Recipe of the Month: Coffee & Hazelnut Pavlova with Cherry Compote & Figs

Pavlova is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova and is widely thought to have originated in Australia or New Zealand following her tour to both countries in the 1920s. 

Meringue cakes were certainly in existence before that, however; the legendary Baroque Austrian confection Spanische Windtorte ('the fanciest cake in Vienna") or the German Baiser Torte and Schaum Torte (foam cake) are probably ancestors of what we know as pavlova.

These historical European meringue cakes often featured chopped nuts, rather than the red fruits and passion fruit associated with pavlova.

This recipe makes a delicious, chewy, caramel-coloured base with a crunchy nut and marshmallow texture inside. Here it's topped with cherry compote, in homage to Kirsch Baiser Torte, and figs, but you could put grated dark chocolate and toasted nuts on top of the cream, if you prefer, or other fruits. You can make the base a day or more ahead, and store it in an airtight container. 




  •   100g blanched hazelnuts
  •   4 egg whites
  •   225q light brown sugar
  •   1 tablespoon cornflour
  •   1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  •   1 tablespoon very strong-brewed espresso coffee
  • 50g blanched hazelnuts
  • 200g frozen Morello cherries
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 600ml double cream
  • 6 ripe figs or a fruit of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon coffee beans (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking parchment. If you want to be precise, you could draw a pencil line round a 23cm cake tin or plate on the parchment.
  2. Toast the hazelnuts until just golden - you can toast the ones for the topping at the same time. Let them cool a little, then roughly chop them. Don't forget to reserve the third for the topping.
  3. Make sure that your bowl and your whisking equipment are extremely clean, grease free and soap free. Beat the egg whites using an electric mixer until they stand up in peaks, then beat in the sugar in three batches, until the meringue is very firm and glossy.
  4. Mix the cornflour, vinegar and coffee together, drizzle it over the meringue and beat again briefly to incorporate it. Fold in the chopped roasted hazelnuts and then spread the meringue in a mound onto the papered tray, inside the circle, or approximately that size.
  5. Put the tray in the oven, then immediately reduce the temperature to 150°C and cook the pavlova for an hour. Turn the oven off and leave the pavlova to cool very slowly in the oven, if you have time. If you want to serve it sooner, just cool it somewhere that is not too cold, so it is a more gradual process, to avoid cracks
  6. When you are ready to add the topping, turn the pavlova onto a large flat plate - a good tip is to invert it so that the cream and the soft interior are together and the outside stays crisp.
  7. Put the cherries into a small pan with the caster sugar and a splash of water, and gently cook them for five minutes until they are soft, and a vibrant cherry syrup has formed.
  8. Taste the syrup - you can add more sugar if you want to, but a tangy syrup works well with the sweet base.
  9. Whip the cream until the whisk forms thick ribbon trails, and pile it onto the meringue. Slice the figs (or whatever fruit you decide to use) and arrange them over the cream. 
  10. Spoon over the cherry compote and syrup and shower the reserved chopped hazelnuts over the top. If you like, you can add a few crushed coffee beans too.