This beautiful Pavlova Meringue Wreath is perfect for the holidays. Plus, check out my tips for the perfect meringue listed below.
Chances are that you’ve oohed and awed over a perfect meringue in some shape or form. Whether it is a Flaming Baked Alaska, Lemon Meringue Pie, perfectly starred meringue cookies or a pavlova, they are all stunning when executed well.
What is a Pavlova?
Pavlova is just the Russian name for a meringue dessert topped with whipped cream and fruit. They come in many shapes and forms, but since I was making this for the holidays, a wreath seemed appropriate.
This dessert is actually very popular in Australia and New Zealand. Usually topped with fresh fruit, powdered sugar and whipped cream, it’s simple yet stunning.
And meringue isn’t that hard to make, as long as you follow a few base rules. Those tips are below…
Some pavlovas use whipped cream, this is optional. This isn’t the easiest dessert for making ahead of time, but man it makes a statement!
Plan ahead when you make your dessert wreath- it is going to need a good 5-6 hours in the oven, so if you plan to make any other food, you’ll need to work around or have another oven available.
It takes about 2 hours to cook, which is much longer than most meringue, but remember this one is also a lot thicker. Make sure you also account for the cooling time, which can take another several hours.
Some people like to bake their meringue at night and allow it to cool while they sleep. Leaving it in the oven at room temperature won’t hurt it.
I like to garnish with some green. Today I used mint and rosemary, but you can also use thyme or even real pine garland (just don’t eat it).
Pavlova Recipe Tips
I have a few tips to ensure you get the perfect pavlova every time.
- Use room temperature eggs. A room temperature egg can expand more than a chilled egg. Some even suggest using old(er) eggs for the same reasons why these make the best hard boiled eggs.
- Clean and dry bowl. Always make sure the bowl you are using to make your meringue is scrupulously clean and DRY. Any little particles of other food or droplets of water can impact your ability to get the best meringue.
- Copper is best for whipping egg whites. In fact, I own one copper bowl just for this purpose! Other types of metal are second and glass last. Glass is super slippery. Do not use plastic, as the particles get stuck in little nicks and never get a chance to get whipped.
- Don’t over whip your meringue. It should have a smooth and glossy look, but if you over whip it, it can get super thick and lumpy. There is no way to undo this.
- Stabilize. Use cream of tartar, cornstarch or vinegar to help stabilize the meringue to hold its form. It helps change the chemical shape of the molecules so they don’t fall. I use two, it works for me, but I realize I probably only need one.
- Go slow. Don’t get feisty and add your sugar too fast. Go sloooowwww……
- Watch the weather. Try not to make your meringue wreath in humid climate or rainy days. It is hard to get it to set and harden with moisture in the air.
- Allow your meringue to cool in oven. Much like cooling custard pies and cheesecake, cracks and deflation happen when the temperature changes too rapidly.
Why You’ll Love This Mini Pavlova Wreath
A super light dessert that is crispy on the outside and light on the inside- what’s not to love!
- Great for special occasions – Any meringue-based dessert is a labor of love, but serving at a dinner party is sure to impress your guests.
- Total show stopper – When using fun toppings and garnishes, you can dress up the meringue shells to be the perfect dessert for holidays.
- Simple ingredients – Despite it’s fragility and many steps, this baked meringue only requires a few simple ingredients.
All of these basic ingredients can be easily found at your local grocery store if you don’t already have them on hand.
- Egg whites – Always assume a recipe calls for large eggs. Also, it is best to use room temperature eggs when making meringue base. Older eggs are better than fresh eggs.
- Powdered sugar – We need something to sweeten our dessert. But it also helps hold everything together.
- Cornstarch – In addition to holding everything together, corn starch also helps the center of the pavlova to have a fluffier texture.
- Vanilla – I like to use a good quality vanilla extract. Afterall, it’s the main flavor of our classic pavlova recipe.
- White vinegar – The acid from the vinegar helps the egg whites hold onto air and also helps prevent them from collapsing.
- Fresh cranberries – Now for the fun part- the topping! I like to use a sweet and tart cranberry sauce.
- Orange juice – the juice thins out our sauce and also adds another flavor profile.
- Sugar – Because cranberries themselves are quite tart, we do need a bit of regular granulated sugar to tone it down.
- Spices – Using whole cinnamon and nutmeg and grating freshly will give you the best fragrance and flavor.
- Fine sea salt – Adding a bit of salt to baked goods brings out the natural flavors of the dessert.
- Whipped cream – I like to top my pavlova with whipped cream. You can make it homemade or buy it from the store.
- Mint leaves or orange leaves – Especially when making at Christmas time, I like to add a little bit of green. Mint leaves are the easiest way to do that.
How to Make a Pavlova Wreath
You are going to love how easy it is to make this pavlova dessert.
- Prepare oven and pan. Preheat the oven and move a rack to the lower third of the oven. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Beat egg whites. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites for or until white, frothy with soft peaks forming.
- Add sugar. Slowly, add the sugar, continue beating until white and shiny.
- Add remaining ingredients. While the whisk is moving, add the vanilla, vinegar and cornstarch, continue to beat for 2-3 minutes. Meringue should have stiff peaks and be shiny. Do not overbeat or it will start to lose its form.
- Form wreath. Scoop in a ring onto the parchment. Using the back of a spoon or the measuring cup, make a well in the center of each. Rings should be close and touch a little to hold the wreath together.
- Bake until meringue is hard and very lightly browned.
- Cool in oven. Crack the oven door and allow to cool fully.
- Combine cranberry sauce ingredients in pan. While the meringue bakes, prepare the cranberry topping but combining the cranberries, orange juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Simmer. Bring to a low simmer and stir until sugar granules are dissolved. Continue to cook until it is thick and coats the back of a spoon.
- Cool. Remove from the heat and allow to cool fully.
- Assemble. When the meringue and cranberry sauce has cooled and you are ready to serve, evenly spoon the whipped cream into each meringue well. Top with cranberry sauce. Dust with powdered sugar and garnish with mint or orange leaves.
There are plenty of ways you can make this meringue cake your own! Pavlova is very versatile.
- Fruit toppings – Not a fan of cranberry sauce, no problem! You can totally top this meringue with just about anything. Lemon curd, a fruity sauce or even something like pomegranate seeds.
- Shape – Instead of making it into a wreath, you can make a big pavlova or even make it into fun shapes like a candy cane or something.
- Extracts – Switch up the flavor of the extract. Peppermint extract would be great for the holidays and even lemon or orange for summer.
Storage and Freezing
Storage: Unfortunately, this recipe isn’t great for leftovers, after the sauce is applied, it makes the meringue soggy. So use this excuse to eat as much as you can!!! Meringue alone needs to be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Freezing: Meringue freezes fine, it just doesn’t defrost all that good. Any moisture, including any ice crystals that get on it while frozen, will dissolve the delicate sugar base.
Make ahead: I would say no more than 1 day for the meringue, but you can make the cranberry sauce days in advance, more if you plan to freeze it.
Frequently Asked Questions
An acid, such as a vinegar, can be added to a meringue mixture to help create a more stable foam when the meringue is mixed.
In scientific terms the acid helps to denature, or break down, the coils of amino acids in the egg white’s proteins so that they become long strands instead of beady little bits.
Since you now have several egg yolks on your hands, here are a few recipes that only use egg yolks:
Add an egg yolk to any cake or brownie recipe to make them extra moist!
Use 2 egg yolks instead of 1 whole egg in recipes that call for eggs
You can, but they are super pasteurized and won’t get as stiff. Double the cream of tartar and whip for additional time.
Yes, you can, they are both stabilizers, and both will work for this recipe.
You’ll commonly see caster sugar in meringue recipes. Caster sugar isn’t popular in the US, but is basically a grain size between white granulated sugar and powdered sugar. I’ve always used granulated sugar and never had any issues, but some swear by powdered sugar.
More Christmas Desserts
Holiday Meringue Wreath
For the meringue:
- Preheat the oven to 225°F and move a rack to the lower 1/3 of the oven.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites for 4-5 minutes or until white, frothy and starting to peak.
- Slowly, add the sugar, continue beating until white and shiny.
- While the whisk is moving, add the vanilla, vinegar and cornstarch, continue to beat for 2-3 minutes. Meringue should be stiff and shiny. Do not overbeat or it will start to lose its form.
- Scoop about 1/3 cup in a ring onto the parchment. Using the back of a spoon or the measuring cup, make a well in the center of each. Rings should be close and touch a little to hold the wreath together.
- Bake for 2 hours, or until meringue is hard and very lightly browned.
- Crack the oven and allow to cool fully.
- While the merginue bakes, prepare the cranberry topping but combining the cranberries, orange juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Bring to a low simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook until it is thick and coats the back of a spoon.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool fully.
- When the meringue and cranberry sauce has cooled and you are ready to serve, evenly spoon the whipped cream into each meringue well. Top with cranberry sauce. Dust with powdered sugar and garnish with mint or orange leaves.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.