At our restaurant, we always have a good variety of delicious ice creams and sorbets in our freezers as they compliment perfectly so many of our desserts. Everyday we churn them in our ice cream machine or a pacojet to insure a smoother and creamier texture, and if you’re lucky enough to have an ice cream machine, making your own ice cream can be fun and easy to prepare at home. But if you’re looking for a show stopping iced dessert without the hassle of making your own ice cream, a Baked Alaska is hard to beat.
A Baked Alaska consists of hard ice cream on a bed of sponge cake, the whole thing is then covered with uncooked meringue. This ‘cake’ is kept in the freezer until serving time, when it is placed in a very hot oven, just long enough to brown the meringue.
The story of this classic dessert begins far from Alaska when Charles Ranhofer, a Parisian pastry chef working at New York’s famous Delmonico’s restaurant, introduced it in 1867, either to celebrate or to poke fun at New York senator William H. Seward’s purchase of Alaska from the Russians, which was widely ridiculed at the time. Ranhofer called his dessert ‘Alaska, Florida’, to reference the combination of cold and hot components.
It originally consisted of banana ice cream on a walnut spice cake, with the exterior meringue torched golden brown – just as it’s still served at Delmonico’s today. You can use any flavoured ice cream of your choice and be as inventive as you like with a Baked Alaska. I’m using a simple vanilla ice cream with fresh raspberries and an almond sponge.
Almond sponge and raspberry ripple baked Alaska
- 1 litre of good quality vanilla ice cream
- 400g fresh raspberries
- 80g caster sugar
- Juice 1⁄2 lemon
For the Almond sponge cake:
- 200g unsalted butter, softened
- 200g soft light brown sugar
- 3 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten
- 100g ground almonds
- 80g plain flour
- Finely grated zest 1 lemon
- 50ml milk
For the meringue:
- 5 large free-range egg whites
- 275g sugar
1 Take the ice cream out of the freezer to partially defrost.
2 Gently cook the raspberries for 3-4 minutes in a medium saucepan with the sugar and lemon until broken down. Push the raspberry mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds (discard the seeds), and then set the raspberry syrup aside to cool.
3 When the ice cream is soft enough to stir, drizzle over the raspberry syrup and stir lightly to ripple. Transfer to a cling film-lined freezerproof bowl, then re-freeze for 4-5 hours or until completely solid.
4 For the cake, heat the oven to 180oC/160oC fan/gas 4.
5 Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and creamy. Slowly whisk in the eggs, a little at a time, until well combined. Beat in the ground almonds, flour, lemon zest and milk, then spoon into the prepared round 20cm tin. Bake for 35-40 minutes until slightly risen and cooked through. Remove from the oven, leave to stand in the tin for 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool.
6 When the ice cream has frozen solid, the cake is cool and you are almost ready to serve, make the meringue. In a large, spotlessly clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks using an electric mixer. Gradually add the sugar, whisking until it dissolves, to give a thick, glossy meringue.
7 If you don’t have a blowtorch, heat the oven to its highest temperature. Put the cake on a large heatproof platter. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and lift it out the bowl by pulling on the cling film. Turn it out on top of the cake and remove the cling film. Cut the sponge around the ice cream and spoon or pipe the meringue all over the ice cream, ensuring there are no gaps, and use the back of a spoon to make a swirl pattern. The baked Alaska can now be frozen until needed.
8 To cook the baked Alaska, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden-brown all over.