baked alaska recipe

Baked Alaska is the one cake everyone wants to make but is afraid to attempt. What if the ice cream melts in my oven? We share the science behind the baked Alaska ice cream cake and give you an easy “practice” recipe and a go for the gold DIY Baked Alaska recipe so everyone can give it a try!

Baked Alaska

A Baked Alaska is an amazing dessert that mystifies everyone. Wow your crowd today. Recipes for 3 Skill Levels.

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baked alaska recipe

A Baked Alaska is science in action. The ice cream is between two insulators, meringue and sponge cake. The cake comes out warm, the meringue toasted but the ice cream stays cold.

Why is baked Alaska called a baked Alaska?

Charles Ranhofer, the pastry chef at the famous Delmonico’s restaurant in New York, was born in France so was probably introduced to the omelette norvégienne there. He created a cake celebrating the hot and cold combination which he originally called the Alaska-Florida Cake. It used a walnut sponge cake layered with apricot compote and banana ice cream made with bananas shipped from Central America.

copy of alaska florida dessert in chef Charles Ranhofer cookbook the Epicurean
Copy of Alaska Florida dessert in chef Charles Ranhofer cookbook The Epicurean

In March 1867, the US purchased Alaska from the Russians. It was the talk of the town. Ranhofer got the brilliant idea to use the event to re-name his dessert the Baked Alaska. It was a hit.

(Delmonico’s restaurant is famous for naming other dishes such as the Delmonico Steak (thick cut ribeye steak), Delmonico Potatoes (cheesy mashed potatoes), Chicken à la King, Eggs Benedict, Manhattan Clam Chowder, and Lobster Newberg.)

Why does the ice cream not melt in baked Alaska?

baked alaska is not going to melt in my oven right

When egg whites are beaten they become a foam containing millions of tiny air bubbles. The air bubbles don’t conduct heat very well, making the foamy egg whites the perfect insulator for the ice cream. The more meringue, the better.

Sponge cake is also a “foam”, containing air bubbles. The cake part of a Baked Alaska must be an insulator too, so it needs to be made from a sponge cake that is lifted by trapped air in the batter.

Cook’s Illustrated tested different kinds of cake to see which ones insulated the best. They discovered the best choices were chiffon and genoise cakes. I would also add Angel Food cake because they all are sponge cakes that are light and fluffy with lots of fine air bubbles to serve as insulation.


The key is to keep the ice cream as cold as possible before cooking, the oven as hot as it will go (500° F), and leave the cake in the oven just long enough for the meringue to caramelize but not melt (only peaks are browned) – about 2-4 minutes.


Interested in the physics of how it all works? Visit Comsol to see the nitty gritty details and their multiphysics modeling.

Here are the important factors, according to them:

  1. Ice cream starts to melt at about -3°C/27 °F so it must be kept as frozen/cold as possible before baking.
  2. The oven must be as hot as possible (250°C/500°F) in order for the meringue to brown quickly, before the ice cream melts.
  3. The meringue thickness must be at least 2 cm/1″ thick – more is better.
  4. The time in the oven needs to be much less than 8 minutes, the point at which the ice cream will begin to melt.

How to make Baked Alaska

A Baked Alaska is a dessert that very few have attempted. (You’re baking freakin’ ice cream!) But don’t be shy – we’ll show you how.

Is this your first time making Baked Alaska?

Easy baked Alaska recipe

If you’re giving it a try for the first time, focus on the technique and buy the sponge cake or make an angel food cake from a mix. Buy the egg whites for the meringue, too.

{world’s easiest} Baked Alaska Recipe: Assemble the parts

store sponge cake and store ice cream for baked alaska

What you need:

  • store bought sponge cake or angel food cake mix
  • freezer-to-oven safe glass baking dish (like Pyrex or Corning)that is the correct size & shape for the cake (if slightly larger, can fill space with meringue)
  • *not-too-sweet ice cream
  • carton of egg whites (equivalent to 3 eggs)
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

*The purchased cake will be super sweet and meringue is made with lots of sugar, so it is important to choose a flavor of ice cream that isn’t as sweet for your Baked Alaska to be a success. Something like coffee ice cream.

slice of baked alaska ice cream cake recipe

Instructions:

  1. If you’ve purchased your sponge cake: unwrap cake, place in center of your baking dish, wrap in plastic and freeze cake for 1 hour. If you’re making angel food cake from a mix: bake it in your glass dish, allow it to cool completely, wrap in plastic and then freeze for 1 hour.
  2. Soften ice cream just enough to be able to spread it. Take cake out of freezer and scoop a layer of ice cream on top of the frozen cake. **IMPORTANT: leave 1″ space between ice cream and edge of baking dish.** This is the trough where the insulating meringue will go. (If the ice cream touches the side of the glass dish, it WILL melt.)
  3. Cover the stacked cake with plastic wrap and return to the freezer for 2 hours.
  4. When you are ready to serve your Baked Alaska dessert, preheat oven to 500° F.
  5. Prepare the French meringue: in a medium bowl, beat egg whites with hand mixer on medium-low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Turn mixer to high speed. Slowly beat in sugar little by little, and continue beating until stiff peaks form and it is glossy.
  6. Remove stacked cake from freezer and unwrap. Dig out any ice cream that may have filled in the 1″ trough.
  7. Fill trough with meringue and spread it with swirl motions all over cake. **It must be at least 1″ thick or more and completely cover all the ice cream.**
  8. Take a moment to make sure the meringue is NOT smooth. There needs to be little meringue peaks all over because these are the only parts that brown. Use the back of a spoon with a swirling motion to create more peaks.
  9. Bake 2-4 minutes until meringue peaks are brown and remaining meringue takes on dry appearance.
  10. Remove from oven onto cooling rack. Let it set for 3 minutes and to cool slightly. Then serve.

How do you store leftover baked Alaska?

Wrap leftovers in plastic wrap and freeze. You may want to cut the remaining Baked Alaska into slices, place on a cookie sheet covered with plastic wrap, fold wrap over and freeze for an hour. Put individually wrapped pieces in an air tight container and return to freezer. May be kept frozen for up to two days.

{DIY} Baked Alaska Dessert

If you didn’t take the time to read the above information, please do because it is very important to the success of your creation that you understand the science behind how the ice cream stays cold inside the warmed cake and toasted meringue.

Make your chiffon cake first and let it cool completely.

See our step by step recipe for the perfect chiffon cake here.

If you want a chocolate chiffon base, just add 1/2 cup baking cocoa.

chiffon sponge cake

Baked Alaska Recipe u0026amp; Tutorials for All Skill Levels

  • 1 chiffon cake
  • 1½ qt quality smooth ice cream (no chunks)
  • 1 c sugar
  • 7 egg whites, chilled
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Bake a round Chiffon Cake. (See our recipe with tutorial here.) Allow to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour.
  2. Allow ice cream to stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes to soften slightly.
  3. Choose a glass bowl with the same diameter as your cake. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Layer bowl with plastic wrap to cover, draping over the edge long enough to fold over.
  4. Scoop ice cream into bowl. Pack down to make sure there are no air pockets. If adding another layer of different flavored ice cream, add it on top and pack down again.
  5. Wrap ice cream with overhanging plastic wrap so it is covered. Freeze until set, about 2 hours.
  6. Unwrap cake and place on plate. Unwrap ice cream and place flat side down on top of cake. Wrap both together and freeze another 2 hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 500° F.
  8. Prepare the French meringue: in a medium bowl, beat egg whites with hand mixer on medium-low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Turn mixer to high speed. Slowly beat in sugar little by little, and continue beating until stiff peaks form and it is glossy.
  9. Unwrap stacked cake. Place on oven-safe plate bigger than cake diameter. Spread meringue, ensuring that there is at least 2″ thickness all over domed ice cream and cake. Use the back of a spoon to create swirly peaks. (The little peaks that stand out will be the parts that brown, so ensure that there are many.)
  10. Bake 2-4 minutes until meringue peaks are brown and remaining meringue takes on dry appearance.
  11. Remove from oven to cooling rack. Serve immediately.
Dessert
American

Want more? See all of our cake recipes.

Just remember . . .

no matter how it goes, keep calm and then eat cake!

keep calm and eat cake
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