On Mother’s Day, serve pavlova with ‘blizzard of fresh fruit’

A classic pavlova is made in cake form, filled with berries and cream. Photo by Shutterstock.

In my opinion, there is no dessert more suited for a celebration of Mother’s Day than a pavlova. Billows of meringue in a snapshot of casual swirls or piped in a more disciplined container is topped or filled, or rolled with whipped cream, perhaps a tangy curd and finished with a blizzard of fresh fruit. Pavlova is the feminine dessert spectacle that is easy to make, generous to serve, and glorious to eat. I tend to shy away from super sweet desserts, but there is something about the way the soft-centered crunchy meringue plays with unsweetened cream and fresh fruit that I love, particularly if passionfruit pulp is a player. 

Yes, pavlova really is simple to make. That’s because the egg whites are stabilized with a bit of cornstarch and an acid, usually vinegar. To give you the best chance of success, use fresh room-temperature eggs. The whites not only whip higher, but the foam is more stable. And to make sure my bowl and beater are free of any lingering fat that could interfere with whipping the egg whites, I wipe them off with a paper towel dipped in distilled vinegar. 

A slab-shaped pavlova is easy to make and especially delicious with the addition of passion fruit pulp. Photo courtesy of Canva.

I love playing with the meringue, depending on my mood and the type of pavlova I wish to serve. You can pile the meringue high a la Aussie cookbook author Donna Hay, which gives you a lot of pillowy marshmallow-like interior. Or you can create a low rectangle or oval, which creates more crunch and gives a nice base for laying on the fruit. 

You can even make pavlova in roulade form as Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh do. Here’s their tutorial on how to roll it. Ottolenghi is something of a meringue savant, using their beauty and variety to welcome customers at his eponymous restaurant in London. Here’s another recipe from him — it’s a cinnamon meringue inflected with chocolate and filled with praline mascarpone cream. Top with any seasonal fruit.

Another way I temper the sweetness of the meringue is to slather on a layer of lemon curd underneath the whipped cream like Nigella does here. She even admits to using store-bought curd, which makes it quick and easy. But I still finish off the theatrical extravagance with fruit. Ultimately, pavlova is a showcase for seasonal fruit, so this time of year, berries are the star. And if you can find passion fruit pulp to drizzle atop the fabulous thing you’ve created, you might even make mom speechless.