When I recently shared my fascination with meringue with an acquaintance, her response was, “You should make baked Alaska!”
I had baked Alaska as a kid, and mostly remember being thrilled at the concept of a baked ice cream dessert.
I recently spent a day combining a variety of recipes and strategies to make my own version. Cook’s Illustrated came up with a specific, chiffon-cake-wrapped version, which promised to use less meringue. The result: A dessert that’s not quite so sweet. It’s shaped more like a barrel than a giant ice cream pie, which makes it easier to serve.
I used this assembly strategy but made a chocolate chiffon cake based on a recipe from Taste of Home. My small-batch Swiss meringue recipe is based on recipes from unicornlove.com and seriouseats.com.
When I started, I didn’t realize exactly how much work (or how many dirty dishes!) I was in for. But the end results were worth it — they inspired our family to get together with friends to share. The dessert was a true conversation piece.
This recipe’s leftovers leave enough cake and ice cream to make a one- or two-person version. I’m betting assembly will be much easier the second time around.
2 pints high-quality ice cream
7 large eggs, separated
½ cup baking cocoa
¾ cup boiling water
1¾ cups flour, sifted
1¾ cups sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Use kitchen shears to cut away ice cream pints’ cardboard containers. Place unwrapped pints on a large sheet of plastic wrap with their broad ends facing.
Seal with plastic wrap and gently, quickly roll until they become one even cylinder with a diameter of 3½ inches. Freeze for at least half an hour.
Let eggs come to room temperature by setting them on counter for 30 minutes before separating. Heat oven to 325 degrees and place rack in lowest possible position.
Boil water and combine with cocoa. Mix until smooth. Let cool for 20 minutes. In a large bowl (if you have a second stand-mixer bowl, use it), combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
In a different bowl, whisk together egg yolks, oil and vanilla. Pour into dry ingredients, mixing well, then add cocoa mixture. Beat to combine.
In a separate, grease-free mixing bowl, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until stiff peaks form. Use a spatula to fold into cake batter.
Pour into either an 18-by-11-inch rimmed baking sheet or 14-by-10-inch cake pan. Regardless of pan you use, line bottom with parchment paper. Bake until cake is springy to touch and a toothpick pressed into center comes out clean.
(I used a traditional cake pan and baked about 40 minutes. If you use a larger baking sheet, your bake time should be more like 15 minutes.)
Let cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool at least 15 minutes on wire rack.
If you used cake pan, carefully use a serrated bread knife to slice cake in half horizontally, so you have two narrow sheets.
Cut one rectangle that’s 10 by 4½ inches, another that’s 11 by 4½ inches. Cut a 3½-inch circle.
Remove ice cream from freezer and trim so cylinder is 4½ inches long (reserve extra for making another tiny version). Wrap ice cream in longer cake rectangle.
Place circle at one end. Wrap entire thing in plastic wrap and squish cake parts together. Freeze, with bare end up, at least 30 minutes. Cake needs to be firm.
Remove from freezer and cut in half vertically. Place two halves ice-cream-side down on 10-inch-long cake rectangle, which should be on plastic wrap.
Bare ends should meet in middle, so ice cream is completely covered by cake.
Seal in plastic wrap and freeze two hours (or for up to two weeks). Remove from freezer before making meringue. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place flat end down to prepare for baking.
3 large egg whites
⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
Combine all ingredients. Place mixing bowl over pot of about 1½ inches boiling water, being careful not to let water touch bottom of bowl.
Whisk constantly as eggs cook. Continue until mixture reaches 175 degrees F.
Move mixing bowl to stand mixer and beat on high until stiff peaks form.
Heat oven to 500 degrees and move rack to middle. Use a flat spatula to coat cake and ice cream base with meringue.
Bake for five minutes or until meringue peaks turn golden. Serve immediately.
To cut, dip a sharp knife in hot water; be sure to wipe it down between slices.