The dessert named Baked Alaska even sounds difficult to make: the marriage of hot and cold, pastry and ice cream, is a delicate balance that many wouldn’t even think to put together in one dish. But the Baked Alaska is just that: a sponge cake or puff pastry is filled with cold ice cream, then topped with fluffy meringue. The whole thing is then baked in a hot oven to get a firm, slightly browned meringue on top, yet still keeping the ice cream cold. You have to time a Baked Alaska just right in order to get a perfectly cooked meringue and an ice cream that hasn’t turned into sweet cream soup. That’s why ordering a Baked Alaska in a restaurant makes you feel so fancy!
As I mentioned last year on National Baked Alaska Day, the famous name for the dessert is attributed to a New York City restaurant with a deep, long history. Delmonico’s claims to be the oldest restaurant in New York (which is slightly false, as the original restaurant that had opened in 1827 closed in 1923, and reopened with new management in 1999), and they are the originators of many restaurant mainstays we know today, including the Baked Alaska. It may not be the original, but Delmonico’s tries to keep the old-school atmosphere alive in its restaurant decor, styling, and most of all, its menu: you can still get a Baked Alaska for dessert here, using the same recipe they had when they coined the term “Baked Alaska” in 1876.
And thanks to the official cookbook of the restaurant, Dining At Delmonico’s, you can make the dessert all for yourself! The restaurant makes their Baked Alaskas individually to order, but this recipe is for one large loaf meant to be sliced into individual portions. Either way, it’s a bit of an undertaking, so I won’t be trying this one at home (especially after the relatively easy chocolate mayonnaise cupcake recipe bested me!) But intrepid bakers may want to give this one a whirl: it’s got a Devil’s Food Cake and meringue shell around dulce de leche ice cream Yum!
6 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ cup sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons hot milk
1 cup sifted cake flour
½ plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ quarts caramel or dulce de leche ice cream, or other ice cream of choice (see Notes), softened slightly
2¼ cups sugar
10 large egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
For the cake:
1. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Cover with a piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) cut to fit exactly. Lightly grease the paper and set the pan aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
3. Place the cocoa in a small, heatproof bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar, mixing to blend. Gradually whisk in the milk, beating until blended. Set aside to cool.
4. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt with the remaining sugar. Sift into a stainless-steel mixing bowl. Add the shortening, along with half of the cooled cocoa mixture, beating on low with a handheld electric mixer. Add the egg and vanilla along with the remaining cocoa mixture. Raise the speed to medium and beat to blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula from time to time.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan, gently smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then invert the pan onto the wire cake rack and tap it to release the cake from the pan. Peel off the paper and allow the cake to cool completely.
7. Either use the cooled cake immediately or wrap it in plastic film and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze until ready to use as directed in the recipe. This cake may also, of course, be iced and served as a simple cake.
For the baked alaska:
1. Line a 9-inch, 1½-quart stainless-steel mixing bowl with plastic film, leaving about a 3-inch overhang around the edge.
2. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the ice cream to the bowl, smoothing the top with the spatula. The entire bowl should be filled. Place in the freezer for about 3 hours or until completely solid.
3. Place the cake on a small baking sheet. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and invert the bowl onto it. Grabbing the plastic film that lines the bowl, lift the bowl from the ice cream and discard the plastic film. Again, return the dessert to the freezer and chill for about 1 hour, or until the cake is hard.
4. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
5. Combine the sugar and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 12 minutes, or until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, or 240°F on the thermometer.
6. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
7. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the wire whip and beat on medium-high until very foamy. Add the cream of tartar and salt, increase the speed to high, and beat until soft peaks form. Immediately begin pouring the hot syrup into the whites, allowing it to drizzle down the sides of the bowl to keep from splattering. Continue to beat on high until the mixture is cool and very shiny. (This is known as an Italian meringue.)
8. Remove the molded ice cream cake from the freezer, leaving it on the baking sheet. Using a rubber spatula, immediately begin spreading the meringue over the frozen ice cream, covering the entire dessert in a thick, even layer, shaping the meringue into soft peaks over all.
9. Once the dessert is covered, immediately bake it for about 8 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned and the ice cream is soft enough to be pierced with a metal cake tester or skewer.
10. Remove the Baked Alaska from the oven and carefully transfer it to a serving plate. Cut into slices as for a standard cake and serve.