Note: This article on the pavlova has been given to us to reprint in
its entirety by Glen Ralph of the Wilmar Library, South Australia. Glen
published this originally in his "Notes and Curieux," an occasional
newsletter with material which has come from researches undertaken in
order to answer questions put by library users. This article traces
the history of the pavlova. Perhaps what Glen has to say will put the
battle of the pavlova to rest, but maybe not. In any case, whip up a
pav and eat it like royalty. It is the most elegant of creations.
Subjects covered in "Notes
and Curieux" are, to say the least, very assorted. Should you want
more information about it, please contact Mr. Glen Ralph, Wilmar Library,
15 Brian Street, Lockleys, South Australia, 5032 or, if you prefer,
his email address is Wilmar@arcom.com.au
The newsletter is free.
THERES long been an argument raging about the pavlova (with a small
p) and Ive been asked to settle it once and for all.
Well, Im not sure Ive done that. What follows is my contribution,
and I leave it to others to make up their own minds.Who invented the
pavlova, that dessert which you often see covered with strawberries?
Forrests Dictionary of
Eponymists (Kettering, Northamptonshire, J. L. Carr, 1978)
is quite non-committal about it:
Russian ballerina world
revered for her solo dance, the Dying Swan. To honour her, Australia
and New Zealand popularized a pavlova, a meringue filled with tropical
fruit and served with cream, extras that belie Pavlovas indivisible
genius. Collins English Dictionary describes the pavlova
as: a meringue cake topped with whipped cream and fruit, popular
in Australia. Often shortened (Australian, informal) to pav.
Lets start with the meringue.
It is a patisserie made from egg whites and sugar, and long preceded
the pav, as the New Larousse Gastronomique by Prosper Montagné
(Twickenham, Middlesex, Hamlyn, 1977, p.587) tells us: Historians
of cookery say that this little patisserie was invented in 1720 by a
Swiss pastry-cook called Gasparini, who practised his art in Mehrinyghen,
a small town in the State of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The first meringues
made in France were served in Nancy to King Stanislas who, it is said,
prized them highly. It was he, no doubt, who gave the recipe for this
sweetmeat to Marie Leczinska. Queen Marie-Antoinette had a great liking
for meringues. Court lore has it that she made them with her own hands
at the Trianon, where she also made vacherins, for which a similar
mixture is used. Up to the beginning of the nineteenth century, meringues
were shaped in a spoon, as the pastry forcing-bag had not been invented.
The Larousse gives recipes for both the meringue and the vacherin:
Ingredients. 12 egg whites,
500 g. (18 oz., 2_ cups) sugar, 1_ teaspoons table salt, flavouring
Method. Whisk the whites
to a stiff foam. When they have risen well, add the salt and sugar.
Fill a forcing-bag with this mixture, and pipe the meringues in the
desired shape and size onto buttered and floured baking sheets. Sprinkle
with sugar. Bake in a very slow oven.
After taking the meringues out,
press the base of each one with the thumb to make a little hollow. Keep
in a dry place.
The vacherin, according to
Larousse (op. cit, p.951) is: Sweet (dessert) made with meringue
crowns mounted one on top of the other on a sweet pastry
base, decorated with meringue piped through a forcing bag and dried
out in a very low oven; or with circles of almond paste similarly mounted
on top of each other. These are filled either with Chantilly cream,
ice cream flavoured with vanilla, or with some other flavouring, or
with a bombe mixture. The recipe using the meringue is
with crown of meringue
couronne de meringue)
Method. With a forcing bag
make circles of plain meringue on buttered and floured baking sheets,
the diameter of the rings varying according to the size of the sweet
to be prepared. Sprinkle with fine sugar and cook in the oven at a low
heat until the meringue is well dried.
Put on a baking sheet, one on top
of the other. Coat them with meringue. Using a pipe, decorate this box
with more meringue, sprinkle it with sugar and dry it again in the oven.
Fill the box with sugar cooked to the crack stage, added to a base of
chou pastry. When the vacherin is quite cold, fill with stiffly beaten,
vanilla-flavoured cream, rounded into a dome.
The meringue spread to other places,
with slight variations here and there, but remained basically whipped
egg-whites and sugar. Two further recipes will serve to show how ideas
of presentation differed from the above.
The first recipe comes from Mrs.
Isabella Beeton, well-known for her Book of Household Management.
Since she appears to have been largely ignored by compilers of reference
books, it might not be out of place to first provide a short profile
before giving the recipe. Isabella Mary Beeton was the eldest of a family
of 21 brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half sisters, step-brothers
and step-sisters and catering on that scale must have been the basis
for what was to become the biggest-selling cookery book of all time.
She was born Isabella Mayson in London in 1836 and, with her family,
was brought up in the Grandstand at Epsom, where her step-father, Henry
Dorling, was clerk to the racecourse.. She later went to Germany where
she was educated at Heidelberg. Soon after her return to England, and
at the age of 20, she married the publisher, Sam Beeton.
A species of confection which forms
a part of a better class of repast, and which is made as follows:--
Whisk to the firmest possible froth
the whites of six new-laid eggs, taking every precaution to prevent
the smallest particle of yolk from falling amongst them. Lay some squares
or long strips of writing-paper closely upon a board, or upon very clean
trenchers. When all is ready, mix with the eggs three-quarters of a
pound of the finest sugar, well dried and sifted; stir them together
for half a minute, then with a tablespoon lay the mixture quickly on
the paper in the form of a half-egg; sift sugar over them without delay,
blow off all that does not adhere, and set the meringues in a gentle
oven. The process must be expeditious, or the sugar melting will cause
the cakes to spread, instead of retaining the shape of the spoon as
they ought. When they are coloured to a light brown, and are firm to
the touch, draw them out, turn the papers gently over, separating the
meringues from them, and with a teaspoon scoop out sufficient of the
insides to form a space for some whipped cream or preserves, and put
them again into the oven upon clean sheets of paper, with the moist
sides uppermost, to dry; when they are crisp enough they are done; let
them become cold, fill and join them together with a little white of
egg, so as to give them the appearance shown in the engraving. Spikes
of almonds can be stuck over them as there represented.
Eggs, 6 whites; sugar 3/4 lb.;
From the meringue it was another
step, a giant ballet step for mankind as it were, to propound
or create the pavlova.
There is no doubt that the famous
dessert was named after Anna Pavlova, as has already been mentioned
above. But there is much less certainty about who created it. Some allege
an Australian origin, and others that it originated in New Zealand.
Who has the right of it?
To answer the question I undertook
a little research, the results of which I present here, but without
wishing in any way to claim that the whole story has been uncovered.
There may yet be more, and, as will appear, I was not able to verify
I found the most useful reference
to be The Australian National Dictionary; a dictionary of Australianisms
on historical principles, edited by W. S. Ramson (Melbourne, Oxford
University Press, 1988), which I reproduce here in part, omitting some
quotations which seem fairly irrelevant:
Pavlova. [from the name of
Anna Pavlova (1885-1931), Russian ballerina: see quote 1971]
1. A dessert; a large, soft-centred
meringue topped with whipped cream and fruit.
[N.Z. 1927 Davis Dainty
Dishes (Davis Gelatine N.Z., Ltd) (ed. 6) 11 Pavlova
Dissolve all but a teaspoonful of Gelatine in the hot water, and all
the sugar [etc.]
1929 K. McKay Practical
Home Cookery 155/1 Pavlova cakes
They are delightful and simple to make besides being
1940 WESTACOTT & LOWENSTEIN
275 Choice Recipes 40 Pavlova Cake. Four eggs, 8 ozs. Castor sugar,
1 dessertspoon vinegar, 1 dessertspoon cornflour; 1 pinch cream of tartar.
Beat whites stiff, fold in sugar, beat till dissolved, add other ingredients,
lastly vinegar. Line a 9-inch tin with grease-proof paper slightly moistened;
allow sides to stand up 4 inches as it rises very much, bake 1 1/2 hours
in slow oven. Turn out and leave upside down to cool. Turn over and
put whipped cream and passion fruit on top.
The Australian National Dictionary
gives other citations, some of which, among other things, will be referred
to below. There is, however, one reference, cited by the editor I suspect
out of a sense of fun rather than from the obligations of scholarship,
and I cannot forbear to reproduce it here, perhaps for the same reasons:
1986 P. GOLDSWORTHY Zooing
114 Pavlova n. (comm. abbrev. Pav.), a famous Australian dessert,
named due to its mouth-watering properties in honour of the distinguished
Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936).
Well, we all make mistakes sometimes.
The change from the egg-shaped meringues
of Mrs. Beeton and the Daily Wants to the pavlova we know
today seems to have been made in the late 1920s. The first recipe I
was able to trace was that mentioned in the Australian National Dictionary,
the one which appeared in the Davis Gelatine booklet, Davis Dainty Dishes,
in the edition published in 1927. In order to confirm this I searched
for a copy. The only copy recorded in Library collections seems to be
that held by the New Zealand National Library. I sent an email to them,
and hoped for a reply. Unfortunately my request was ignored, and I am
therefore unable to confirm whether or not the recipe published therein
was called a pavlova. The renowned ballerina had just completed
a triumphal tour of Australia and New Zealand. It was reported in the
Expectations reached the highest point and every eye
was focused on the stage from the packed balconies and stalls of His
Majestys Theatre in Melbourne tonight, when the curtains of an
alcove in a Moscow toy shop parted and the worlds greatest prima
ballerina, Anna Pavlova, was revealed to the excited and applauding
audience in the ballet Coppelia. (13 March 1926)
The New Zealand claim is dealt with
by Michael Symons in One Continuous Picnic: a history of eating in
Australia (Adelaide, Duck Press, 1982), but with no mention of the
Davis Gelatine booklet:
In A taste of New Zealand
in Food and Pictures, N. A. Munro stated in 1977: It is often
claimed, and perhaps justly, that the Pav of affectionate
parlance is New Zealands first and only contribution to international
cuisine that is, excluding foodstuffs native only to this country.
Munro credited the idea to a nameless benefactress and fancied
a date of probably 1926, when the great ballerina toured this
country, or shortly afterwards. To help check this for me, librarians
of the National Library of New Zealand kindly consulted their collection
of cookery books. In fact, they found a recipe for Pavlova Cakes
in Mrs. McKays Practical Home Cookery, Chats and Recipes,
published in 1929. The ingredients were roughly those of a pavlova,
but it was not the pavlova as we know it, because the mixture was baked
into three dozen little meringues. But there is more to the New Zealand
claim than this. Even earlier, in Terrace Tested Recipes, collected
by the ladies of Terrace Congregational Church, the second edition published
in Wellington in 1927, there was a recipe submitted by a Mrs. McRae
for Meringue Cake. This was three whipped egg-whites, eight ounces of
sugar and a dessertspoon of cornflour (the pavlova ingredients less
vinegar), put into two well-greased sandwich tins in a fairly
hot oven on a low shelf and leave until the fire is almost out.
The two halves were filled with whipped cream and cherries or strawberries,
or served as two cakes. From similar recipes published in 1933 and 1934,
I think it fair to say that the Meringue Cake was common in New Zealand
in the early 1930s. Its form varied, but it was to all intents and purposes
what we know as a Pavlova, sometimes even complete with
passionfruit on top. (page 150)
Another contribution to the debate
comes from The Bulletin columnist Ross Campbell. In a lively
article he related his experience with the pavlova at Harrods in London.
The article is worth reproducing in full, although parts of it are not
entirely relevant here. Perhaps it should be noted that there is no
support for Campbells statement that passionfruit is a fruit
unique to Australia. (See Passion Fruit, by J. Farrell,
E. E. Prescott, F.L.S., and F. H. Read, an article in a book
edited by W. A Shum, entitled Australian Gardening Today. Adelaide,
The Advertiser, n.d., pp.277-279). Campbell wrote:
OF THE PAVLOVA
HARRODS is still the most classy
department store, even though it advertises on buses now (open
all Saturday with a cast of thousands). It is the place to go
if you are looking for a £200 chess set with a board three feet
square, or a Christmas-wrapped vintage Rolls and Bentley labelled His
and Hers. So I felt a touch of satisfaction when I saw in their cake
department a sign saying Pavlova Cake20p. a slice
(that is A.43 cents). The Pavlova, a distinctive Australian contribution
to cuisine, had been officially recognized as posh.
But I was shocked to read
the rest of the notice. It said: Pavlova Cake was created in New
Zealand as a tribute to the dancer Anna Pavlova. Furthermore,
the specimen on display was not authentic. Instead of the traditional
passionfruit on top of the cream it had strawberries. And the base did
not seem to be the proper meringue; it was some brown crusty stuff.
Indignant, I strode out of
the gilded food Halls of Harrods and rang the New Zealand Government
Offices. I told them what I had seen. Does New Zealand really
claim to have invented the pavlova? I asked.
The reply was courteous but
non-committal. An information lady said that Pavlova cake was certainly
made and eaten in New Zealand, and some people thought it had been created
there. But she did not know for sure whether this was true.
I consulted the memoirs of
Pavlova in the British Museum Library. She had visited Australia and
New Zealand in 1926, and Australia again in 1929. But she made no mention
of the invention of the Pavlova. She does not seem to have appreciated
the importance it would have in perpetuating her fame.
I then wrote a letter, in
a restrained but forceful style, to the manager of Harrods Food
Halls. I said that the Pavlova not Pavlova cake
was believed in Australia to be an indigenous creation. The fact that
it was normally made with passionfruit, a fruit unique to Australia,
was strong evidence for the truth of this belief. The so-called
Pavlova cake in Harrods, I concluded, made without meringue
or passionfruit, gives a wrong impression of the true Australian Pavlova,
tasty though it may be.
The next day I received a telephone
call from Mr. R. Jackson, Bakery and Confectionery Buyer for Harrods.
He said my complaint about their Pavlova cake had been referred to him.
I noticed that he pronounced it PAVlova. I refrained from pointing out
that the usual pronunciation was PavLOVa, and anyone calling it a PAVlova
ran a risk of being suspected of decadent tendencies.
Mr. Jacksons tone was
conciliatory. He said: We are neutral in this matter. We dont
really care whether Pavlova cake was invented in New Zealand or Australia.
What matters to us is that it is a good selling line at Harrods. But
we dont want to stir up controversy and ill-feeling. So in view
of what you have told us we have removed the placard.
I told him I appreciated this
prompt action. But, I asked, could not the store now make a proper Australian
PavLOVa with meringue and passionfruit?
"Actualy, our PAVlova cake
does have a meringue base, said Mr. Jackson. But we found
the meringue tended to fall apart without support, so we enclose it
with a kind of outer crust.
"I see. And what is the crust
made of? I asked.
"I would prefer not to reveal
that, he replied. With regard to the passionfruit, we started
out putting passionfruit on our Pavlova cakes, but they didnt
sell. People didnt like the look of all the seeds and liquid stuff
on top. We switched to strawberries and the sales trebled at once.
The removal of the offending
placard was a gratifying achievement. To that extent I had successfully
challenged the might of Harrods. But Mr. Jackson did not say they would
put up another placard giving Australia credit for the Pavlova. Also
I was wounded by the slur on passionfruit.
Behind the whole affair I
thought I could sense a whiff of a not uncommon English bias. It is
felt by many here that New Zealanders are a decent, solid, rugger-playing
lot, but Australians well, look at all their queer mining companies.
I am not confident that our image would help to sell Pavlovas at Harrods
today. The Bulletin 11 Dec 1971: 13-14.
This leaves the Davis Gelatine recipe
as possibly the first real pav, if it was
a recipe for the pavlova as we now know it. It is unfortunate that it
has not been possible to verify this.
There is yet more to our story.
A further development of the pavlova recipe is credited to West Australian
chef Herbert Sachse, and fortunately, unlike the question of the first
pavlova, this is verifiable. Brian Hoad, another Bulletin writer,
in an article about a film then being made, the $30 million Anglo-Soviet
co-production, Pavlova, which starred Galina Baliaeva, wrote:
In 1935 at the Esplanade
Hotel in Perth (now demolished) Herbert Sachse whipped up a meringue
and cream confection in her [Pavlovas] memory. Housewives across
the nation have been commemorating her in their kitchens ever since.
(Article: Film glosses over Pavlovas turning points. The Bulletin
16 Apr 1985 p.72.)
This comment in the article prompted
an irate Kiwi to write to the Editor a letter which gives another story
on the origin of the pavlova. L. G. Simmiss, of Como, W.A., wrote:
Referring to Brian Hoads
article on Dance and Pavlova (B, April 16); as a Kiwi in residence in
Australia for the past ten years, I have managed most times to keep
my mouth partly shut on the merits of Australian lamb v. NZ, etc., but
in reading that the now-famous Kiwi dessert, the Pavlova,
was whipped up by one Herbert Sachse in the Esplanade Hotel
in Perth in 1935 I feel it is time to open wide and dispel this myth.
New Zealands No. 1 indigenous dessert, the Pavlova,
was created there after a visit by Pavlova in 1926 and the first published
recipe was in the Otago Daily Times on June 26, 1934 one
year earlier than Herberts efforts. How
about using your excellent magazine to publish the fact?
The reference to the new Zealand
newspaper is a problem, since no copies are held locally, and it is
likely that a request addressed to the New Zealand National Library
might well be as fruitless as the Davis inquiry. But it opens
up yet another possibility for the origin of the pavlova as we now have
it. Brian Hoads story is supported by The Macquarie Dictionary
of Australian Colloquialisms, published under the general title Aussie Talk (McMahons Point, N.S.W., Macquarie Library,
pav n. a pavlova. [the
pavlova was invented in 1935 by Herbert Sachse, 1898-1974, Australian
chef, and named by Harry Nairn of the Esplanade Hotel, Perth, after
Anna Pavlova, 1885-1931, Russian ballerina] (page 232)
Herbert Sachse (the name is variously
pronounced as SACKS and SACK-SEE) was a farmer in W. A. A brief sketch
of his life can be found in The Family Sachse. From Tschausdorf,
Prussia to South Australia, 1855-1987, compiled by A. F. Barnes
for the Sachse Family Reunion Committee, 1987. According to Herberts
younger daughter, Margaret (Mrs. M. M. Weller), her father invented
the pavlova, as she recalled for Mr. Barnes:
We were on a property belonging
to my mothers father, in what was then known as The Midlands,
at the towns of Coomberdale and Caroow. The area suffered a four-year
drought that finally made the family leave the property, there being
no assistance from the Government in those days. My mother was an exceptionally
good cook and taught my father to cook, who eventually became Head Chef
at the Esplanade Hotel, in Perth. While at the Esplanade Hotel he invented
the sweet he named Pavlova. There is an article of him in
Australians. (Barnes, op. cit. p.102)
Bernard Herbert Francis Sachse was
born on 12th May 1898 at Boulder, Western Australia, and had followed
various occupations in his life, and died aged 75 on 1st April, 1974,
at Kalgoorlie, where he was on holiday. Mr. Barnes cites a newspaper
clipping (no reference given), which he said had been sent to him. The
The Esplanade, as every sweet
tooth knows, was the culinary temple wherein the world famous pavlova
was created by the late Bert Sachse for ballerina Anna Pavlova at the
urging of the late and then Elsie Paxton. Bert told me all about it
one day in his kitchen after he had switched over to the Palace Hotel.
(Anna Pavlova visited Perth about 1925 or 1926.). (Barnes, op.
The combined evidence of Mrs. Weller,
an unnamed reporter, and Brian Hoad in The Bulletin, as quoted
above, make a case for the Sachse claim. The new dish was somewhat different
from the pavlova cakes of earlier years. The Sachse pav.
was not in the form of cakes, but was, and is, rather, a
dish served up on a flat plate, and covered with whipped cream and fruit
passionfruit, strawberries, or other, according to taste. Arthur
Barnes has further comment which is of interest:
In August 1985 a daily newspaper
published an article titled Kiwi chefs get into a stew over pavlovas
ocker origins. Therein we read that New Zealand chefs rebuff Astralian
claims that the pavlova was invented in Perth. That Kiwis are
gathering evidence that the pavlova was not invented by Herbert Sachse,
but was the creation of a country housewife near Oamaru in the
South Island about a decade earlier. However, it is not supported
by indisputable evidence. Will the Sachse Families support the late
Bert Sachse claim to fame? I hope so, hence the reason for mentioning
the dispute, and the disparaging and insidious statement from New Zealand,
Ocker attempt to hog the pav. (Barnes, op. cit.,
It seems not unreasonable to assume,
considering all the evidence given above, that the pavlova of New Zealand,
be it the Davis Gelatine or the Mrs. McRae variety, was a pavlova
cake, while the Sachse delicacy is the dinkum Aussie dish we all prefer.
In this way everybody gets a slice of the cake, or a fair serve, and
we can finish our meal in peace.
I conclude with a recipe for pavlova.
click for Glen's
recipe and click
for Margaret's recipe.
Thanks to Mr. A. F. Barnes for permission
to quote from his book.