✯ Day 236 of Vintage 365 ✯
If memory serves me right, I was 17 the first time I made baked Alaska. It was one of those dishes that people spoke of with great reverence, as though it was harder than scaling Mt. Everest to make. This, of course, only endeared me to it more and after years of wondering if it truly was that tricky, I borrowed a friend's kitchen (my own minuscule pad at the time didn't have an oven - just a hotplate and microwave) and proceeded to whip up the first of many baked Alaska I've made over the years.
As I secretly suspected all along as a youngster, when I heard worldly home cooks speak in almost hushed tones of this dishes complexity, Baked Alaska only looks hard to make.
What most people perceive as being tricky - or are doubtful of their ability to pull off successfully - is sticking a dish with ice cream in it into the oven without having said ice cream melt quicker than the Wicked Witch of the West. (This outcome is prevented thanks to the insulating powers of the meringue.)
The time that the ice cream spends in the oven is actually very minimal - just a few short minutes to firm up and brown the rich, fluffy layer of meringue that you've slathered the cake base and mound of ice cream in - then the finished dish, glistening with its golden brown peaks is rushed to your eager table guests as they applaud your culinary prowess.
Baked Alaska hit its zenith in the 1950s, yet its origins stretch back well into the 1870s. Known, albeit less commonly, by other names such as omelette à la norvégienne and glace au four, this decadent dessert is a show-stopper that every fan of baking needs to try at least once in their lifetime. There's a thrill that comes from pulling the glistening finished product from the oven and then slicing into it, the ice cream still firm, the meringue piping hot.
Named, back in the middle of the Victorian era, for the newly acquired state of Alaska, this dish rapidly gained popularity and stayed well-loved for decades to come. While you don't run into Baked Alaska quite as often any more, it's one of the most enjoyable, delicious vintage desserts I know of.
In this week’s version the more traditional cake base is swapped out for some completely scrumptious chocolate brownies, and the ice cream du jour is peppermint (or, as the recipe suggests as an alternative, vanilla ice cream that you've swirled some peppermint candies into). These two components are then dressed up in a luxe gown of sugary meringue and waltzed off into the over for a quick tan.
If you're making Baked Alaska for the first time, I suggest you start with quality ingredients and allot enough time to bake (and cool) the cake (or, in this case, brownies). Use very firm ice cream, and feel free to be heavy handed with the meringue.
While I think this Peppermint Brownie Baked Alaska recipe sounds utterly fabulous, if mint (or Brownies) aren't your cup of tea, you can always sub in another type of ice cream (if you really want to go all out, use homemade ice cream) such a s black cherry, mandarin orange, French vanilla, coffee, raspberry ripples, toffee crunch, or lemon zest) and use your cake of choice for the base.
While this isn't perhaps the first dessert you'd be inclined to make on a hectic Wednesday night, it's truly worth trying (or making again, if you're a seasoned Baked Alaska pro) when you have the time and ingredients on hand.
It's beautiful for a bridal shower, anniversary dinner (especially for your parents or grandparents, who will love the trip down memory lane it evokes), birthday bash or anytime you're looking for a classic show-stopping ice cream dish that positively sings with vintage charm.