Before there was molecular gastronomy, there was Baked Alaska to awe and delight a table of diners.
A miracle dessert of warm, caramelized meringue on the outside, still magically full of layers of frozen ice cream on the inside. A feat of culinary ingenuity in the days of unreliable refrigeration.
The story goes that Baked Alaska was created in New York's famous Delmonico's restaurant in 1867 in celebration of the American acquisition of Alaska from Russia. Regardless of its origin, creating Baked Alaska back in the day was only for the fearless. The elements are not complicated - it's cake and ice cream and meringue, all within reach of even a moderately good chef. But the trick is in the execution. Get the temperatures wrong and you had a plate of dripping, soggy mess.
So a good chef – and access to reliable refrigeration – were key to a triumphant Baked Alaska. The dessert, in single or multiple servings, resembling a snow-topped Alaskan mountain, became almost a status symbol and a classic showstopper of a dessert.
Cruise lines got into the spirit when modern refrigeration was installed on ocean liners and Baked Alaska became the celebratory peak of cruise dining, with Baked Alaska 'parades': a procession of dining room staff each bearing a flaming Baked Alaska for each table of diners to top off an evening of formal dining. (Hilariously, often to the unofficial Baked Alaska parade theme song of 'Hot, Hot, Hot').
Baked Alaska is rarely seen in restaurants nowadays… but lives on in cruise culture. Where better than a cruise to Alaska to learn how to make this classic – and classic cruising – dish?
Regent Seven Seas Mariner's pastry chef showed BestTrip.TV his tips and tricks to perfect Baked Alaska… and shared his recipe here for you.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Recipe for Baked Alaska
- 250 grams French Meringue (see recipe below)
- 150 grams Raspberry Coulis (Sauce)
- 100 grams Vanilla Sauce
- 160 grams Vanilla Ice Cream (or a combination of your choice of ice creams)
- 160 grams Chocolate Ice Cream
- 160 grams Strawberry Ice Cream
- assorted berries
- mint leafs
Bring to a boil, cool down
- 62.5 grams water
- 31 grams sugar
Add the kirsch liqueur, keep refrigerated
- 6.5 grams kirsch liqueur
Sponge (or purchased sponge cake)
- 78 grams whole milk
- 23.5 grams butter
- 23.5 grams flour
- 5 fresh egg yolks
- 6 fresh egg whites
- 15.5 grams sugar
- grated zest of 1/3 of a clean orange
- 6 mL Grand Marnier liquor
- 9 fresh egg whites
- 170 grams sugar
- 1.25 grams vanilla extract
- Start whisking the egg whites by incorporating one quarter of the sugar little by little.
- Once the egg whites have doubled in volume, add another quarter of the sugar and the vanilla.
- Keep whisking until firm and shiny, then add the remaining sugar and whisk for another minute.
- Combine milk and butter and bring to a boil.
- Pour the flour into the milk, keep on stirring over the heat until it starts to become a paste.
- Put mixture into mixing bowl, at low speed add the egg yolks, grated orange skin and Grand Marnier.
- Keep beating on fast speed for 10 seconds.
- Meanwhile whip the egg whites to a meringue with sugar.
- Mix a little meringue into the batter until obtaining a homogenized paste; then gently fold the meringue into the batter.
- Line sheet pans with pan liners, spread the mix onto it and make a fine layer of ½ cm in height.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C for 10 minutes and until the sponge is baked properly, cool down to room temperature, then before using in Baked Alaska, sprinkle the syrup over the sponge cake.
- For each serving, use a 6 cm ramekin, lined with plastic wrap.
- Cut a round disk of the sponge to fit the inner part of the bottom. Fill with chocolate first, then vanilla then strawberry ice cream.
- Cut a round disk out of the sponge fitting the inner part of the top, press gently down and freeze immediately
- Meanwhile prepare the meringue.
- Place your serving plate over top of the frozen ramekin, turn over and remove plastic wrap. Spread the meringue all over, using piping technique or a spatula. Mimic a mountain landscape.
- Turn on your blowtorch and brown the edges of the meringue. Decorate the plate with raspberry coulis and vanilla sauce, berries and a spring of mint.
- Serve instantly.