Preheat oven to 275°F. Place parchment paper on two large baking sheets and draw three 8 inch circles (two circles on one sheet, one on the other). Set aside.
Pour egg whites into a large bowl. Using a hand or stand mixer on high speed, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Pour in sugar, salt, and vanilla extract and whip on high speed until the mixture forms hard, shiny peaks.
In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and cocoa powder. Add into the egg white bowl, mixing on medium speed until just combined.
Next, using a spatula, gently fold in the melted bittersweet chocolate until incorporated. Scoop the meringue onto the centers of the three circles, using a spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth into a circular shape. Spread the meringue almost to the edges of the circles, leaving room to expand.* Last, create a small well in the center of the meringues, so the sides are slightly higher than the middle.
Bake for 1 hour, then allow to cool in the oven for a second hour.
Make the chocolate shavings
I used the Pioneer Woman’s method for making chocolate shavings and they came out great! I didn’t have crisco, so I substituted it for 1 tablespoon of butter and it worked like a charm. You can get the instructions on how to make shavings here! As she suggests, you can make yours ahead of time and keep them in your freezer until you’re ready to use them!
Make the ganache
Bring the heavy cream to a near boil (it should be scalding hot, but should not bubble). Remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until the ganache is thick and only slightly warm.
Make the whipped cream
Once your pavlovas are completely cooled, make your whipped cream. With a hand or standing mixer, whip the heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla until stiff peaks form.
Place a layer of pavlova on a large plate or cake stand. Spoon 1/3 of the whipped cream over the pavlova, smoothing it out all the way to the edges. Drizzle a few spoonfuls of ganache over the edges so it drips down the sides. Repeat process with second layer.
Place the third pavlova on top of the second layer. Cover with the remaining whipped cream, using a spoon or spatula to smooth. Spoon more ganache over the whipped cream, again letting it drip down the sides of the pavlova. Top with chocolate shavings.
*I made my pavlovas slightly different sizes so the bottom was larger than the middle layer, and the middle layer larger than the top. This made it more easy to see the whipped cream on each layer!