{my culinary adventure} Conquering Baked Alaska

I have always wanted to make Baked Alaska.

I’ve always been fascinated by the name and the combination of hot and cold. The new year seems like a good time to tackle new projects, so I rounded up some people to help me eat it. I got the recipe from The New York Times Essential Cookbook by Amanda Hesser (we gave a copy away a few years ago!) I think it is a great cookbook because the recipes range all through the decades of the archives of the food section at the Times. If you haven’t seen this cookbook, it is definitely worth checking out and fun to compare food trends over the years. This particular recipe was originally from 1909 and has a long history.

For those who don’t know, Baked Alaska consists of a layer of cake, a layer of ice cream, and a high fluffy layer of meringue which looks like the Alaskan landscape especially because it is carmelized somehow with a bit of crusty areas throughout. After you have assembled those layers, you can either put the whole thing in the oven at 500 degrees for 2 -3 minutes or you can douse it with alcohol and light it on fire. You could also use a torch.


The 1909 recipe from The New York Times Essential Cookbook states to use store-bought cake and ice cream. I would do neither as I have an ice cream maker just wanting to be used, and I enjoy making cakes so I decided to make my own, so my culinary adventure began…

For the cake: I made a genoise cake (an Italian Sponge Cake) using the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. I made double the recipe and baked it in a 9×13 pan.

For the ice cream: I made the caramel ice cream from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home only I replaced the kosher salt with an espresso salt I had purchased a while ago from our local Salsa & Spice shop in Downtown Saratoga Springs, Saratoga Spice and Salsa Company. I used a 9×13 foil pan like the temporary ones you buy from the grocery store (you could use anything you wanted like a stainless steel bowl or some miniature ice cream mold for a tiny Baked Alaska) .

So now that you have whatever cake you have chosen and whatever ice cream you have chosen you are ready to proceed. Trim your cake to be the size of your ice cream mold. Lay the cake in a small baking pan.

For the meringue: Whip the egg whites in a large bowl until frothy. I actually had 10 egg whites, because I had used 10 eggs (crazy, I know) in the ice cream and didn’t want the whites to go to waste. Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/2 a cup confectioners sugar. Continue whisking until whites hold firm peaks and they lose their shine.

Creating the Baked Alaska:

1) Preheat your over to 500 degrees F (HOT OVEN!)

2) Dip the base of the ice cream mold in warm water, then unmold the ice cream onto the cake base.

3) Working quickly, cover the ice cream and cake base with the meringue, while thinking of what Alaska looks like if it were icing. Dust with confectioners sugar.

4) This is now the point where you put the whole thing into a 500 degree oven for a couple of minutes or you can light it on fire.We went the ‘light on fire’ route.

We tried our best, but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. (The beginning of the recipe says – douse with alcohol, light on fire, whisk to the table, and get “maker of flaming meringues put on your tombstone”!). If I had been committed to the fire idea I think I would have stopped for some higher proof alcohol or a better lighter. We doused it in rum which was 40% alcohol. That didn’t work that well. Then, thanks to my husband’s supply, we threw some Rye on there which started to work better.


The problem with the Rye was that it gave it a little bit of a flavor that tasted like peppermint, which wasn’t really what we were going for. Someone suggested lighting a piece of spaghetti on fire which didn’t work that well. Then, I lit on fire some skewers so that we could have a few fires going at once throughout the dessert. Then we had some success with our flaming!


Everyone thought it was delicious! I enjoyed the crusty bits on top.

I enjoyed the company of all the Baked Alaska eaters who came to share it with me. It was truly a group effort, and a good time was had by all. At the end, I was happy to have accomplished something I had always wanted to do.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeni B says:

    Good job! I have always wondered if the ice cream would get all melty.

  2. Jessica R says:

    As one of the eaters, i was very impressed by this dish and all of Emily’s efforts!!

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