Mention baked Alaska in a room full of people and you will discover that many are familiar with the name. Dig deeper, however, and you will most likely discover that though many have heard of the enchanting dish, few have actually tried it — or even know exactly what the thermodynamically challenging dessert is, much less how it is made.
Simply put, this retro dish is a dessert consisting of a sponge cake base that is topped with ice cream, smothered in meringue, baked in the oven, and often served at the dinner table in flames. But how does it work? How on earth can ice cream go into an oven and come out unscathed and still solid? The answer is quite simple.
The cake base and ice cream center are assembled a day ahead and left in the freezer to become rock solid. The magic happens just before it hits the table. A thick, fluffy layer of meringue engulfs the entire cake-ice cream creation, a blanket of shiny, sugary, stiffly whipped peaks hiding the delicious ice cream center. Into the oven it goes! The meringue insulates the ice-cream, meaning that the 5-10 minutes spent in a 500 degree F oven yields a perfectly cooked meringue but does not affect the ice-cold middle. This delicious dessert is incredibly versatile; the sky’s the limit when it comes to different flavor combinations. The cake base, ice cream middle and even the meringue can be whatever flavor you want — a dessert of pure imagination!
This dessert is a real showpiece, with some of the most classic variations calling for alcohol that has been set alight to be poured over the cooked meringue; with the lights dimmed, it is certainly a sight to behold! Try it yourself, or check out 14 other difficult, but impressive desserts to make.