Baked Alaska combines layers of your favourite ice cream with spongy cake. It’s smothered in a dreamy caramelized meringue layer for an extra special Valentine’s or holiday treat.
Have a special occasion or an extreme sweet tooth? I have you covered with show stopping desserts…check out this multi layered Lemon Cardamom Cake featuring fresh strawberries or make a Very Cherry Mess for your loved ones.
Valentine Baked Alaska
Treat your sweetheart to a truly memorable Valentine’s Day dessert that looks impressive, but is quite simple to assemble and a whole lot of fun to eat.
My Baked Alaska recipe require 1-3 pints of your favourite premium ice cream, a layer of vanilla sponge cake, egg whites, cream of tartar, and sugar. That’s it.
Of course, there are a few special tools you might need; such as a culinary torch and a heart shaped bowl, jelly mold, or cake pan. However, you can totally make this treat using a round (or other shaped) container. Even a loaf pan will do in a pinch!
Even a culinary torch is not 100% necessary (though it’s a lot of fun). Read on to find out why…
What is Baked Alaska vs. Bombe Alaska?
So, what is a Baked Alaska vs a Bombe Alaska and why does Alaska get to have all of the fun? In short, the difference has to do with the method used to caramelize the dessert’s outer meringue layer.
Both the Baked Alaska and the Bombe Alaska are ice cream cakes with a sponge cake base and caramelized whipped meringue outer layer. The Italian style meringue is made from warmed egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar whipped into stiff peaks.
To finish, the meringue layer of a Baked Alaska is either torched or baked at high heat until caramelization occurs. Conversely, the outer layer of a Bombe Alaska is doused with flammable alcohol (such as high proof rum) and set afire.
Use the caramelization method you are comfortable with. I own a culinary torch so I found it to be the easiest (and safest) method.
Historical Note: This frozen delight was originally ‘Omelette Norwegge‘ a French dessert named after Norway, a chilly country to the North. When the Americans acquired Alaska in 1867, a new version was created.
Think about how much work this dessert would have been to make in 1830 vs. today. There were no stand mixers or culinary torches and the ice cream would have been made from scratch. It was truly a labour of love.
A version very close to the original is still served at Delmonico’s in New York today. Around 100 orders of walnut sponge cake layered with apricot compote and banana gelato, covered with torched meringue are served daily.
- Ice Cream
- Sponge Cake
- Egg Whites
- Cream of Tartar
Buy the ice cream flavor you enjoy the most. For this recipe I bought three: chocolate, Strawberry, and Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Haagen Dazs. However, feel free to only buy one (or several) depending on how many layers you want in the final dessert.
You can also buy sponge cake if you like. However, I created a thinner sponge cake than the one featured in my Australian Lamingtons post by baking it in a larger pan. Feel free to use your own ideas here…a brownie base is quite delicious as well.
Carefully separate the egg whites from the yolks and save the yolks to use in another recipe. Note that the whites won’t whip if there is even the tiniest amount of yolk present.
Cream of tartar acts as a stabilizer when whipped into the meringue. Feel free to leave it out if you don’t have any.
How to Make a Baked Alaska
Begin by measuring the volume of the container you are using as a mold. Fill it with water, then measure as you pour it out. This is how much ice cream you will need to buy.
Allow the ice cream to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before using (it should be spreadable but not fully melted). Make a pattern of the top of the mold by tracing it with a pencil onto parchment paper. Cut it out and save it to use later on.
Prepare the mold by lining it with a layer of plastic wrap. This will make it much easier to remove the frozen ice cream cake later on.
Scoop and spread the first ice cream layer into the bottom of the mold. Try to get it as level as possible then freeze for 2 hours. Repeat with second ice cream flavour and so on. Or, buy enough ice cream to fill the entire mold with one flavour.
Bake the sponge cake (or brownies) and allow to cool completely. Use the parchment paper pattern to cut out the base cake shape.
Place the cutout cake on top of the last layer of ice cream. It doesn’t need to be in the mold but merely on top of the ice cream. Wrap the dessert with plastic wrap and freeze until you are ready for the final layer.
Make the meringue, then remove the cake from the mold. To do this either allow it to sit for 10 minutes or place briefly in a sink of hot water (being careful not to immerse it entirely).
Place a cake stand or oven proof serving platter (if using oven method) on the unwrapped cake and flip it over. The ice cream cake should remove itself from the vessel. Remove the plastic wrap.
How to Make Meringue
To make the meringue, carefully separate 5 eggs and place the whites in a heat proof bowl. Whisk in sugar and add a pinch of cream of tartar.
Place one inch of water in a saucepan (or base of a double boiler) then place the bowl of egg whites over the water. Gently whisk as the water comes to a simmer.
Once the mixture is slightly warm to the touch and the sugar has all dissolved, transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip the mixture with the whisk attachment until it becomes glossy and forms stiff peaks.
How to Keep the Ice Cream from Melting in a Baked Alaska
To keep the ice cream from melting, spread the meringue evenly over the ice cream. Cover the entire ice cream cake in a thick meringue blanket right down to the base (with no holes).
Alternatively, place the meringue in a pastry bag and pipe onto the cake using a large tip. Even easier…use a spatula to create lovely random swirls and spikes to add texture.
This voluminous layer of sugar whipped egg contains tiny air pockets which serve to insulate the ice cream from intense heat.
Baked Alaska Oven Meringue Method vs. Torch Method
If you intend to use a culinary torch on the meringue, cover and torch the dessert just before serving (people love a good show!). Hold the torch 3-4 inches away and move it over the meringue until it caramelizes to your satisfaction. Slice and serve immediately.
To use the oven method, you must freeze the entire dessert for another four hours. To serve, pre-heat the oven to 500F. Place the cake in the oven and keep close watch for 2-3 minutes as it browns. Serve immediately.
As previously mentioned, the original Baked Alaska recipe was made with walnut sponge cake layered with apricot compote and banana gelato. However, this recipe is so incredibly easy to customize. Try these flavour combinations:
- roasted pineapple gelato and coconut crunch cake with coconut caramel.
- passionfruit gelato and brownie base.
- coffee ice cream and chocolate base.
- lemon curd ice cream and vanilla bases. Or lime.
- Neapolitan style: chocolate, strawberry, vanilla.
- Dark chocolate ice cream and caramel.
- Cookies and Cream.
Storing Leftover Baked Alaska
Once all the slices have been allocated for the evening, wrap the remaining cake in plastic wrap and freeze for 4-5 days.
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