Baked Alaska: A retro dessert where less is more

Ice cream inside a hot oven goes against all logic and requires a degree of mental physics

Baked Alaska: make this using one old fashioned brick of crowd-pleasing raspberry-ripple ice cream

Baked Alaska: make this using one old fashioned brick of crowd-pleasing raspberry-ripple ice cream

 

Today’s trend is for molten treats like marshmallow s’mores and ice cream cake so people might have their interest piqued at the idea of dusting off an old recipe for baked Alaska. It is the ultimate retro dessert. I have a photograph with my four sisters and our first baked Alaska when I was 12. Our relatives were visiting and we wanted to make something special. As we read the recipe, it all seemed a little mad turning on the oven with a block of ice cream as the key ingredient. In those days our kitchen had a record player in it, so the needle was placed on Abba’s Arrival album and we gave it a go! A baked Alaska consists of a hard frozen ice cream on a sponge base, encased in meringue. Ice cream inside a hot oven goes against all logic and requires a degree of mental physics: the meringue provides an insulation effect which stops the ice cream melting.  Since it is quite rich and indulgent, less is more. This is not a recipe that can be doubled up with a larger bowl. One mistake (you can see touches of it in my photograph) is making your masterpiece too large – leftovers simply turn to slush. To feed 4-6 people, my advice is to make this using one old fashioned brick of crowd-pleaser raspberry ripple ice cream. There are plenty of ways to cheat with this recipe. To save time, use shop-bought trifle sponges or plain muffins. Baking the meringue in the oven gives a warm, crisp finish. Some people give the ‘baked’ effect using a blow torch. 

Serves 4-6

568ml raspberry ripple ice cream

150g frozen mixed summer berries (or fresh)

1 tbsp icing sugar

Sponge

2 eggs

75g caster sugar

75g self raising flour

Meringue

2 egg whites

120g caster sugar

1. Line a small deep bowl (approx 650ml) with a double layer of clingfilm leaving overhanging sides (dabbing the glass with a sprinkle of water helps the clingfilm stick).  Pack tightly with ice cream, then scoop out a small hollow in the centre.  Toss the frozen mixed berries in icing sugar and place them in the hollow.  Fold the clingfilm over the top and press down firmly.  Transfer the bowl to the freezer for two hours until the ice cream is firm.

2.  To make the sponge, preheat an oven to 180°C fan. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and creamy. Sieve flour, fold lightly into the mixture.  Spoon into a small round greased and lined cake tin and bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once cool, cut the sponge to a disc slightly wider than the circumference of the ice cream bowl (lay any leftover cuttings over the sponge). 

3.  To make the meringue whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually adding the sugar, continue whisking until the mixture is glossy and forms stiff peaks. Increase the oven temperature to 200°C fan. Remove the ice cream bowl from the freezer and working quickly, invert the bowl  so that the ice cream sits on top of the sponge (peel away the clingfilm).

4. Use a large spatula to spread the meringue over the entire dome of ice cream, covering it completely leaving no gaps around the base. 

5. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 6 minutes until golden in colour. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Variation:

Make a chocolate bombe by substituting a chocolate sponge base and using chocolate, coffee, vanilla or even mint chocolate chip ice cream inside.  If you can’t decide between one favourite ice cream you can always pack two flavours in separate layers.

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