Easy Baked Alaska
With Mardi Gras falling so close to Valentine’s Day, this year why not celebrate both? Add a little bit of New Orleans to sweetheart’s day with an old-fashioned dessert that’s guaranteed to get swoons. This Easy Baked Alaska is fun to make and worth it for the wow-factor. It looks impressive and seems intimidating, but with a small bit of planning, anyone can pull it off.
Baked Alaska is basically ice cream and cake topped with browned meringue. After it has been frozen, it is baked in a very hot oven for just a few minutes, just long enough to caramelize the meringue but not long enough to melt the ice cream. It’s that igloo of meringue emerging from the hot oven that makes this such a showstopper. How does that ice cream not melt?
I paired Tillamook Oregon Dark Cherry ice cream with a fudgey chocolate brownie layer for a delicious chocolate-cherry combo that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day. You can use store-bought brownies or a boxed mix if you like, or even substitute pound cake instead of the brownie layer. Feel free to swap in other ice cream flavors, too. This is for your sweetie!
Give yourself plenty of time. First, you’ll bake the brownies and let them cool. Then you’ll freeze the ice cream and the cake together. Next, you’ll make the 3-ingredient meringue, and use it to cover the cake, freezing again, up to 24 hours. Finally, you’ll bake it for just a few minutes, watching closely, right before serving. Not hard at all.
Use the recipe below to make your own brownies or use a brownie mix that you like. If you make them yourself, you can use gluten-free flour and make them gluten-free, or use dairy-free chocolate chips to avoid dairy. Use an egg substitute in place of the eggs to make them plant-based, or you can use flax eggs (one egg equals 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed whisked with 3 tablespoons warm water. Whisk for 30 seconds, then set aside for 5 minutes). I used Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 gluten-free flour and reduced the sugar in this recipe. If you don’t want to use olive oil, you can use vegetable, canola, avocado or any kind of oil that you prefer.
You can use a round bowl and make your baked Alaska in the traditional dome shape. If you do this, line a 3 quart bowl with plastic wrap. Fill it with the softened ice cream, leaving enough room at the top for your brownie layer. Trim your brownies (or any other cake you are using) to create a snug fit. You can also skip unmolding your cake and use a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. I recommend using an aluminum pan so you don’t risk having your dish shatter with the extreme temperature change. For this style, bake your brownie layer, letting it fully cool in the pan. Spread the ice cream layer over the top of the brownies, leaving a bit of room at the top for the meringue, then freeze fully. Spread meringue over the top of ice cream layer and freeze again, at least 3 hours or overnight, then bake.
I decided to use a 9-inch loaf pan because I wanted to shape this somewhat like the one they serve at Antione’s in New Orleans. I have the sweetest memory of the beautiful baked Alaska that they made. It came as a surprise – ablaze with a fiery sparkler and “Happy Birthday” artfully inscribed on the side – one of the waiters no doubt overhearing that it was our youngest son’s birthday.
Some tips for meringue… Be sure that you have fresh cream of tartar, and that your bowl and beaters are squeaky clean and free of any residual oil. Also, if there is any egg yolk in your whites they won’t whip properly. Set out 3 small (again, squeaky clean) bowls. Crack your cold egg over one of the bowls, separating the white into it. Transfer the yolk into a second bowl. If the egg white separated cleanly, pour the white into your large mixing bowl. Do this with the other eggs, using the third bowl for any eggs that have yolks and whites mixed together. Let the egg whites come up to room temperature in your mixing bowl. If you need to help them along you can nestle the bottom of your egg white bowl into a larger bowl filled with very warm water.
Treat someone you love to something special this Valentine’s Day and enjoy this sweet treat.
Easy Baked Alaska
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/2 cup gluten-free or all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
for the dessert
- 1.5 quart dark cherry ice cream, slightly softened
- brownie cake layer
- 6 egg whites, room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease, then line two 9- by 5-inch loaf pans with parchment paper. In a medium mixing bowl, combine olive oil, vanilla and sugars and mix briefly. Crack eggs into a separate bowl and whisk with a fork until combined.
Add eggs to sugar mixture, along with cocoa powder, and flour and mix to combine; stir in chocolate chips. Pour a little over half into one of the loaf pans, the pour the remainder into the other. Bake 28-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool slightly before removing from pan. Brownies will firm up as they cool.
Wash and dry cooled loaf pan. Line with 2 sheets of plastic wrap so that wrap overhangs on all sides. Scoop slightly softened ice cream into the pan, pressing down firmly to ensure there are no gaps or air bubbles, leaving enough room at the top for your brownie layer. (Save remaining ice cream for another use.) Top ice cream with brownie layer, gently pressing into the soft ice cream. (You will have 1 brownie layer left over.) Freeze for at least 3 hours. (Can be covered tightly and frozen up to 3 months if preparing ahead.)
In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with mixer on high speed until foamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until stiff peaks (a peak forms when the the beaters are removed from the beaten whites) form.
Remove frozen ice cream from freezer and use the plastic wrap overhang to lift it out of the loaf pan. Invert onto a small parchment lined baking sheet. Spread meringue over the top and sides, using care to cover ice cream and cake completely, sealing all edges with meringue. Use back of spoon create little peaks and swirls. Freeze uncovered at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
Place rack on lowest position (or 12 inches below broiling element) and set oven to broil, 500º F. Remove dessert from freezer and place in oven. Broil watching closely, just until meringue begins to brown, anywhere from 1 to 4 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes, then slice and serve at once.