You will love this truly exotic summer-evoking dessert – whether that is during the Australian Open tennis tournament or any other time in the year.

I don’t know about you, but I always get childishly excited recreating authentic regional recipes at home to join in the festivities when an important event is going ahead somewhere.

With the Australian Open – the first in a series of four major tennis tournaments taking place in one year, that if the same player wins all four leads to the ‘Grand Slam’ title – taking place in Melbourne, Australia annually in the second half of January, I’ve been looking for a unique culinary treat to enjoy while looking the matches.   

That said, differently to a couple of other events featuring their own traditional food or beverage (think strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, another of the four Grand Slam tournaments, or the famous Mint Julep at the Kentucky Derby) there is no specific cocktail or food linked to the Australian Open.

Unless you would count a cocktail created by former tennis player Pat Cash called ‘The Pat Cash Grand Slam Cocktail’. For all I could find out about it, it’s not widely known nor offered at the event’s premisses.

But what else could one put on the table when looking for something truly Australian?

Grand Slam Pavlova: The Dessert To Serve During The Australian Open

Pavlova, of course.

This meringue-based dessert is hugely popular both in Australia and New Zealand, and locally regarded as a true Australian icon.

But wait.

While it’s clear it was named after famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova who in the 1920s toured both Australia and New Zealand, who invented the classic dessert is still heavily disputed between the two countries. And in the end, neither of the two might actually be the place of origin.

So what’s the story?

Grand Slam Pavlova: The Dessert To Serve During The Australian Open

Initially, the pavlova was credited to chef Herbert Sachse who is said to have invented the dessert when working at Esplanade Hotel in Perth in 1935. While it was the hotels house manager to come up with the name, claiming it was ‘as light as pavlova’.  

Another narrative claims it was actually created at a hotel in Wellington, New Zealand, by an unknown chef in 1926.

In the end, it might have been neither of the two.

Grand Slam Pavlova: The Dessert To Serve During The Australian Open

Believe it or not, meringue-based cakes topped with cream and fruit already existed in German-speaking countries in the 18th century. Locally, they were called Baiser Torte (with baiser actually a French word meaning kiss), and they were likely brought to Australia and other parts of the world by German and Austrian immigrants.

Regardless of its true origin, today in Australia no major party or event is complete without a pavlova for dessert.

Making pavlova might look tricky to make, but once you get a bit of practice you will realize they are actually fairly easy to make. That said, you must pay attention to the process.

The most important thing is to make sure the egg whites will dry at a very low heat to ensure it’s not getting brownish on the outside.

To make it a dessert being enjoyed watching the matches at the Australian Open, I’ve made a version including the flavours featured in the Pat Cash Grand Slam Cocktail. It’s based on white and brown rum, cream de coconut, peach liquor, passion fruit, and orange juice. So that’s been the base for me to start creating a Grand Slam Pavlova.

This light, sweet dessert dressed up with exotic-tasting toppings will be the absolute stunner on the table.  Instead of whipped cream it’s topped with a coconut-mascarpone cream, orange-passion fruit curd and fresh slices of passion fruit and oranges.

Both the mascarpone mousse and orange-passion fruit curd need a couple of hours to cool/set, so I recommend making both on the day ahead.

Grand Slam Pavlova: The Dessert To Serve During The Australian Open

Recipe: Grand Slam Pavlova – Pavlova with Coconut-Mascarpone Mousse and Orange-Passion Fruit Curd

For the coconut-mascarpone mousse

250 g heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250 g mascarpone
120 ml coconut milk
2 tablespoon brown rum

In a bowl, whip cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until stiff.

In a separate bowl, mix mascarpone, coconut milk and rum until just combined. Fold in half of the whipped cream until just combined, then repeat with the other half.

Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

For the orange-passion fruit curd

200 g unsalted butter
700 g caster sugar (500 g ???)
3 teaspoons orange zest
300 ml orange juice
2 passion fruits
4 medium eggs, lightly beaten

Place a large saucepan over a bain marie. Add butter, sugar, orange zest and orange juice. When the butter has melted completely, add the pulp of the passion fruit.

Add the beaten eggs and continue to cook over the bain marie, stirring until the mixture has thickened.

Pour the curd through a sieve into a glass jar. Tightly close the lid, let cool for about 30 minutes, then refrigerate.

For the pavlova

4 egg whites
250 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff then slowly whisk in the sugar in small batches. Continue to whisk until the mixture looks glossy. Whisk in the corn starch and vinegar.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Using a plate of approximately 20 to 23 cm, mark a circle on the paper.

Spread the meringue inside the circle, creating a mould by making the sides slightly higher.

Reduce the heat to 150°C. Bake for one hour. Turn off the heat and let the meringue cool inside the closed oven for around one hour.

When completely cool, transfer onto a large serving plate.

Just before serving, top with the coconut-mascarpone mousse, then with the orange-passion fruit curd and if you like fresh fruit.

Grand Slam Pavlova: The Dessert To Serve During The Australian Open