Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska, at last...
That's how I look at it because, for some reason, Baked Alaska is one of those things I've always wanted to make!  I'm really not sure why - maybe it's just the presence of ice cream that I always want to eat but there's something special about a Baked Alaska, an element of surprise.  When I first got my little kitchen blow torch last Christmas, I knew I'd eventually make my way to this dessert.  It feels good to finally have a go at it!

I made these as our "back to school" cake(s) this year.  Celebrating the first day back to school is a great reason to make and eat cake!  I am very lucky - and grateful - that my husband was home to help me photograph these torched mounds of ice cream cake!  With hands sticky with meringue and thoughts of melting ice cream, it was a luxury to have a helper snap some pics for me.  He is such a good sport to go along with this hobby of mine.  I pay him back with dessert, and he seems happy with this arrangement. 
A Baked Alaska is basically an ice cream cake encased in a snowy, billowy mound of torched meringue.  It's fascinating to look at, fun to cut into, and delicious to eat!  It takes a few steps to make but you can do it ahead and try to keep it as simple as possible.  I'm giving my ice cream maker a well-deserved break and used store-bought ice cream.

I started by making a chocolate cake base, scaling down this recipe from Martha. I really love the idea of neapolitan flavors in a Baked Alaska but instead of trying to make layers in my small Alaskas, I went with mint chocolate chip ice cream and just one base layer of cake at the bottom (you could alternate layers of cake and ice cream if you want).  This chocolate cake recipe is perfect for ice cream cake - so moist and since it's made with oil, it doesn't harden like a rock in the freezer.
I used small glass prep bowls to make my mini Baked Alaskas and you could use anything from teacups to bowls or a cake mold.  Or make one large Baked Alaska instead.  Just spray the bowl with cooking spray and line it with plastic wrap, leaving plenty of overhang.  Then pack in a good-quality, creamy, dense ice cream before sealing it with the cake layer that will become the bottom.  It's easy to take the chocolate sponge cake you've baked and cut out the size you need by inverting the cup or bowl you're using for the mold and cutting out the rounds you need. This can (and should be) assembled ahead and kept in the freezer until show time - when you make the meringue, apply it liberally onto the frozen, molded cakes, and torch it!
I coated the cakes with a thick layer (insulation, really...) of Swiss meringue before giving it a quick, thorough pass with the kitchen blow torch.  You can actually bake the cakes in a very hot oven but I think the blow torch is very quick and effective here.  In an instant, you achieve beautiful-to-look-at as well as delicious peaks of toasted meringue.  
I'm happy I finally got to make my Baked Alaska.  It's most definitely a very special treat.



I was trying to wrap my head around making these Baked Alaskas for a while, trying to figure out how to scale down the recipe and not have too much waste.  Since I didn't follow a precise recipe, there had to be some cake leftovers and a little extra meringue.  I decided not to sweat it and just go ahead and make these little dessert wonders.
To start with, the key thing for me was making the cake base.  Martha's recipe turned out great.  Folding beaten egg whites into the batter makes for a very light, spongy cake.  And using oil (instead of butter) in the cake allows the cake to remain relatively soft even after freezing so the cakes are easy to cut into and eat.  
I cut the recipe down by half and instead of baking it in a baking sheet, I baked it in a 9x13 rectangular pan.  Since I wasn't going to alternate layers of cake and ice cream as per the original recipe, I wanted a thicker layer of cake for my base.  (I actually removed a bit of the batter - maybe about 3/4 cup - and baked it in a single cake mold because I thought I had a bit too much and didn't want the cake layer to be too thick.  That just complicates things and you don't need to do that...baking the entire batter in the 9x13 pan should be just fine.)
As you can see, I used different size bowls to make my Baked Alaskas.  You can essentially use whatever bowl/cup you have.  After packing in the ice cream and setting the cake base on top, I wrap the cakes up with the plastic overhang, placed them on a small baking sheet, and stowed them away in the freezer.  This should be done at least the day before.  

And if you find yourself with a good amount of extra cake left, you could always cut it up (wrap it and freeze it for another date) and use it to make a trifle. 
When it's time to make the dessert, unmold the ice cream cakes.  I found it very helpful to set the bowls in warm water for a few seconds.  Then, they pop right out. Set the unwrapped cakes on a baking sheet and return them to the freezer to firm up while making the meringue.  You want the ice cream cakes as solid and cold as possible.
The swiss meringue worked beautifully and held up very well!  I had thick, glossy, sticky, marshmallow-like meringue to apply on to the ice cream cakes.  I put on a thick layer and used a spoon and offset spatula to make swirls and swoops.
Torching them was a lot of fun.  It happens so fast and the meringue just smells so toasty and delicious.  I finished these on the afternoon of the first day of school.  I, very carefully, let my son help me torch one of these.
And there we have it...a few mini Baked Alaskas!
The sweet, toasty meringue with ice cream and chocolate cake is quite an irresistible combination!  I'm amazed by this dessert and the wizard who first dreamed it up.


Recipe:

Mini Baked Alaskas
Adapted (and scaled down) from Martha Stewart

- For three mini Baked Alaskas, using 4-5 inch round glass prep bowls (you can use other size cups or bowls as the mold to make more or less) - 

For chocolate cake:
1 cup sugar, divided
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup warm (at about 100 degrees) water
3 large eggs, separated, and at room temperature

Ice cream: Approximately 1 quart of mint chocolate chip ice cream (or flavor of your preference; just use a good-quality, dense ice cream that doesn't melt easily)

For meringue
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 scant cup sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 inch cake pan with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper.

Sift 2/3 cup of the sugar, as well as the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.  In a measuring cup, combine the oil, water, and vanilla.

Place egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 4-5 minutes.  With machine running, slowly add the oil mixture, then add the dry ingredients, mixing until combined.

In a clean mixing bowl (and clean whisk attachment), whisk egg whites on medium-high speed, gradually adding the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, until medium-peaks form.  Mix one third of the whites into the cake batter, then gently fold in the rest.

Scrape batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing out the top with an offset spatula.  Bake until cake is set and springs back lightly to the touch, about 15 minutes.  Let cool on a cooling rack before inverting onto a cutting board and removing the parchment paper.

To assemble the Baked Alaskas, cut out 3 cake rounds using the bottom of the bowl you are using as the mold (you need it to fit the bowl you're using snugly to become the base of the ice cream cakes).  Coat the 3 glass prep bowls with cooking spray.  Line each with plastic wrap, leaving plenty of overhang. 

Fill each bowl with ice cream, leaving enough space to fit the cake rounds.  Top each with a cut out cake round and press down lightly.  Cover the assembled cakes with the plastic overhang.  Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight (you can do this days ahead).

Unmold the cakes by opening up plastic wrap, flipping the cakes out onto a baking sheet and removing the plastic wrap (if necessary, place the bowls in warm water for a few seconds and the cakes should release easily).  Place cakes back in the freezer while making the meringue to allow it to firm up and be as cold and solid as possible.

To make the swiss meringue, heat egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Whisk often until sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm to the touch and turns white in color, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer bowl to the mixer and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Remove cakes from the freezer.  Apply a generous coating of meringue to each, using a spoon or small offset spatula to create swoops and swirls.  At this point, you can set the cakes in the freezer for a few hours, if necessary.  When ready to serve, use a small kitchen blow-torch and very carefully brown the meringue.  (Alternatively, you could set it in a 500 degree oven for 2-3 minutes until meringue is browned.) 






32 comments:

  1. That looks fabulous! I especially like the top down sliced shot of what it looks like inside! :D

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    1. Glad you like that...taking pictures of ice cream related things is hard...for me, anyhow. I was lucky to have my hubby help with this!

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  2. They look perfectly perfect, Monica. I wish I could have a small slice.

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    1. I tried to limit myself to a few bites. : ) I could eat a whole mini if I let myself...we all know that feeling.

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  3. Oh my gosh Monica! You are my hero - I've always wanted to make this and your desserts are gorgeous! You are a master with the torch and the meringue looks fantastic. Congratulations on a beautiful, delicious, successful dessert. Great photos too - have a lovely weekend!

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    1. You give me way too much credit, Tricia! I think you know how I feel...is it me or is the idea of making a Baked Alaska just a little daunting?! I didn't want to slave over it but I have wanted to make them for a long time. The good thing is you can make a lot ahead and even applying the meringue, it will still hold for a while in the freezer. Anyway, now I can check it off my list and thanks to my husband being home, the whole picture-taking process wasn't too much and I didn't get meringue all over the camera and everything. I'm really happy you like it. Thank you and have a wonderful weekend! The weather is gorgeous here. : )

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  4. Oh wow, Monica. This is classic, decadent, divine. All in all this is I want this in my life! :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Anu! It really is rather decadent and divine - you said it! : )

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  5. What an impressive dessert! I have always considered baked Alaska one of the most impressive cakes there is, and you did such a great job--love that toasty meringue :D

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    1. Thanks for the kind words...there is something crazy special about the baked Alaska, I agree.

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  6. Wow!! This is one impressive post; I have a special fondness of baked alaskas partly because they are such a rare find on dessert menus, and also because they're so beautiful and remarkably delicious. Your recreation totally blew me away. Now this is what I call a kitchen blow torch put into good use! haha (:

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    1. Thank you so much, Monica. It's so funny you say that about finding it on menus...I have never had it, come to think of it! It's just one of those desserts I've seen and just love and always wanted to make and see if I could. The kitchen blow torch is totally a great investment if only for this project. haha. And "remarkably delicious" is a great way to put it...something about the combination just makes you swoon. Best ice cream cake ever!

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  7. tHi Monica, I have to tell you I think this is the most beautiful cake I have ever seen, spectacular really!

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    1. Aww...you are way too kind, Cheri. I thank you! I think there's something about that torched meringue that just makes a person go "ooh la la..." : ) haha

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  8. These are gorgeous!! Love that torch action! :)

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    1. Thanks, Bonnie. The torch does all the work in making it "fancy", doesn't it!

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  9. Your baked alaskas are stunning! I haven't made them, but they are definitely on my wish list.

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    1. It was on my wish list so long...now I've finally done it. Hope you enjoy one soon, Beth!

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  10. Oh my goodness, I have always wanted to make a baked Alaska and yours look gorgeous!!! I love that you scaled them down and used small bowls to make mini ones, so adorable and perfect if you don't want a ton of leftovers. Your step-by-steps are so helpful and I can just imagine all the fun you had making them :) They're absolutely perfect!

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    1. You would make a gorgeous baked Alaska! I would love to see that but so many things to make/eat, so little time, right! Thanks for your sweet words, as always. Have a wonderful week!

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  11. Wow Monica...your baked Alaska are so pretty and elegant...and yes, love the idea of small cakes...I would love to dig my fork into this ice cream cake...
    Have a wonderful week ahead :)

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    1. Hi Juliana - thank you! It was a real treat. Enjoy your week as well!

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  12. WOW! This is so impressive! I loved this cake! Looks fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Amazing what a little kitchen blow torch can do! ; )

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  13. love the look of Baked Alaska! i think we've only tried it once and loved it!

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    1. Thanks, it felt great to make it finally. : )

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  14. Absolutely gorgeous! I will need to go back to school, so I can enjoy a cake like this! :P It looks a lot easier than I thought. I'm bookmarking it for later.

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    1. haha - you don't need any occasion to treat yourself! : ) You can totally use store-bought cake/ice cream and just make the meringue if you wanted to go that route...but somehow, I have a feeling if you made it, it'd be thoroughly homemade and spectacular.

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  15. I love these Baked Alaskas Monica - they are beautiful!!! A VERY special dessert. I love the concept of your 'back to school' cake. I'm a fan of the celebratory cake concept too!! ;-)

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    1. Thank you, thank you, Jo! I always think they are kind of magical even though I don't think I'd ever had one before making these! Crazy, isn't it. I knew you'd like the celebratory cake concept...there's *always* a reason to celebrate and make/eat cake!!

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