Strawberry Design: Pavlova Torta Diary

The classic filling is strawberries, but you can also use cherries or any (mixed) berries.

The classic filling is strawberries, but you can also use cherries or any (mixed) berries. (Photo: Voltan)

As the strawberries ripen, many with a sweet tooth around the world, especially in the ‘land below’, are remembering the tragic Russian prima ballerina Anna Matveyevna Pavlova, who succumbed to pneumonia after refusing surgery to end her dancing career. The strawberry cake Pavlôva is named after her. According to legend, the cake was named after a hotel chef in Wellington, New Zealand, when a ballerina resided there during her 1926 world tour. But opinions are divided as Australians claim the cake was named after Bert Sachse, the chef at Perth’s Esplanade Hotel. To add to the confusion, the theory emerged that it was actually an American version of the Austrian “Spanish Windtorte”, a cake made from Spanish windmills. Whichever way we spin it, a hair-like dessert made from fresh strawberries, dried egg whites, and whipped cream was prepared by peasant housewives in many parts of the world long before the time of Anna Pavlôva (1881–1931). Professor Helen Leach, who studies food history at the University of Otago in New Zealand, has collected 667 different recipes.


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