Let’s Talk Food: Baked Alaska

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON

    Baked Alaska.

  • Courtesy photo Baked Alaska on parade during a cruise to Alaska.

Who made the first Baked Alaska that we have on cruises?

The French had a dessert called glace au four. It was a simple recipe: whip three egg whites till very stiff, about 5 minutes. Add 4 tablespoons sugar. Place a pie shell in an oven-proof dish, place ice cream over pie shell in a mound, cover ice cream in strawberry or raspberry jam, cover with egg whites completely with no holes. Bake in a 175-degree oven till meringue becomes light brown.


Thomas Jefferson spent time in France and brought an ice cream dessert to America, so he might have been the one who spread Baked Alaska’s popularity, according to some historians. In an article from the LeRoy Penny Saver and News in 1802, “A menu of a meal Jefferson offered on Feb. 6, 1802, turkey, mutton, ham, loin of meat, cutlets of mutton, fried eggs, fried beef and a pie called ‘macaroni.’” The desserts included “ice cream very good, crust, wholly dried, crumbled into thin flakes; a dish somewhat like a pudding.”

During the Victorian Era (1837-1901), “elaborate ice cream desserts made by local dairies and confectioners were the height of refinement, served at teas and formal dinners. They prided themselves on fancy ice cream ‘bombes’ (ice cream pressed into molds which produced elegant and elaborate frozen desserts in fancy and festive shapes. (This) tradition was taken from molded puddings and custards. These were also known as ice cream cakes.” according to the website whatscookingamerica.net.

In honor of the purchase of Alaska from the Russians in 1867, the French chef at the famous Delmonicos’s restaurant in New York created a new cake to celebrate America’s new acquisition.

The recipe was as follows:

“Prepare a very fine vanilla-flavored savory biscuit paste. Butter some plain mold 2 3/4 inches in diameter by 1 1/2 inches in depth, dip them in flour and fill two-thirds full with the paste. Cook, turn them out and make an incision all around the bottom, hollow out the cakes and mask the empty space with apricot marmalade. Have some ice cream, mold shaped, fill them half with uncooked banana ice cream and half with uncooked vanilla ice cream; freeze; unmold and lay them in a hollow of the prepared biscuits; keep in a freezing box or cave. Prepare also a meringue with 12 egg whites and 1 pound of sugar. A few moments before serving place each biscuit with its ice (cream) on a small lace paper, and cover one after the other with the meringue pushed through a pocket furnished with a channeled socket, beginning at the bottom and diminishing the thickness until the top is reached; color this meringue for 2 minutes in a hot oven, and when a light golden grown remove and serve at once.”

We associate a Baked Alaska with cruises. Well, the history behind it, according to Frommer’s website, is that it was first served on a 1905 cruise to America.

“The lights were dimmed, and from the kitchen came squads of waiters bearing overhead a sizzling combination of fire and ice,” the website says.

But it was not until the 1950s that the Baked Alaska began to appear on cruises.

My first experience having a parade of Baked Alaska was on a cruise to the Greek Isles many years ago. On our cruise last week to Alaska, we had a parade of Baked Alaska at the end.

Here is Food Network’s recipe for Baked Alaska.

Baked Alaska

Serves: 12

For the ice cream cake:

1 pint raspberry, passion fruit or other sorbet, softened

1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened

1 quart chocolate ice cream, softened

1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs, about 17 crushed wafers

1 loaf pound cake

For the meringue:

1 cup egg whites (about 6 large) at room temperature

Pinch of cream of tartar

1 cup sugar

Brush a 3-quart metal bowl with vegetable oil; line with plastic wrap. Fill the bowl with scoops of sorbet vanilla ice cream and half of chocolate ice cream, alternating small and large scoops to create a mosaic of colors and shapes. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the ice cream; press down to close the gaps between scoops and even out the surface. Remove the plastic wrap, sprinkle the ice cream with the wafer crumbs and re-cover with the plastic wrap, pressing gently. Freeze until set, about 30 minutes.

Remove the wrap and spread the remaining chocolate ice cream in an even layer on top of the crumbs. Cut the pound cake into 1/2-inch slices; completely cover the ice cream with the slices, trimming as needed (you’ll use about two-thirds of the cake). Cover with fresh plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours or up to two days.

Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until foamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar on high speed until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks.

Remove the top layer of plastic wrap, then invert the cake onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (if necessary, let the cake stand overturned until it slips out). Remove the rest of the plastic wrap and cover the ice cream completely with the meringue, making the dome-shaped top slightly thicker than the sides. Form swirly peaks into the meringue using the back of a spoon. Freeze for at least 3 more hours.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bake the cake until the meringue peaks are golden, about 4 minutes, or brown the meringue with a blowtorch. Let the cake soften at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Freeze any leftovers.

Foodie bites


The Taste of the Hawaiian Range is from 5:30-7:30 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 7, at Mana Christian Ohana (Old Kahilu Town Hall) and YMCA Minuke Ole Park behind Parker Ranch Center in Waimea. Enjoy local, pasture-raised meats and produce prepared by Hawaii Island chefs and culinary students. Tickets are $50 presale, $60 at the door.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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