Baked Alaska: The History Of The Popular Dessert
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Baked Alaska is ice cream encased in a heated casing (pastry crust or meringue). Originally, this dish was made with ice cream wrapped in a piping hot pastry crust. The later variation was ice cream on sponge cake coated with meringue and immediately baked in a hot oven. Many people claim to have invented, and many more claim to have popularised Baked Alaska. 

Versions of Baked Alaska first appeared around 1802. According to historians, Thomas Jefferson was among the first presidents to offer ice cream during a White House state banquet. Legend has it that Jefferson directed that the ice cream be served enclosed in a heated pastry. Benjamin Thompson Rumford, an American physicist who designed various cooking gadgets, including the double boiler and coffee percolator, was intrigued by the heat resistance of beaten egg whites in 1804. He discovered a new dish and named it 'omelette surprise’. Ice cream 'bombes'—unusually shaped moulds filled with creamy custard before freezing—and meringue-encased sweets were popular at teas and formal dinners by the 1850s. The Philadelphia Housewife, Aunt Mary's 1855 cookbook, was the first to include baked meringue recipes, such as 'Apples aux Pommes' and 'Baked Alaska Apple Pie.'

Within a decade, various variations of Baked Alaska were making their way around the world. Despite the fact that it was already a popular dish, speculations regarding its origins persisted. According to French cuisine writer Baron Leon Brise, the dish was introduced to France by French chef Balzac in 1866. In 1895, French chef Jean Giroix from a Monte Carlo hotel developed a duplicate of the dessert known as omelette la norvienne, or 'Norwegian omelette.' Baked Alaska grew in popularity under many names until it was given its current name in The Original Fannie Farmer 1896 Cookbook.

Baked Alaska is now available at restaurants all over the world. Many restaurants in the United States provide rum-doused meringue that is flambéed tableside, but in Hong Kong's variation, Flame on the Iceberg, whiskey and syrup is poured over the dessert before it is set on fire. There's also a 'reverse Baked Alaska' called Frozen Florida, which includes a frozen meringue filled with a hot toddy.

Of course, we couldn't end a story about baked Alaska without showing you how to create one.



Cream of tartar


Pistachio ice cream




Step 1

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.

Step 2

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine 3 tablespoons sugar and the egg yolks; beat on medium speed for 15 minutes, or until pale yellow and thick. Fold in the melted chocolate just to mix after adding the vanilla.

Step 3

In a medium mixing bowl, combine egg whites and a pinch of salt; whisk on medium speed until foamy. Beat in the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar until stiff. Mix the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

Step 4

Pour batter into the prepared cake pan with care. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cake is set and the top is dull. Take it out from the oven and let it cool.

Step 5

Coat a 5-cup metal bowl with cooking spray and line with plastic wrap. Fill the bottom of the bowl with pistachio ice cream, then top with cherry ice cream and another layer of pistachio ice cream (or layer ice creams and sorbets as you desire). Pack tightly, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer. Freeze the ice cream for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours ahead of time.

Step 6

Place the cake on a parchment-lined baking pan. Take the ice cream out of the freezer and invert the bowl over the cake. Cover the ice cream with plastic wrap and place the ice cream cake in the freezer.

Step 7

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Fill a pastry bag with meringue; pipe onto ice cream in a beautiful manner, or pour meringue over ice cream and swirl with a rubber spatula. If the ice cream begins to soften, return the cake to the freezer for 15 minutes.

Step 8

Bake for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the meringue begins to colour. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.