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Pass the Pav!
Just as the kiwi is New Zealand’s national bird, the pavlova is the national dessert. But along with champion racehorse, Phar Lap, and rock group, Split Enz, Australia would also like to claim the pavlova as its own. However, there is good reason to believe that the famous dessert was actually first whipped up in New Zealand.
Famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, visited New Zealand in 1926 during an Australasian tour. According to her biographer, whilst Pavlova was in Wellington, a hotel chef invented a dish inspired by her tutu, draped in green silk cabbage roses. The basic shape of the tutu was provided by a meringue case, while the froth of the skirt’s net was suggested by whipped cream. To achieve the effect of the green roses the enterprising chef used slices of kiwifruit, then known as Chinese gooseberries. The result – the original pavlova – was described as a “brilliant simulation” of the dancer’s personality.
The great cake controversy
It seems that the Wellington chef who pioneered the pavlova did not publish his recipe. This has encouraged other claims and the debate has been further confused by two entirely different pavlova recipes, which appeared around 1927. One of these was for a moulded jelly with multicoloured layers. The other recipe referred to a number of small meringue cakes, which developed into the larger single pavlova as we now know it.
Australia’s claim to the pavlova is much later, dating from 1934. When a Perth chef covered a meringue cake with cream and fruit his efforts were described as being “as light as Pavlova”. Obviously, the Russian ballerina made a big impression on Australia during her visit nine years earlier.