• Yield: One 10-inch cake; serves 4-6

  • Time: 20 minutes prep, 2 hours baking time, plus 1 hour cooling in the oven cooking, 3 hours 20 minutes total

There is not a woman of any age whose heart will not beat a little more quickly when this gorgeous sweet is placed on the table. Legend has it that the Pavlova was created in honor of famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova's tour to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s; the two countries have been fighting over its origin ever since. 

A Pavlova is essentially a fresh tart composed of a meringue crust that is layered with cream and topped with fresh berries. Festive, beautiful and defiantly simple, nothing says "I love you, mom" like a Pavlova.

Do not be daunted by the length of time the meringue takes to make -- it could not be simpler, pop it in the oven and be on your way

Cook to Cook: Replacing some of the granulated sugar for powdered sugar is a tip from baking wunderkind Rose Levy Beranbaum. The powdered sugar makes for an exceptionally light and crisp meringue, which is the gold standard for a Pavlova.  

Meringue can be made 1 day ahead and stored airtight in a cool, dry place. Pavlova can be assembled 1 hour before serving.

  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature 

  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus additional sugar as needed for the berries and whipped cream  

  • 1 cup powdered sugar 

  • 12 ounces, about 3 cups, fresh strawberries, hulled and halved 

  • 6 ounces, about 2 cups, fresh raspberries

  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled

  • 3/4 cup mascarpone or Mock Mascarpone

1. Place a baking rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2. Trace a 10-inch circle on a piece of parchment (trace around a dinner plate), place the parchment on a cookie sheet, set aside. 

3. In the bowl of a large mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating while gradually adding 2 tablespoons of the sugar until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar until the whites are very stiff and glossy. 

4. Sift the powdered sugar over the egg whites and gently fold it in with a spatula until just combined.

5. Spread the meringue into the circle on the parchment, creating a slight well in the center for the cream and berries. Do not worry if it is not perfect -- ragged is beautiful. Wet your fingers or the spatula to help spread the meringue more easily if necessary. 

6. Bake without opening the oven door for 2 hours, until firm to the touch and lightly browned. Check for doneness by poking it while still in the oven with the tip of a sharp knife. It can be a little bit sticky in the center. Turn off the oven and let the meringue cool in the oven another 1-1 1/2 hours. 

7. About an hour before serving, combine the strawberries, raspberries, lemon zest and sugar as needed in a large bowl and let the berries release their juices. 

8. In the bowl of a large mixer, beat the heavy cream at medium speed until soft peaks form. Add a bit of sugar. Reduce the speed to low and gently mix in the mascarpone.

9. To assemble, place the meringue on a large cake plate or platter. Spread the cream mixture on top, then top with the berries and serve in slices or spoonfuls. 

pavlova Photo: Jennifer Simonson
Sally Swift
Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.