Baked Alaska naturally has that wow factor, making it look complicated and difficult to make. This easy version requires no baking at all and has a short list of ingredients. The outermost layer is a meringue, which covers a bombe of three different flavors of ice cream. At the bottom is a layer of store-bought (or homemade, your choice!) pound cake. The whole thing gets torched for a dramatic look.
Baked Alaska is an old-fashioned dessert that is still popular today and is the perfect crowd-pleasing finale to serve at any gathering.
What Is Baked Alaska?
Early versions of baked Alaska are said to have originated in the early 1800s. However, most food historians credit French chef Charles Ranhofer for inventing this iconic frozen dessert. It’s said that Chef Ranhofer created the baked Alaska at Demonico’s in New York City to celebrate the United States’ purchase of Alaska in 1867.
Baked Alaska has stood the test of time and is still a cherished dessert. It is often seen at restaurants but can easily be made at home. It’s a simple trifecta of cake, ice cream, and torched meringue.
Tips and Tricks for a Successful Baked Alaska
There are no special tools or ingredients required for this baked Alaska. It does take a few hours of (hands-off) freezing time, so you’ll want to plan accordingly. It’s important to make sure that the ice cream center is completely frozen before assembling the dessert. If it’s not completely solid, the baked Alaska will melt when you torch the meringue.
I highly recommend assembling the ice cream and cake the day before (or a few days before), freezing it overnight, and applying and toasting the meringue just before serving.
How to Toast the Meringue
There are two ways to toast the meringue: with a hand-held torch (my personal preference) or in the oven. With a kitchen torch, you are able to have more control over the browning, and it’s more fun! However, the oven works well too for those that don’t have a torch.
- If using a kitchen torch, place the frozen baked Alaska on a serving plate and hold the torch about 6 inches away from the meringue. Brown the meringue by moving the torch in a circular pattern, until you see the meringue starting to brown. Be careful not to leave the torch in one place for too long or the meringue will burn.
- If using the oven, preheat the oven to 500°F and bake the frozen baked Alaska for 3 to 5 minutes, just until the meringue is golden brown.
The flavor combinations for baked Alaska are endless! Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream are classic, but you can use any mix of ice cream flavors. Contrasting colors will make for the most dramatic effect when you slice into the dessert.
Any flavor of pound cake will also work for this recipe. For the easiest assembly, opt for store-bought pound cake, or make your own. If baking your own pound cake, make sure to let it completely cool before slicing and assembling.
Make Ahead and Storage
Since baked Alaska is a frozen dessert, it’s perfect for making ahead. Finished baked Alaska can be stored uncovered in the freezer for up to 1 week. However, for the best meringue texture, it’s best to make the meringue the day that you intend to serve it.
Wrap leftover slices of baked Alaska in a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil, then freeze for up to 1 month.
Ice Cream Treats
If you’re using frozen pound cake, defrost it according to the package directions first.
2 pints ice cream (any 2 flavors), softened in the fridge for 30 minutes
1 quart ice cream, any flavor, softened in the fridge for 30 minutes
1 loaf pound cake, store-bought or homemade
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
- 1 (3-quart) metal bowl
- Stand mixer
- Candy or frying thermometer
Freeze the ice cream center:
Spray a 3-quart metal bowl with cooking spray. Line with plastic wrap, leaving several inches of overhang around the edges.
Fill the lined bowl with alternating scoops of the various ice cream flavors, saving half of the quart of ice cream. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the top of the ice cream scoops and gently press down to fill in any gaps. Smooth out the top.
Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is mostly firm. Return the remaining ice cream to the freezer while the bowl freezes.
Add the pound cake:
Cut the pound cake into 1/2-inch slices.
Once the ice cream is mostly firm, remove the plastic and spread the remaining ice cream over the top. Place pound cake slices on top, making sure they fit snugly together. Cut some of the pound cake to fill in any gaps, as needed.
Place a piece of plastic wrap up over the cake to cover and freeze until solid, about 4 hours or up to 1 week in the freezer.
Make the meringue:
Once the ice cream has frozen, make the meringue. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on medium speed until soft peaks form.
While the eggs are whipping, add the sugar and water to a medium pot over medium heat. Gently stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved, then stop stirring. Cook the sugar syrup until the temperature reads 235°F.
With the mixer running, carefully and slowly drizzle in the hot sugar syrup. Increase the speed to high and whip until the meringue is at room temperature and holds a stiff peak.
Assemble the baked Alaska:
If you don’t own a kitchen torch, preheat the oven to 500°F.
Remove the bowl from the freezer and remove the top layer of plastic wrap, then invert the cake onto a large plate. Remove the rest of the plastic wrap.
Spread or pipe the meringue all over the ice cream, making sure that it is completely covered and touching the plate, creating a seal. If spreading instead of piping, form swirly peaks in the meringue with the back of a spoon. Work quickly so that the ice cream doesn’t melt.
Toast the meringue:
Using a blow torch, brown the meringue by holding it about 6 inches from the baked Alaska and moving it constantly in a circular motion.
If you don’t have a blow torch, you can bake the meringue. Heat the oven to 500°F and bake for 3 to 5 minutes until the meringue is golden brown. Serve immediately.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 11g||15%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||30%|
|Total Carbohydrate 49g||18%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 42g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||2%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|