Chocolate Pavlova (a.k.a. Gateau Rolla)

There are a few extravagant evenings in the year when you need a ceremonial dessert, something that is both beautiful and decadent. A dessert performance, in fact. I think Chocolate Pavlova is one of those dazzling desserts. This is one of my favorite desserts for Christmas dinner or New Years’ Eve, for those triumphant winter dinners when delicious excess is among the the objectives.

Okay. I’ll admit I have renamed this dessert. Purists will tell you that a Pavlova is a summer dessert, a single enormous meringue topped with (as they say in the UK) ‘lashings’ of whipped cream, and a selection of summer ‘fruits of the forest’. This version, a chocolate-heavy recipe, came to me from a dear friend (and yes, I have returned the recipe gift favor!) under the name “Gateau Rolla“, or meringue layer cake. Gateau Rolla just didn’t speak to me. I couldn’t tell from the name Gateau Rolla what the dessert might actually be. So I’ve rechristened the version I make. Chocolate Pavlova it is.

For the meringue:

4 egg whites (at room temperature)

1 1/2 cups sugar

For the ganache (chocolate filling):

2 egg whites (at room temperature)

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons sweet cocoa

1/4 pound semi-sweet (or German) chocolate, melted or soft

1 cup softened unsalted butter

4 – 8 inch rounds of baking parchment (or brown paper, traced around an 8″ plate)


Whip 4 egg whites until stiff, then add 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 tablespoon at a time (I cheat a little here). When all the sugar has been added, keep beating for at least 5 minutes longer, until the whites are very shiny. Spread the 8″ parchment rounds with equal portions of the meringue, and bake them for approximately 30 minutes at 225 degrees (in a cool oven – cooler is better than hotter). You must watch them. They will brown slightly, and the parchment should peel fairly easily when they are done. Cool slightly on a rack, then peel the parchment off very carefully when you are ready to assemble the Pavlova.


In the top of a double boiler, over hot but not boiling water, beat 2 egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons sweet cocoa, 1/4 pound semi-sweet chocolate (melted or softened), and 1 cup softened unsalted butter. Beat well and remove from heat. Allow the sauce to sit and rest – to thicken. When the filling is firm, spread an equal portion on the first meringue layer, which you have placed onĀ  your desired serving platter. Repeat this three times as you add each meringue layer to the cake. Pour the remaining 25% of the chocolate mixture on top of the cake (the fourth layer), and guide it over the edge of the top layer in places, so that it drips down the sides slightly.

Allow the Chocolate Pavlova to ‘ripen’ (covered) for up to 24 hours.

I garnish the plate with a few raspberries. Serves 10 – or more.


One Response to “Chocolate Pavlova (a.k.a. Gateau Rolla)”

  1. […] One of the great things about holidays is the all special foods you serve – the treasured recipes you make for your family year after year. I am sure your family has their favorites from your recipe box. Val, one of my dog walking pals, actually keeps her Christmas menu year to year, written out on index cards, as a guideline and reminder for the following season. There must be a few tweaks to Val’s menu cards, and the odd addition to the recipe line up year in year out, but apparently her family looks forward to their annual Christmas food traditions. We are much the same in our family; when Christmas comes, my grown children anticipate the beloved Christmas pancakes, the standing rib roast with Yorkshire Pudding, the ‘more-ish’ Rigatoni al Forno, and the Gateau Rolla (or Meringue Layer Cake), which I have recently re-christened Chocolate Pavlova. […]

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