why vinegar and cornstarch in pavlova base?

Joined Aug 13, 2006
I discovered the desert Pavlova through a recipe in a british women's magazine and it's become a favorite in my family. 

For those who don't know it, it's a slightly chewy meringue base with macerated strawberries and whipped cream on top, light and delicate as the ballerina it was named after.  (Though i suggest looking at the youtubes of Pavlova dancing - she was nothing like the skinny ballerinas of today, but she had a style...) 

Anyway, the meringue base calls for light brown sugar, 4 eggwhites and vanilla and then you beat in a tbsp of cornstarch and 2 tsp of vinegar. 

It's such a small quantity of each - the cornstarch and the vinegar - that i wonder what they're supposed to do.  Also the 2 teaspoons of vinegar and one tablespoon of cornstarch, as if saying a tbsp of each would come out bad!  When i see such precision, i assume there is a reason, but maybe the author's mother just made it that way and so she described it!

I also wonder why the base is chewy - if that was intentional or an accident.  I do like the constrasts of crispy-light and chewy and creamy fluffiness, as well as that of the sweetness and the tartness of the whole.  But it is harder to do a crispy large meringue than a crispy small one, so maybe that was accidental?  Anyone know the real origin? 

Someday i'll make one without vinegar and cornstarch just to see, but maybe someone actually knows the answer. 
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Joined Jan 5, 2007
There is much friendly rivalry between New Zealand and Australia, who both claim the 'Pav' (as it's known in Oz!) as their invention.

It's the vinegar in it which makes the meringue chewy.  Ready-made Pav shells are available in every corner shop in Aus.  Traditionally, they fill it with vanilla flavoured double cream and kiwi and passion fruits. The way I've always made it (and have seen it prepared in Oz) is with stiffly whipped cream (sometimes I add a lilttle bit of whisky or brandy to the cream when serving it to adults) on first and then the fruit.

The recipe I use has both ingredients in it, too.  I've never questioned why the cornflour is in the recipe, so if anyone knows, I'll be interested to learn the answer!  I wonder if it's just like my family's shortbread recipe?  We add a little amount of rice flour to the wheat flour.  It makes for a slightly more crunchy, less greasy mouthfeel, imo.
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Joined Dec 13, 2004
Pavlova should have a crisp outer shell with a soft, marshmallow type interior. If it is chewy, then it's wrong.

Too much cornstarch/Cornflour will cause the marshmallow centre to have either a floury or "chewy" texture.

vinegar, lemon juice or cream of tartar (or any other acid) helps to stablise the egg white foam. It interfers with the "clumping" of the egg proteins, and forms a buffer that reduces the effects of overbeating - collapse.

Adding cornstarch/Cornflour to egg white foam also interfers with the egg proteins. It forms a buffer to prevent them from overcooking.

Both act as stabilisers but the interference helps create a soft marshmallow centre which is characteristic of pavlova.


Pavlovas may be a meringue but a meringue is not a pavlova ..
Joined Aug 13, 2006
Thanks Auzzie, for the explanation and the description.  I had never had a pavlova and didn't know how it was supposed to be.  It came chewy and i tholught it was supposed to be chewy.  I'll try with your recipe and see, but it seems strange that they're almost identical - wonder what I'm doing wrong.  Mine did have brown sugar in it, maybe that was the problem. 
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Adding Tartar is same as vinegar or lemon juice but with no definite taste helps stabiliz the eggwhite, keeps it smooth, aids in whipping.

Cornstarch or better yet arrowroot helps stop the white from weaping or throwing moisture later or seperating later. also aids in not letting white get rubbery or tough.
Joined Nov 10, 2015
The vinegar gives the meringue a soft chewier texture. This is caused by the acid in the vinegar partly breaking up the proteins, this changes the texture. The cornstarch is added to thicken the filling in the pavlova.
Joined Apr 12, 2016
To set the record straight it's actually been proven that the pavlova was invented in New Zealand and not in Aussie... Having said that I I'd like to know why my seemingly beautiful pavlovas collapse while cooling in the oven. Is there such a thing as over-beating the egg whites? My brother who's a star at making pavs said to 'beat the hell out of' the egg whites... Works every time for him. Perhaps I should try on a slower speed.  Any thoughts?  
Joined Dec 1, 2015
I discovered the desert Pavlova through a recipe in a british women's magazine and it's become a favorite in my family. 
Would you mind posting the recipe?  I've tried a couple of different ones, with OK results but would like to keep trying.

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