The origins of baked Alaska are a little murky. Some say the storied combination of cake and domed ice cream, insulated in toasted meringue, was invented in France. Others, New Orleans. And a different camp claims it originated at Delmonico’s in New York City. Provenance aside, it’s almost certain that the dessert was named in celebration of the Alaska Purchase in 1867 (yes, it’s been around that long). Making the seemingly incongruous hot-and-cold dessert from scratch is an undertaking, but with this streamlined recipe, you’ll deliver on the promise of a dramatic, high-impact showstopper without ripping your hair out.
For our baked Alaska base, we opted for a quick and easy vanilla sponge cake that comes together in one bowl and less than five minutes. Next, we doctored store-bought ice cream (here’s our pick for best tub of vanilla), sprinkling in candied pistachios to make something that tastes extra-special without a lot of work. That said, you should feel free to change up the base and ice cream flavors to suit your mood; choose your favorite brownie recipe and chocolate ice cream for a darker take, or strawberry ice cream and pound cake for a distinctly summery version.
One other element sets this baked Alaska recipe apart. With the egg whites doing their most, we just couldn’t let the yolks go to waste. We used them to make a raspberry curd that gets spread between the layers; when frozen it takes on sorbet-like consistency and adds a burst of bright flavor.
You can use a broiler to toast the meringue, but after putting in the work, you owe it to yourself to pick up an inexpensive kitchen torch. That way you have complete control over just how toasted those glossy peaks get.