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).