Ice Cream Cake Fanatics: This Extra Chocolatey Version Has a Secret.

June 22, 2017

Ice cream cake, pavlova-fied. We partnered with Talenti Gelato and our favorite ice cream tinkerer Cristina Sciarra to share her recipe for crispy, marshmallowy, chocolatey (!) pavlova gelato cake.

There was a time, not long ago, when I'd make meringues—egg whites beaten with sugar—only as an alternative to pouring egg whites down the drain after spinning pint after pint of ice cream and gelato. Their uniform texture bored me, and since they're more or less dry all the way through, there's a powder-fine-crumb-all-down-your-shirt situation to contend with. This was before I understood the difference between the modest meringue and—in my opinion—the superior pavlova.

Behold: Pavlova and gelato, holding hands, as cake. Photo by Bobbi Lin

I tasted my first pavlova recently, at a dinner party. They were served individually, with silver dollar-dollops of lemon cream and sunset tumbles of supremed citrus. It was a visually arresting dessert, but the real revelation came after I tasted a forkful: The contrast of shatter-crisp-but-quick-to-melt shell against the satiny, almost tangy inside was such a pleasure that I can recall it perfectly as I write this, months later. I became a pavlova convert.

The pavlova was invented a hundred years ago for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, in honor of her performing in either Australia or New Zealand; a shallow Google dive reveals disparity over the pavlova's "true" origins, but either way: It's extremely popular in both countries. Traditionally, pavlovas are appreciated for their lightness in summertime, served with plenty of fruit and whipped cream. In this iteration though, we're bringing the richness and depth of chocolate to the party. It's not classic, but it is delicious.

A touch of food math: All pavlovas are meringue-based, but not all meringues are pavlovas. While meringues bake up dry, one or two extra ingredients added to the egg whites and sugar give a pavlova its hard frame, but pillowy center. Adding acid (in the form of cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar) and/or starch (cornstarch, or arrowroot flour) interacts with the eggs' proteins to help stabilize the mix, and also ensures a pavlova's taffy center doesn't overcook. The result: a crisp exterior and marshmallow interior.

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More: For a more robust understanding of the science behind meringue and pavlova-making, see Erin's essay here.

Not content with choci-fying just the pavlova itself, we are gilding the lily two times over with two different flavors of gelato. This confection is a beautiful mess, and ideal for chocolate lovers who don't much care for cake. For a gluten-free version, hold the fudge brownie gelato. If you need it to be dairy free, switch out the gelato for a chocolate sorbetto.

This confection is a beautiful mess, and ideal for chocolate lovers who don't much care for cake.

And if you're fully committed to leaning into decadence, be enthusiastic with your toppings: regular or chocolate whipped cream, dark or milk chocolate chips or chunks, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate shavings (made using bar chocolate and a vegetable peeler), cocoa nibs, chocolate drizzle, and/or a cascade of cherries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, currents, and/or strawberries. It's your pavlova gelato cake; embrace the chocolate.

Ice cream, gelato, sorbet. Heck, frozen desserts in general: We adore you. We partnered with Talenti Gelato and ice cream aficianado Cristina Sciarra to share a summer of ice cream treats with you. Stay tuned for more, and see all of Talenti Gelato's flavors here.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Hailey Gonzalez
    Hailey Gonzalez
  • Lea
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at


Hailey G. August 9, 2017
i will try this!
Lea August 5, 2017
I've never tried Pavlova, but now I think I just might!