Cranberry Mini Pavlovas make for the perfect light dessert this Christmas. Topped with softly whipped cream and tangy, sweet cranberry-orange sauce, each component can be made ahead making these the perfect treat for this busy holiday season.
I've enjoyed making meringues and pavlovas for the last 15 years. It became ingrained into my desserts repertoire during my years of living in Sydney where the Australians love them for any occasion! My Black Forest Pavlova is a favourite at Christmas and to celebrate Australia Day at the end of January, whereas my Fruit Pavlova with Roasted Plums is perfect for late summer and Autumn.
These Mini Pavlovas are the perfect individually portioned dessert. The pavlova itself is crisp on the outside with a marshmallowy inside and the right amount of 'chewiness' and it all just melts in your mouth. It's served with a dollop of lightly whipped cream and a deliciously festive cranberry-orange sauce. This dessert has it all as it's crisp, soft, sweet and tart all rolled into one.
I adore these mini pavlovas, especially during a season where we're enjoying entertaining and larger meals so much. They are super light which makes a refreshing change after a big meal, but you still get that sweet fix!
Why you'll love this recipe
- Party in the mouth. Sounds odd? It's so true though!! The crisp, marshmallowy, chewy, sweet, tangy fruity combinations in the one bite are incredible!
- Make ahead dessert. The three separate components of this dessert can be made the day before and stores. Just before serving, all you need to do is dollop the cream and cranberry sauce right on top! Simple, right?!
- Elegant yet simple. These are my favourite type of desserts. Each component is straightforward and simple yet combined altogether, the mini pavs are gorgeous to look at. (Plus they taste incredible- that's a must!)
- Year round dessert. I think they are so enjoyed in Australia becasue they are so light in texture and easy to eat on hot days with fresh seasonal fruit. I love to make them in winter too with chocolate and pears, apples and plums with seasonal spices for interest.
The meringue shell, which makes up the base of a classic pavlova, is predominantly made with egg whites and sugar. Quantities and how we use ingredients to create the meringue is a very specific but simple process. Let's go into what we need first, you'll be surprised at how small the ingredient list is to make the Mini Pavlovas.
- Egg Whites - The most important component of our meringue. Make sure that the eggs are at room temperature before separating them. They'll whites whip up a lot better at room temperature over being cold. If you forget to bring the eggs to room temperature, don't worry, just add them to a bowl of warm (not hot!) water for 5 minutes. Problem fixed!
- Caster sugar - Definitely go for caster suger if you can. It dissolves into the whipped egg whites a lot faster than regular granulated sugar. Tips in my FAQ's to make your own caster sugar.
- Lemon juice or White vinegar - An acidic element is essential to help stabilise the meringue. I've included both options for easy- they will work in exactly the same way - whatever you have on hand will do.
- Corn flour (Cornstarch) - Super important to add the cornstarch to achieve that marshmallow interior that is light and fluffy like a cloud.
Cranberry Orange Sauce
- Cranberries - Fresh or frozen work here. I prefer to use fresh cranberries when they are in season. If they are frozen, thaw prior to cooking on the stovetop. Also place them in a seive to remove any of the excess moisture that will come about from them thawing. This extra moisture only dilutes the orange flavour.
- Caster sugar - Granulated or caster sugar can be used. I suggest caster sugar as it's already being used in the meringue. Either or will do for the cranberry sauce though. The cranberries are naturally very tart and the sugar is definitely needed to shift that tartness to palatable levels!
- Orange Juice and zest- A fantastic flavour pairing alongside the cranberries. The cranberries need to cook in a liquid and adding the orange juice helps them to soften whilst also imparting its flavour. The zest os used to boost the orange flavour also.
- Vanilla Extract - A little vanilla boost goes a long way to adding more sweetness.
- Double cream - Double (heavy) cream is best to whip up into a light and fluffy cloud. I dodn't sweeten it here as the meringue itself is sweet enough. However, feel free to add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and two tablespoons of powdered icing sugar to the whipped cream to sweeten it further.
- Decorations (optional)- The meringue, whipped cream and cranberry sauce are perfect as they are. However, to create more of a wow factor, its nice to add those pretty little finishing touches, especially at this time of year. I decorated each mini pavlova with a couple of fresh cranberries, a sprig of rosemary and a slice of dried/dehydrated orange. I would pick these off when eating the meringue nests, but they add such a gorgeous element to the finished dessert that I couldn't resist.
I've included lots of process shots so that you can see how to create the meringue and shape it into little meringue nests that can be topped for serving. Meringue can be fairly particular to make, so it's important to follow each of my steps. Once you have to know-how, you'll realise that it's actually very straightforward. Let's dive right in.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
Make the meringue
1. Prep the oven and trays. Preheat the oven to 140C (280F) We're going to turn it down the minute the meringue goes into the oven, as at this temp they would colour. The long bake time on a low heat allows the exterior to set whilst still maintaining its white colour, and the whipped egg inside slowly cooks through to produce its marshmallowy texture. Low and slow is definitely best!
Prep your baking tray. This recipe makes 8 mini pavlovas (or more if you go for smaller sized nests. To ensure that you are making 8 the same size - draw around a circular plate or bowl on a piece of parchment paper. A 5 cm (2-inches) round, is a perfect individual portion size. (Image 1)
TIP: Make sure the pencil doesn't stain the meringue
If the meringue touches the pen or pencil marks during baking, the ink or pencil will stain the meringue. Not the end of the world but equally not ideal if we can avoid it! Once you've drawn the circle outlines on the paper, flip it over so that the pen or pencil marks are underneath. You'll still be able to see the outline through the translucent parchment paper.
2. Whisk the egg whites. This is the first step in making the meringue. Add the whites into a stand mixer bowl and whisk on high until soft peaks form. You'll know when this happens because the egg whites will gradually turn white and start to look foamy. You'll be able to see all the tiny air bubbles that you are incorporating into the whites by whisking them. When you lift the whisk out of the whipped whites, the mixture and the whisk will have a little peek of whites just starting to hold their shape. (Image 2)
TIP: Ensure your equipment is clean and dry
Your stand mixer bowl and whisk have to be clean, grease-free and totally dry before whipping the egg whites. Any moisture or grease will inhibit the egg whites ability to aerate to the volume that we require.
3. Add the sugar gradually. Now it's time to add the sugar, but not all in one go as we need the give the sugar a chance to slowly dissolve into the whipped whites. Turn the mixer to low and then add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time into the mixing bowl. (Image 3) Make sure to mix well after each addition. Take your time over this part, it can take a good couple of minutes until all the sugar is added. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically and the sugar granules can stick around the sides of the bowl.
4. Continue to whisk until glossy then add in lemon juice and cornflour. Now the sugar is added, it's time to whip the eggs whites until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn the mixer back up to high and whip for a further ten minutes until the meringue is thick.
Add the lemon juice (or white vinegar) and the cornflour and fold through with a rubber spatula, until fully combined. (Image 4) Check to make sure the sugar has fully dissolved by rubbing a bit between your index finger and thumb. (Image 5) You should be able to feel no sugar granules. If there are still some, then continue to whip for another couple of minutes. The meringue, when ready, should be thick, shiny and hold its shape. (Image 6)
4. Spoon onto trays and bake. Using a spoon, dollop meringue into the centre of the drawn circle. 3 heaped tablespoons felt like an appropriate portion size for the mini pavlova. Don't go right to the edge of the drawn circle as the meringue does expand ever so slightly when baking. Use the back of the spoon to shape the nest and to create an indentation in the centre. (Image 7) (This holds the cream later on). Create mini meringue nests until the meringue is all finished.
TIP: Secure the baking paper
It gets rather annoying when the baking paper slides all over the place. Secure it by adding a small dollop of the meringue mixture to the underside of the four corners on the paper. Stuck it down and this provides grip for the paper not to slide.
Bake. Place the tray into the oven but it's at this point that we turn the oven down to 110C (230F) and bake the meringues for 1 hour. No peeking by opening the oven door. This will let the hot air out and moisture into the oven which is what we don't want!! Once the hour is up, turn off the oven but leave the meringues inside, again without opening the door, allowing them to fully cool. Once done they will have a crisp exterior and you'll be able to gently peel them off the baking paper. (Image 8)
Make the cranberry sauce
As soon as the meringues are in the oven, you can set about making the cranberry sauce. This needs a chance to cool down before serving.
1. Make the cranberry sauce. The fresh cranberries are raw and hard and need to be softened and cooked through. To do this, add the cranberries, sugar orange juice and zest and vanilla extract into a saucepan and bring to a simmer on the stovetop. (Image 9) Stirring frequently, cook the cranberries until they are bursting and the sauce has thickened. (Image 10) If you prefer and more liquidy sauce, then add a tablespoon or two more of orange juice and stir it through to loosen it up.
Spoon the sauce into a bowl and set aside for it to come completely to room temperature before serving.
1. Whip the cream. In a bowl, add the cream and using an electric hand-held whisk or doing it by hand, whisk the cream until soft peaks form when you pull the whisk out of the cream. (Image 11). Note: If using an electric hand-held whisk (or standmixer), I like to revert to whisking by hand as soon as I start to see the cream thicken. It is very easy to overbeat the cream and this way you have more control at the endpoint.
2. Layer up the mini pavlovas. Have the mini pavlovas, whipped cream, cranberry-orange sauce and decorations all in one place. Dollop a spoonful or two of whipped cream onto each meringue. Then spoon a tablespoon or so of cranberry sauce onto the cream. Decorate with a sprig of rosemary, some fresh cranberries and a slice of dried orange. I like to sprinkle orange zest right on over the top too. Serve right away!
There are many ways to serve mini pavlovas, they are super versatile like that. Here are a couple of other flavour options for your mini pavlova toppings.
- Blackberry and almond: Spoon blackberry jam or blackckberry curd as used in my Earl Grey Cupcakes, over the whipped cream and serve with fresh blacberries and some toasted almond flakes. Add half a teaspoon of almond extract to the whipped cream to accentuate those nutty flavours.
- Lemon and blueberry: A classic, popular combination. Lemon curd liberally spooned over the cream and topped with fresh, juice blueberries. Screams summer on a plate. Oh yeah, and it's a great way to use up leftover egg yolks from the meringue.
- Pear and dark chocolate: Has all the winter vibes with this one. Ginger spiked pear compote nestled into the meringue hollow, topped with the whipped cream and drizzled luxuriously in chocolate sauce. I mean, come on!
- Salted Caramel and banana: This has all the vibes of banoffee pie- an English favourite. Layer salted caramel sauce with whipped cream and then freshly sliced bananas. Go the whole mile by adding crumbled digestives and chocolate shavings. The kids would go wild for this one!
- Prep your baking paper. By drawing a circular guide on the paper for your meringues, you'll nail getting them all one size and they'll look like a professional has made them! Remember to flip it over though.
- Stop the paper from slipping around. There's nothing more annoying than trying to shape your meringue and the paper slips and slides everywhere! A little dollop of meringue on each corner will 'glue' the paper down.
- No egg yolk in your egg whites. When separating the egg yolk, watch that none gets into the white. Even a teeny bit can inhibit your egg whites from whisking up to the volume we need.
- Clean bowl and whisk. This is an absolute must if you want any success at meringue making.
- Make sure the sugar has fully dissolved into the egg whites. Do the grit test. If you feel any grit when you rub the meringue between your thumb and finger-that means it's not dissolved. Carry on whipping and test again!
- Bake low and slow. Low temp and for a long bake time are needed for the shell to crispen and inside to cook through.
Frequently asked questions
No problem. It's super easy to make your own. Add granulated sugar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the sugar grains are a finer texture. Don’t process too much though, otherwise, you’ll end up with powdered (confectioners’) icing sugar!! Make a big batch while you're at it and store it in a clip top jar.
Absolutely you can! I see many bakers do this, and occasionally I do this myself if I have piping bags and a tip on hand. Simply spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with your favourite piping tip, and pipe in circles inside the drawn marks.
The outside shell on meringues are super fragile and a few small hairline cracks can appear. Don't worry about this, just be gentle when moving them. If one does crack to much or you've been a bit heavy-handed with it, then don't discard it, simply turn it into an Eton mess which is broken up pieces of meringue layered in a glass with cream and fruit. Check out my Strawberry Eton Mess for inspiration.
They are both egg white-dominant desserts made in exactly the same way. The difference is the texture between the two due to the length of time used to bake them. A meringue is baked for longer, essentially drying it out making the whole nest crispy. Pavlova has a soft marshmallow-like, chewy texture inside as it has been baked for less time.
For our recipe today, if you want a meringue texture (drier and crispier) then bake the mini pavlovas for 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours. Leave to cool for the full 1 hour as per the recipe recommendation.
No, not at all. At the start of the recipe, draw one single large circle 15cm (6-inches) in diameter for a tall pavlova (or 20cm/ 8inches for a flatter pavlova). Once the meringue is made then spoon it all into the circle and shape. Bake for 2 ½ hours and cool for another 2 hours.
How to store and freeze
To store: Mini pavlovas are best stored 'undressed', The cream and cranberry sauce will gradually moisten the crisp shell making it disintegrate and go soggy. Once cooled completely, gently place meringues into an airtight container and store them at room temperature for up to two days. Do not refrigerate them. Whipped cream and cranberry sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to four days.
To freeze: Yes, meringue can be frozen. Freeze on the baking tray and then once hard, store in a freezer-safe container or zip lock bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature making sure they do not come into contact with any moisture.
Equipment you’ll need
- Electric stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment: Using a stand mixer or an electric hand-held whisk is essential to achieve that beautiful, glossy meringue.
- Baking tray/sheet: Necessary to scoop those dollops of meringue onto to make your nests. Depending on how large your baking /cookie tray is, you may need one or two trays for 8 meringues.
- Saucepan: To make the cranberry sauce, you'll need to cook the raw, fresh cranberries in a saucepan along with the other sauce ingredients.
More holiday recipes that you may like.
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This post was originally published in December 2019 but has been updated with new photos, content and an updated recipe.
Cranberry Mini Pavlovas Recipe
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 200 g caster sugar
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
- 1 tsp cornflour (corn starch), melted
- 150 g fresh cranberries
- 100 g caster sugar
- 2 oranges, juice and zest
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 300 ml double cream (heavy cream)
- Fresh cranberries, sprigs of rosemary and dried orange slices, optional , optional
- Prep the oven and trays.Preheat your oven 140°C (280°F).Prep the trays. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and trace 8 circles about 5cm (2-inches) in diameter in pencil, leaving space between each circle. Then turn the paper over so that the pencil marks are underneath.
- Whisk the egg whites. In a clean and dry bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form.
- Add the sugar gradually. Turn the mixer to low, whilst beating, add one tablespoon of caster sugar at a time, whisking well between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through.
- Continue to whisk until glossy then add in lemon juice and cornflour. Once all the sugar is added, turn the mixer back up to high and continue whisking for 10 minutes. Then add the lemon juice and fold through with a rubber spatula until well combined. The mixture should be thick and glossy and the sugar fully incorporated. It should hold its shape when you pull out the whisk. (When rubbed between finger and thumb, the mixture should not feel grainy). If it is still gritty then continue whisking.
- Spoon onto trays and bake. Using a spoon, dollop 2-3 heaped tablespoons of meringue inside the pre-drawn circles on the parchment paper. Use the back of a spoon to shape the meringues into nests and to create a slight hollow in the top. Don’t go right to the pencil edge as the meringue will expand in whilst baking.
- Bake. Place the baking tray in the centre of the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 110°C (230°F) and bake for 1 hour. Then turn the oven off and leave to cool completely. Whilst baking and cooling, don’t be tempted to open the door and have a peek!
- Make the cranberry sauce. Whilst the meringues are baking, make the cranberry sauce. Set aside a quarter of the orange zest to sprinkle over the finished pavlovas. Place the cranberries, sugar, orange zest and juice and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan over low heat on the stovetop. Stirring frequently, simmer the cranberries until they start to burst, and the sauce thickens. At this point, if you prefer a looser sauce then stir in an extra tablespoon or two of orange juice. Spoon contents into a bowl and allow to cool completely.
To assemble and decorate
- Whip the cream. In a medium bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. (Use electric hand-held beaters or whisk by hand).
- Layer up the mini pavlovas. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of the whipped cream onto the top of each pavlova, then spoon some cranberry sauce on top of the cream. Decorate with a few fresh cranberries, remaining orange zest, a sprig of rosemary and a dried orange slice. Serve immediately.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.