The Secret Trick To Making The Best Pavlova

Leave it to the Aussies to come up with a genius meringue-y trick to keep your pavlovas tall and crack-free, but fluffy on the inside. Pavlovas, or "pavs" as they are endearingly called Down Under, are a kind of fluffy dessert made of egg white meringue piled high with fruit, whipped cream, and other goodies (via BBC and SBS). Australians, in fact, were responsible for some of the first pavlovas, named for the then-famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in an allusion to both the dessert's and the dancer's "lightness" (via BBC).

Pavlova cakes, infinitely riffable and stackable, are easier to whip up than you might think. But they're subject to the same kinds of pitfalls that any whipped egg white mix can encounter: cracks, graininess, or the wrong texture after baking. Australian baking master Donna Hay shared some tips with SBS for getting that perfect height, smooth shape, and marshmallow-y center to which every pavlova aspires. One tip stood out among the rest, and it's probably something you haven't tried.

One key tip for perfect pavlova and other helpful hints

If you've ever whipped up egg whites, only to find that they lose their shape, or made a meringue for a pie that weeps little beads of moisture onto the top, this tip is for you. Hay and other pros add a little bit of cornstarch (called cornflour in the UK and Australia) and something acidic, like vinegar or cream of tartar, to the mix, which SBS says helps stabilize the egg whites and prevent "weeping." But there are other ways to ensure that you produce a beautiful baked dessert that holds its shape.

Moisture is the enemy of pavlova, so if you are able to, the Aussie bakers suggest baking on a dry day (via SBS). Egg whites also whip best without any grease or residue in a bowl, so make sure those bowls and egg beaters are squeaky clean, and watch for traces of yolk when you separate those eggs (via SBS). Using fresher eggs is also a good idea, because, according to Bakeproof columnist Anneka Manning, the protein bonds in egg whites weaken as time goes by. Bring your eggs to room temperature, and use sugar that's quicker to dissolve, which usually means a finer sugar like caster sugar (between powdered sugar and granulated sugar in its fineness, says Bob's Red Mill). If you can't find that, make sure you add your sugar slowly, to give it time to dissolve fully (via SBS).