This post is off the beaten path of my usual type of recipes. This summer, I was e-mailing with a friend about getting together for dinner, and in the course of the exchange, she used the phrase "Baked Alaska" as a kind of exclamation. I thought yes, I'll make Baked Alaska for the meal, which was for a special occasion. I had had Baked Alaska only once in my life, some fifty years ago. When I was about twelve years old, one mother made dinner for a gathering of her daughter's friends. At the end of the meal, she brought out a Baked Alaska. I had never heard of or seen such a thing--it was quite wonderful. The warm baked meringue on top with the surprise of cold ice cream and cake inside. I never thought to make it myself, but now I was committed! Turns out it's quite simple to make--the most difficult part was reading through various recipes and combining them into something that would work for me. So, if you are ever so moved, here's my version.
(recipe adapted from The Settlement Cook Book, Fanny Farmer, Joy of Cooking, and Martha Stewart--see how much research I'm saving you!)
about 2 quarts ice cream (all one flavor or two)
8" round sponge cake (recipe below)
meringue (recipe below)
A day or two ahead: Leave the ice cream out to soften a bit. Select a bowl that holds about 2 quarts, but, most important, a bowl whose rim is a little less than 8" in diameter, as you'll be inverting the ice cream on to the top of the 8" round sponge cake. Spray a 2-quart bowl with cooking spray and line with plastic. Pack ice cream firmly into the bowl--either all one flavor, or layered. Cover surface with plastic wrap and put in freezer. Freeze until ice cream is very hard--at least 2 hours.
On the day you'll be serving: Place sponge cake on the serving plate you'll be using. Remove ice cream from freezer and invert over the cake. Keep the plastic wrap on, and return to freezer.
Preheat oven to 500.
Shortly before you are going to serve the dessert, make the meringue. Remove plastic from the ice cream. Spoon the meringue over the ice cream, swirling with a spatula. Place in oven and bake until the meringue starts to turn brown, about 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.
SPONGE CAKE (adapted from The Settlement Cook Book)
(enough for one 8" round layer)
1-1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 c. cake flour
2 eggs, separated
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
3/8 c. water
Preheat oven to 325. Sift baking powder with the flour. In a bowl, beat egg yolks until light and thick. Add sugar gradually and continue beating. Add vanilla, and then alternately add the flour and water. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks, and fold into the mixture. Bake in an ungreased 8" round pan until done, about 25 minutes. (For a full recipe, double this, the cooking time is 40-50 minutes. I forgot to write down how long this halved recipe took.) Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes, and then remove cake from pan.
MERINGUE (This makes more than you need)
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 pinch cream of tartar
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
Beat egg whites until light and frothy. Add cream of tartar. Continue beating until stiff enough to hold a peak. Gradually beat in sugar and beat until meringue is stiff and glossy.