Today I’ll show you how to make Baked Alaska, the most classic American dessert. Use your favorite ice cream and top it with a toasted meringue. It will surely be a hit at your next dinner party!
How Does a Baked Alaska Work?
The meringue insulates the ice cream, so you can bake it at a very high heat. You can use a kitchen torch, but I was kicking it old school -1950s style with this dreamy dessert. The technique of covering cakes with meringue, and baking them until the meringue is delicately browned, has been a popular dessert technique since the 1850s.
Where does a Baked Alaska originate from?
When the US aquired Alaska from Russia in 1867, making Alaska the 49th state, the igloo shaped dessert was born! The executive chef the popular New York restaurant, Delmonico’s, coined this dessert “Alaska-Florida” to symbolize the stark contrast in weather, hence the cold ice cream and the warm toasted merengue that covered it. Later it was dubbed a Baked Alaska.
The Ice Cream in a Baked Alaska
The original ice cream used in a baked Alaska was actually banana gelato. For this I used three pints of Van Leeeuwaen strawberry dairy free ice cream. I emptied them into a bowl that fit directly over the round 8 inch cake pan and let it melt. I stirred it up until it was flat across the top and refroze it.
According to the 1894 cookbook, The Epicurean, the original sponge cake was walnut flavored covered in an apricot compote. For mine, I used Betty Crocker’s 1961 picture book suggestion that says to use a thin yellow sponge cake. I added some orange zest and orange juice to brighten the flavor a bit!
The Infamous Meringue
A true Baked Alaska starts with the meringue. A meringue is a “patisserie” made from egg whites and sugar, a lot of whipping and patience. Key word- patience. This is when it helps to have a standing mixer. For this meringue I used 6 fresh egg whites, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter and 3/4 cup sugar. When the egg whites become foamy, add in the cream of tarter and slowly add sugar one tablespoon at a time. Whip until you have stiff peaks. This helps the meringue stick to the ice cream. Otherwise it will slide right off.
A Few Helpful Tips!
Make sure your knife has been run under hot water before you slice it!
Once you cover it in the meringue you can freeze until your guests arrive. Then slip it onto parchment paper on a baking sheet and toast it for 4 minutes before serving.
Keep the oven light on and inspect it after three minutes so you can have the perfect warm brown tips!
Before applying the meringue on top of the ice cream, freeze the inverted bowl on top of the cake.
This is truly a remarkable and simple dessert to make and not as hard as you may think! Serve it on an antique silver platter at your next dinner party!! Enjoy!
How to Make a Baked Alaska
Make this delicious and impressive baked Alaska at your next dinner party!
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue!)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 6 egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
For the Sponge Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Sift flour together and combine with baking powder and salt and set aside
Beat egg yolks and gradually add in sugar and vanilla. Blend in boiling water slowly
Combine dry ingredients with wet mixture, but don’t overmix. Pour into 8 or 9 inch cake round and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
For the Meringue
For the Meringue:
Beat 6 egg whites until foamy. A standing mixer works best, but I use a handheld electric mixer. When it gets foamy, add the cream of tarter and one tablespoon of sugar at a time. Whip until you reach stiff peaks and your merengue is glossy.
Pack 3 pints of ice cream into a medium bowl that is the same diameter as the 8 inch cake round. Freeze ice cream.
Loosen ice cream in bowl with a spatula and invert ice cream on top of the sponge cake. Apply the meringue with the back of a spoon in a swirly motion. Completely seal the cake all the way to the bottom. (You can prepare this ahead of time and put it in the freezer for up to two hours and bake right after dinner)
Bake at 500 degrees for 3-5 minutes. 4 worked perfectly for me! Run a knife under hot water and cut. Serve immediately !!