Reader Julie Albrecht wrote me earlier this year after we did a story about cream puffs in our Year of Baking series followed by biscuit doughnuts, two “throwback” recipes that made her think about another once-popular dish that she still makes: baked Alaska.
“Does anybody make it anymore? I used to many, many years ago. In our family, we referred to it as if it was the dessert to top all desserts,” she wrote, “and if we were making up a fantastic menu, Baked Alaska would always be the suggested dessert, even though we never did it.”
In March, her granddaughter, Chloe, turned 13, and what dessert did she request to celebrate? Baked Alaska. “She used to play waitress at our house and would pretend to take meal choice orders from everyone. My husband would always say “baked Alaska” for his dessert choice, so that’s how she learned about it,” Albrecht explained.
She had long forgotten that game, but Chloe reminded her, so Julie dug in her recipe archives to find a treat she hadn’t made in decades. Together, they worked on filling the bowl with the ice cream and sherbet.
“It really is a 5-step process. None of the steps are difficult, but it is time-consuming,” she says.
You have to bake the cake layer and let it cool, then fill the bowl with the ice cream and let it freeze and repeat with the sherbet. Only then is it time to make the meringue and prepare for the final step: Baking this insulated igloo in a 500-degree oven, the whipped egg whites providing enough insulation to keep the ice cream and sherbet from melting.
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1 (9-inch) chocolate layer cake
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1 quart raspberry sherbet (or strawberry or lime)
9 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
Line a 1 1/2 quart round bowl that is about 7 inches in diameter with aluminum foil. Soften the vanilla ice cream and scoop into the bowl, forming a 1-inch layer that mimics the shape of the bowl, all the way up to the edge. Freeze until firm.
Fill center of ice cream bowl with sherbet and pack tightly. Put foil over top of bowl to make the top flat. Freeze until firm.
Make meringue: Beat egg whites until moist, drooping soft peaks form. Then add sugar 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat until stiff and glossy.
Put cake layer onto a plate that can safely go into the freezer and oven. Invert bowl of ice cream onto layer of cake. Ice cream should be 1 inch from cake edges. Lift off bowl and remove foil lining. Spread meringue over ice cream and the edge of the cake.
It’s important to make sure the meringue is at least 1-inch thick over the ice cream and that the meringue totally covers the cake, leaving no air holes. By sealing the cake and ice cream inside the meringue, you’ll insulate it from the heat of the oven. Put in freezer until ready to bake and serve.
Heat oven to 500 degrees. Bake 4 to 5 minutes or until meringue is a delicate brown. Remove from oven and cut into wedges. Serves 16.