Category Archives: Baked Alaska

Making Baked Alaska

Building a baked Alaska is a delight. It’s fun to work with ice cream, but I also like the fact that the process can be spread out for up to several days if need be. This summer has been a lot more hectic than I expected. Being able to park the unfinished pastry in the freezer for hours at a time is a real convenience. You can assemble at your leisure. Oh, and did I mention it tastes fantastic when you’re done?

Yeah, there’s that.

You’ll want all your components ready before you start. Here I’ve got a frozen 9″ génoise cake, still on its round of parchment. (Note that whenever you freeze génoise you want to wrap it tightly in plastic, because it picks up freezer odors easily). You can see I’ve trimmed it up to make the top more level. So then, slice the layer horizontally by first making a shallow cut all the way around to mark your line.

Keep rotating the cake, cutting steadily deeper until you separate the layers.

Repeat the process with the bottom half. I know, this sort of narrow horizontal slicing can be stressful. Just take it slow. And if you don’t get your angles right, don’t worry about it. For this sort of baked Alaska, it really doesn’t matter. You’ll see why in a minute.

Right. Now trim up your base. Measure the cake…it’ll be a little more than 8″ across. Mesnier’s version of baked Alaska calls for a base in the shape of a football (an American football). So…

…set a cake circle on top of the layer about an inch and a half from the edge…

…and trim off the excess.

Do the same with the other side and you’ll have something like this. I know, it’s not all that pretty, but we’ll be covering it with ice cream. Everything looks better that way, doesn’t it?

Place it on an oven-proof serving dish and apply a liberal coating of heavy syrup, but not too much, you don’t want it sopping. Now stuff the base, dish and all, into the freezer while you prepare the ice cream.

Scoop the ice cream in big chunks into a bowl. Let it sit for about three minutes, then start kneading it with a spoon until it’s soft and spreadable, about the consistency of soft serve ice cream.

Remove the base from the freezer and just spread it on.

Sculpt it around the edges to make it smooth, then return the whole thing to the freezer for at least half an hour.

When half an hour is up, repeat the process with the raspberry sorbet.

Spread it around. Narrow the top a bit if you like, but it’s not strictly necessary. This is a free-form pastry. Again, return the Alaska to the freezer for at least half an hour.

When the sorbet has firmed back up again, take the Alaska out of the freezer and apply the better of your two layers of génoise. If the other one is nothing but a bunch of mangled scraps, that’s OK. They’re what you’ll need next.

For the ends, see?

Once you’ve got your pieces all cut and in place, firmly press the cake around the ice cream with the palms of both hands. You’ll have something like this. Yes, there’ll be a little cracking. It matters not.

Paint the Alaska with more heavy syrup and return the whole thing to the freezer for up to three days. Wrap in plastic once the génoise has frozen.

When you’re ready to serve it, whip up your meringue and apply it to the Alaska. I over-whipped my meringue a little…the texture is a little coarse, no? Oh well, press on, Pastry! Life is short!

Make sure you cover everything. You can freeze the whole thing again at this point if you want for up to a day. Just brown it when you’re ready. I’m going to dive right on in.

Bake it in a 425 oven for about four minutes until lightly toasted. When it starts to brown (after about two minutes) rotate it every twenty seconds or so to ensure even browning. About like so:

Bring it to the table with great ceremony, slice and serve immediately.

(With spoon or fork).

Filed under:  Baked Alaska, Pastry | 18 Comments

Baked Alaska Recipe

Baked Alaska is so old-school, even the old-school recipe books I have attempt to put a modern twist on it: mini baked Alaska, four-level baked Alaska, triple fudge baked Alaska. Wow. You know you’re dealing with a throwback when even the ol’ fuddy duddies think it’s a fuddy duddy dessert. But I say: embrace pastry atavism! Love the classic! Just a big mound of ice cream covered in meringue (and baked).

There are many, many ways to prepare baked Alaska. A dome mold is standard, but loaf pans are common. Layer cake pans and springform pans are also sometimes used. I myself favor the free-form approach using no pan and just two layers of ice cream or sorbet. You can use any combination of flavors you wish, either store bought or homemade. Roland Mesnier (the only contemporary pastry chef I found that’s even willing to entertain putting a baked Alaska recipe in a cookbook) recommends a combination of vanilla ice cream (made with honey instead of sugar as a sweetener) and raspberry sorbet. Sounds good to me!

You’ll need:

1 recipe génoise, prepared without the butter and baked in an 9″ parchment-lined cake pan
1/2 cup heavy syrup
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
16 ounces (2 cups) vanilla ice cream
16 ounces (2 cups) raspberry sorbet
1 recipe Italian meringue
powdered sugar for dusting
1 recipe raspberry sauce for serving

With a serrated knife, slice the génoise layer horizontally into two equal rounds. Trim one piece into an oval shape about 9″ x 5″, this will be your base. Now slice the remaining half into two 1/4″ thick rounds…don’t worry, it’s easier than it sound and you can freeze the génoise to make it easier to cut.

To assemble, set the base on an oven-proof serving dish. Combine the syrup and the Grand Marnier and paint about half of it onto the base.

Remove the ice cream from the freezer. Scoop large spoonfuls of the ice cream into a medium bowl. Allow it to sit for maybe 2-5 minutes to soften a little, then stir it with a spoon until it’s spreadable. Apply the ice cream to the base, giving it a bit of a slope. Put the Alaska into the freezer for half an hour to firm the ice cream. Repeat the process with the raspberry sorbet, shaping the Alaska into a rough egg shape. Put it back into the freezer for half an hour.

Remove the Alaska from the freezer and cover it — in patchwork fashion — with the thin pieces of génoise. Paint the rest of the Gran Marnier syrup onto the cake and put the whole thing back into the freezer while you prepare the meringue. When the meringue is ready, take the Alaska out of the freezer and spread it on top. Use a spatula, pipe it, or do some combination of the two…it’s up to you!

Return your creation to the freezer. It will hold there for up to four hours. When you’re ready to serve it, preheat your oven to 425. Retrieve the Alaska from the freezer, dust it with the powdered sugar and bake it for 2-3 minutes until golden brown (turn it every 20 seconds or so for even browning). Spoon the sauce around the base and serve immediately!

Filed under:  Baked Alaska, Pastry | 8 Comments