I Just Made Pavlovas for The First Time, and It Won't Be The Last

Who knew something so beautiful could be so easy to prepare?

From mini Key lime pies on Mother's Day to a Nick Saban-inspired treat for football season, I've been working on my baking skills slowly but surely throughout the year. Since my husband is a shoo-in for best chef in the house, I've been trying to solidify my spot as our resident baker. As Southerners know, there's no better season for baking than the holidays, and I had the perfect opportunity to whip up something special for a few close friends at a recent ornament swap.

As I scrolled through countless Southern Living cookie and cake recipes, I remembered seeing a dessert last year that I wasn't brave enough to try at the time—White Christmas Pavlovas. Though seasoned bakers know pavlovas aren't difficult to make, I was intimidated by the mere thought of preparing something so pretty. Plus, I knew pavlovas were one of those finnicky desserts that depended heavily on the weather, and in Alabama, the humidity level is often higher than ideal. Leave it to a tutorial video by Test Kitchen Pro and Hey Y'all host Ivy Odom to convince me that I could do it myself.

Triple B Milk Punch

Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Since we had a small group for our ornament swap, personally portioned pavlovas (say that three times fast) would be easier to serve than slicing a layer cake or pie. They were also a great gluten-free and lighter option for the middle of the less-than-healthy holiday season. I made up my mind: I was going to make Ivy's White Christmas Pavlovas for my friends. And if I failed, the Winn-Dixie was right around the corner with a bakery full of pre-made treats.

As always, I practiced a little mise en place before starting this recipe. I got all my ingredients measured and ready to go and lined my baking sheets with parchment paper, using a plastic cup to outline where my pavlovas would go. The actual process of making the pavlovas was extremely easy and took just a few ingredients. The name of the game with pavlovas, though, is waiting. Once they're done baking and the oven is off, they're left to sit in the oven for at least three hours or up to 10. I only had about four hours to spare to leave them in there, so that's how long they got.

You could make these vanilla pavlovas any time of the year and top them with fresh berries, any kind of compote, or simply old-fashioned whipped cream. To stick with the White Christmas theme, I topped mine with the whipped cream Ivy recommends and a snowy smothering of sweetened shredded coconut. The whipped cream in this recipe is developed with a bit of sour cream in it to even out the sugary sweet pavlovas, but I'll admit: I added a little extra sugar and vanilla to mine. Though I can appreciate some tang, I wanted the whipped cream a little sweeter than it was as-is, so taste as you go to get your ideal sweetness and texture.

These White Christmas Pavlovas turned out so beautifully, especially for how easy they were to prepare. My friends loved them, and everyone asked for the recipe after the party. I can't wait to switch up the toppings and impress another group of friends or family with these vanilla pavlovas.

Get the Recipe: White Christmas Pavlovas

With pavlovas checked off my baking list, I'm on the hunt for my next conquest on the road to becoming our home's head pastry chef. Perhaps a legendary Southern Living Hummingbird Cake is in my future.

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