Lately it’s been so hot that ice cream has been the order of the day– whether in a cone or on a stick, we can’t get enough of it! But it’s always nice to spice things up a bit, so when I found myself with an extra layer of cake and some egg whites (both left over from an ice-cream cake, by the way), I knew just what I wanted to try– baked Alaska!
I think I first heard of it as a kid when watching the movie “Annie,” as the cook is describing to Annie what’s for dinner at Mr. Warbucks’s house (Texas grapefruit, Virginia ham, Idaho potatoes, Wisconsin cheese, Washington apples, and baked Alaska). Curious, I looked it up and discovered that it was a delectable-sounding confection of cake, ice cream, and meringue that could be baked without melting! I also got a mini-lesson in the insulating properties of foam…
That being said, I never got around to trying or making it, until now! I don’t really have much of a recipe for anything other than the meringue– to be safe I made a Swiss meringue, where you heat the egg whites with the sugar to kill off any bacteria. But aside from that, you can use ice cream, fillings, and cake of your choice.
I used vanilla ice cream, a scoop of butterscotch sauce, some diced peaches (a mistake– they froze too hard to easily eat), a few caramelized almonds, and chocolate sponge cake. Is it wrong that I had all of these things on hand already? I may have a bit of a sweet tooth…
To assemble, I lined a few teacups with plastic wrap and scooped softened ice cream into them, pressing it up the sides of the cups. I added my fillings with one last dollop of ice cream over the top, then twisted up the plastic wrap to freeze them. After they’d frozen for an hour, I unwrapped the top, cut out rounds of cake, and pressed them on top of the ice cream. Then re-wrapped and continued to freeze them until solid– at least 4 hours.
Once they were frozen solid, I whipped up a Swiss meringue using 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 large egg whites, with a pinch of cream of tartar. (you can increase the recipe for more meringue– just add 1/4 cup of sugar for each additional egg white) Place the mixture in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar is dissolved, about 3-4 minutes. Then whip the hot egg white mixture to stiff peaks– it will cool significantly– before spreading it over your molded ice cream.
Then… torch ’em! I used a kitchen torch, but you can also bake them in a 450 degree oven for about 5 minutes to toast the meringue if you don’t have a torch.
The finished product is nicely toasty on the outside and gooey just underneath, with a creamy ice cream center. I think in the future I’d pick a less-sweet ice cream flavor than vanilla– something tart like raspberry or slightly bitter like chocolate or coffee– to contrast better with the sugary meringue. But I definitely want to continue the idea of a saucy center to add some pop to the dessert!