What exactly is the pavlova from the Great British Baking Show?

Paul, Prue, Noel and Matt.
Paul, Prue, Noel and Matt. /

On the latest episode of Great British Baking Show, the contestants had to make a pavlova for their signature challenge. It was Dessert Week and what better way to show off their skills than by making a pavlova. But what exactly is a pavlova?

It’s not exactly something you see in the bakery section at the grocery store or even in most bakeries, so it’s not the most well-known dessert in America.

A pavlova is made almost entirely out of meringue. It’s usually crisp on the outside and soft and sometimes even marshmallowy on the inside. It’s topped with some form of fruit and whipped cream. The tartness of the fruit cuts through the sugariness of the meringue and the cream gives the perfect texture contrast to the crispiness of the base.

The dessert gets its name because it was originally made to honor the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. It’s said to have first been made in Australia or in New Zealand. Which makes sense since the traditional pavlova has kiwis on it. But any type of berries or tart fruit will work.

Pavlova was made on this week’s Great British Baking Show

The round shape was meant to mimic the tutu she wore during her performances. Although, if you saw this week’s episode of Great British Baking Show, you know that it doesn’t have to be round.

The first time I saw a pavlova being made was on The Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten. She made a mixed berry pavlova with strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, and drizzled the whole thing with raspberry sauce. It looked gooey and gorgeous and so good. I mean…it is Ina Garten!

The hardest part of the dessert is, of course, the meringue as the bakers on GBBS found out. Meringue will crack if the temperature changes too quickly or if a steady breeze goes by. That’s why it’s so important to leave it in the oven with the temperature off once it’s baked. It lets it come to room temperature very slowly and allows the meringue to dry out a little more.

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Have you ever made a pavlova? Were you inspired to make one by The Great British Baking Show? Let us know in the comments below!