Get My Swan Costume Ready. School Holiday Pavlova

It’s school holiday time in Melbourne, with kids in the kitchen and mess everywhere. The girls wanted to make something sweet but both have radically different tastes. After some negotiation, a pavlova was agreed upon, after some squabbling about suitable toppings. Before we grabbed the electric beaters, a detour through history into the life of Anna Pavlova was fun, something I had never thought about much before their visit. As Tchaikovsky played in the background, we admired all the beautiful old photos of Anna Pavlova in her divine longer tutus and portraits of her with her pet swan, Jack.

Anna Pavlova with pet swan, Jack
Anna Pavlova with pet swan, Jack. Photo from Pinterest.

We discovered other wonderful facts about Anna’s life, including her last words on her death-bed, “Get my Swan costume ready.” This is now our secret code for beating up egg whites or dying like a swan, which ever comes first.

kids in the kitchen
Kids in the kitchen sculpting a Pavlova

Pavlova is an easy dessert for young cooks to whip up. It doesn’t matter if it cracks or turns out misshapen. It will still taste great. Just crack and separate the eggs for them and hand over the electric beaters. They love watching the whites whip up into a big fluffy tutu. Once the eggs are standing up, the younger child adds in the sugar until the boss (me) says they are ready. Add a little cornflour, white vinegar and vanilla and let the kids do the sculpting on a papered tray.

Basic 4 egg Pavlova Recipe ( serves 6-8 )

  • 4 egg whites ( room temperature)
  • pinch of salt
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • few drops of pure vanilla

Preheat oven to 180°c. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Draw a 20 cm circle on the paper. Beat egg whites and salt until satiny peaks form. Beat in sugar, a third at a time, until meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over cornflour, vinegar and vanilla and fold in lightly. Mound onto paper lined tray and flatten top and smooth the sides. Place in the oven, immediately reduce heat to 150° c and cook for 1¼ hours. Turn off the oven and leave pavlova to cool. Invert pavlova and pile with chosen topping.

From Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion

While the meringue cooks and cools, it’s time to make the topping. I usually settle for whipped cream and brandy macerated strawberries or, in season, passionfruit. Daisy was happy to settle for this mundane option but not Charlotte. After rejecting a few of my suggestions, including a lemony custard, she decided on a chocolate mousse filling!! Warning, the following photos of this chocolate mousse pavlova may make you want to utter those dying swan words sooner than expected. This is a pavlova for kids and the young at heart.

Pavlova filled with chocolate mousse.
Pavlova filled with chocolate mousse.

Fast Chocolate Mousse Filling.

  • 200 gr packet of cooking chocolate, 45% solids.
  • a dash of rum or brandy
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • some whipping cream to loosen.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the boiling water. Loosen with a little brandy or rum.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until very pale and thick. Add gradually to the bowl of melted chocolate.

Beat the cream until thick, then add to the chocolate mixture. Stir in well then set in the fridge.

A cake like this calls for some pretty floral cups.
A cake like this calls for some pretty floral cups.

PS. The chocolate mousse topping was ridiculously rich. from Charlotte 🙂

Anna Pavlova and jack the swan
Anna Pavlova and Jack the swan

28 thoughts on “Get My Swan Costume Ready. School Holiday Pavlova”

  1. Pav is yet another culinary creation that has a mystique about it… so I’ve never made it. It’s so good that Daisy & Charlotte have you to give them all round appreciation and know-how of its creation.
    I am very fond of Australia’s black swans, and think Anna’s Jack is wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely! Great pictures you’ve included too, was Jack really a pet or a marketing ploy? I hope I get the chance to have some moments in the kitchen with grandies, seems like such fun. I was thinking as I made something today, that it is a shame the good old toffee/cake stall doesn’t still happen at school. I’m positive that’s where I did my first serious baking and being determined not to have my toffees or fairy cakes being outdone by anyone! Great compromise with the topping too, although I’m not a chocolate lover I can see how it would work. Enjoy the holidays and mess is to be celebrated (sometimes). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not sure about Jack and Marketing. Apparently Anna P loved pets- birds, lambs, dogs and swans. I have seen quite a few swan shots. Anna P lived in pre -marketing times- she dies in the 1930s so maybe not. Fairy floss, toffee and hundreds and thousands- bring them on. There is nothing fashionable about my post- I hope it appealed to old daggy feelings about sweet things for kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. OMG Francesca, that looks sweet, even for me. What fun. You know, I have never made a pav in my entire life! I really can’t believe it. I have made lots and lots of meringues. What I need is a house full of kids to appreciate it. I guess I just can’t imagine serving a pav to a table of adults – a bit silly really as I have never met an adult who doesn’t love a pav.

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    1. You should make one Glenda, as they are so easy, you get to use up some eggs, and make an adult topping from whatever fruit is glutting at your place. I made one last sunday- and before assembling the thing with cream and alcoholic strawberries, I decided it looked a little ugly. I smashed it up, layered it with cream and strawberries in an old crystal thing, and took it to a party. The Eton Mess was hoovered by the adults present, allowing me to enjoy all the other sweets on the table.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yum! It’s coming into pav season here. I hardly make them, not sure why because, as you say, they’re not really that tricky. I might attempt one with my two girls these holidays too. We have the cousins coming to stay and I’m sure they’ll polish it off. Thanks for the idea 🙂

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