There is no doubt baked Alaska is one of the world’s most decadent and cherished desserts. On a list of classics, the baked Alaska is as strong a competitor as any. Which is why there is much debate on its not-so-humble origin. Some claim that the dessert is French in origin, where it is known as “Omelette Norvegienne” (literally “Norwegian omelette”). Others say the dessert’s inception was in early 1800s America, where it was called an “omelette surprise.” Over the course of the next few decades, baking ice cream and pies inside various types of meringues and pastries became popular. Those desserts were given names like “frozen cake” and “Alaska Apple Pie.”

Baked Alaska as we know it today, cake and ice cream encased in meringue, was made popular in 1867 by Chef Charles Ranhofer of New York City’s famous Delmonico’s. He is said to have added the dish in celebration of the United States purchasing Alaska from Russia. The dessert’s popularity grew when Chef Ranhofer included the recipe in his cookbook, “The Epicurean,” and when the recipe appeared nine years later in the original Fannie Farmer cookbook. The dessert is enjoyed around the world and known by many names, here in Alaska we just call it “pretty darn tasty.”

small rounds of chocolate cake are cut from a sheet cake
Photo by Andrew Maxwell.

For sourdough chocolate cake:

  • 130 g sourdough discard
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c milk
  • ½ c oil
  • ⅔ c cold coffee
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 ⅔ c all-purpose flour
  • 2 c sugar
  • ¾ c cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Combine sourdough, eggs, milk, oil, coffee, vanilla, and salt and whisk together. Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and sift together. Add dry to wet mixture and mix until combined and smooth. Divide batter between two greased bread pans and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes or until done. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.

Add 3 cups of ice cream each into two clean bread pans and spread out evenly. Place baked cakes on top of ice cream and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours. In the meantime, prepare the meringue.

small rounds of chocolate cake sit in cupcake pan over ice cream
Use cupcake pans for individual baked Alaskas. Photo by Andrew Maxwell.

Italian meringue:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 ¾ c sugar
  • 1 c water

Combine water and sugar and bring to a boil. In the meantime, begin whipping egg whites on medium speed trying to achieve medium peaks as the syrup hits 235°F. Turn the mixer up to high speed and slowly add the hot syrup. Continue mixing on medium until meringue cools to room temperature. At this point the meringue can be kept refrigerated for 3-4 hours without falling too much. When ready, turn out the cake/ice cream mold and cover with meringue, use a torch or a broiler to add color to the meringue and serve immediately. You can also use cupcake pans instead of bread pans for individual Baked Alaskas.

Baked Alaska in a black dish on a counter.
Baked Alaska. Photo by Andrew Maxwell.

Andrew Maxwell is the chef at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Email Andrew at [email protected]

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