There was a time, not long ago, when I’d make meringues—egg whites beaten with sugar—only as an alternative to pouring egg whites down the drain after spinning pint after pint of ice cream and gelato. Their uniform texture bored me, and since they’re more or less dry all the way through, there’s a powder-fine-crumb-all-down-your-shirt situation to contend with. This was before I understood the difference between the modest meringue and—in my opinion—the superior pavlova.
I tasted my first pavlova recently, at a dinner party. They were served individually, with silver dollar-dollops of lemon cream and sunset tumbles of supremed citrus. It was a visually arresting dessert, but the real revelation came after I tasted a forkful: The contrast of shatter-crisp-but-quick-to-melt shell against the satiny, almost tangy inside was such a pleasure that I can recall it perfectly as I write this, months later. I became a pavlova convert.
How to Make Pavlova (+ A Recipe for White Chocolate Orang… by Erin McDowell
For Perfectly Whipped Egg Whites (+ Lofty Meringues), Add… by Alice Medrich
The pavlova was invented a hundred years ago for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, in honor of her performing in either Australia or New Zealand; a shallow Google dive reveals disparity over the pavlova’s “true” origins, but either way: It’s extremely popular in both countries. Traditionally, pavlovas are appreciated for their lightness in summertime, served with plenty of fruit and whipped cream. In this iteration though, we’re bringing the richness and depth of chocolate to the party. It’s not classic, but it is delicious.
A touch of food math: All pavlovas are meringue-based, but not all meringues are pavlovas. While meringues bake up dry, one or two extra ingredients added to the egg whites and sugar give a pavlova its hard frame, but pillowy center. Adding acid (in the form of cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar) and/or starch (cornstarch, or arrowroot flour) interacts with the eggs’ proteins to help stabilize the mix, and also ensures a pavlova’s taffy center doesn’t overcook. The result: a crisp exterior and marshmallow interior.
More: For a more robust understanding of the science behind meringue and pavlova-making, see Erin’s essay here.
Not content with choci-fying just the pavlova itself, we are gilding the lily two times over with two different flavors of gelato. This confection is a beautiful mess, and ideal for chocolate lovers who don’t much care for cake. For a gluten-free version, hold the fudge brownie gelato. If you need it to be dairy free, switch out the gelato for a chocolate sorbetto.
And if you’re fully committed to leaning into decadence, be enthusiastic with your toppings: regular or chocolate whipped cream, dark or milk chocolate chips or chunks, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate shavings (made using bar chocolate and a vegetable peeler), cocoa nibs, chocolate drizzle, and/or a cascade of cherries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, currents, and/or strawberries. It’s your pavlova gelato cake; embrace the chocolate.
Double Chocolate Pavlova-Gelato Cake
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
- 1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large eggs), at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup (25 grams) cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
- 1 pint dark chocolate gelato
- 1 pint brownie gelato
- 1 pint hazelnut chocolate chip gelato
- Dark or milk chocolate chips or chunks, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate shavings, cocoa nibs, and/or chocolate drizzle, for garnish