Preheat the oven to 200F/93C. On the back of a sheet of parchment paper, trace an 8-inch (20-cm) circle and then line a large baking sheet. Wash your mixer bowl and whisk attachment with white vinegar and degreasing soap, then wipe the bowl dry.
Place the egg whites, lemon juice and vanilla into a stand mixer bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the ultrafine sugar, cornstarch and cream of tartar. Turn the mixer to a medium speed and begin to slowly add the sugar. Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, sprinkling it in gradually. Watch my video recipe to see how it’s done. This process will take approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
Once all the sugar is added, keep mixing on medium speed for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. To test this, place a small amount of the meringue between 2 fingers and rub them together. The meringue should be smooth and without large sugar crystals.
Turn the mixer to a medium-high speed and whisk for 5 to 8 minutes, or until stiff peaks form and the meringue is glossy, fluff and holds its shape very well.
Transfer the prepared meringue on the parchment paper. If desired, reserve 1 cup of the meringue to make meringue kisses. Shape the pavlova using a spoon, forming a tall, round disk with a well in the center. Next, use an offset spatula and smooth the meringue upwards, creating a pretty shape (see video).
For meringue kisses, transfer the meringue into a pastry bag tipped with a star tip; I used Ateco tip #847. Pipe small dollops onto the same baking sheet alongside the pavlova.
Baking the Pavlova:
Bake the pavlova at 200F/93C for 1 ½ hours, then turn off the oven. DO NOT OPEN the oven! Allow the pavlova to slowly cool in the oven for at least 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. As it cools, it may form cracks along the sides and the middle will fall slightly. Keep the pavlova stored at room temperature overnight, if needed.
Assembling the Dessert:
When ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream. Place the heavy cream, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar into a mixing bowl and whisk on medium to high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until stiff peaks form.
Assemble the dessert no more than 1 hour prior to serving. Gently slide a large off-set spatula underneath the pavlova to free it from the parchment paper, then transfer it onto a cake stand. Add spoonful’s of whipped cream on top, followed by spoonful’s of the lemon curd. Top with diced fruit or berries, garnish with mint leaves and meringue kisses. Don’t overfill or overload the pavlova with fillings; this can cause it to crack further.
Use a sharp, serrated knife for cutting the pavlova; it will break slightly. Serve with extra lemon curd and whipped cream on the side, if desired.
Making Homemade Lemon Curd:
LEMON CURD: The lemon curd can be prepared while the pavlova is baking or the day before. It needs to cool down to at least room temperature before using. Juice approximately 4 to 5 large lemons and strain the juice twice with a fine mesh strainer. Set the juice aside. In a medium sized stainless-steel pot, combine the eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is thick and pale yellow in color; it should ribbon off the whisk. Add the lemon juice and whisk to combine.
Cook the lemon curd over medium-low heat, stirring constantly along the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the curd thickens and starts to bubble lightly. Remove from heat immediately. Add the unsalted butter and vanilla and whisk until the butter is completely melted. Transfer the curd into a glass bowl or glass jar and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming over the top. Allow the lemon filling to cool slightly, then place into the refrigerator. Lemon curd can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.