dance; she soars as if on wings across the stage, capturing the hearts of the antipodeans and the imagination of a chef from the Hotel Wellington in New Zealand, who, inspired by her white tutu embroidered with green cabbage roses, creates a cake made of a meringue crust topped with fresh cream and kiwi fruit. Almost a century later and the Pavlova Cake is both the Australian and New Zealand National dish (although the chef's identity and nationality remain a mystery, it is hotly debated between Australia and New Zealand, with each country claiming him as their own).
The year is now 2014 and I'm sitting in my Aunt's kitchen in Sydney, watching her make a Pavlova Cake for my grandmother's 90th birthday. I marvel at the amount of sugar she is pouring into the Mixmaster; the smell alone is enough to make a diabetic run for his insulin. Surely, her arms must be tired from simultaneously pouring sugar and beating the egg whites into foamy mountain peaks. Since my attempts resulted in a foamy soup, I've been demoted to greasing a paper-lined, 8-inch circular dish, which is fine by me because all I really want to do is lick the mixture off the beaters.
After we've poured the mixture into the greased pan and placed it in the hot oven, my Aunt settles into a chair with a glass of wine and divulges her secret to baking the perfect Pavlova: corn flour. She offers no other explanation; it's her secret, after all.
An hour and a half later, my Aunt carefully and delicately paints the fresh cream onto the meringue peaks, while I sprinkle a handful of berries on top. As I place the last blueberry on the cake, I turn to my Aunt and say, "just like the ballerina, this Pavlova is prima." She rolls her eyes. I do a pirouette and we head out the door to celebrate.
by Atalie Kessler
PAVLOVA CAKE RECIPE
8 egg whites (room temperature)
480 grams/ 17 oz super fine sugar
2 tsp vinegar
2 tsp corn flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla extract
1 pint whipping cream
Enough passion fruit, kiwi, strawberries… which ever fruit you like to cover your entire cake
*note: rule of thumb -
60 grams / 2.12 oz of sugar to one egg white
ex: 8 egg whites / 480 grams / 17 oz of sugar
Add a pinch of salt to your egg whites and beat until they are foamy and
form into peaks. They should hold their shape...do not over beat
Add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time until it's dissolved and the meringue is shiny
Dissolve 2 teaspoons corn flour in to 2 teaspoons of white vinegar - add to the mixture after all the sugar is dissolved
Add 1 teaspoon vanilla
Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 180c/ 350F
Pour mixture into well oiled or paper lined 8 inch circular dish pan... leave 1-2'' to allow the Pavlova to rise
Lower oven and bake for 1.5 hours on lower rack at 150c/300f, then "delegate the licking of the beaters"
Leave the Pavlova in the oven until the oven completely cools
While the Pavlova cools, whip cream until it hold its shape
Once the Pavlova is cool, completely cover with whipped cream and fruit of your choosing (traditionally kiwi and / or passion fruit)