I have always been surprised at how unknown and underrated Baked Alaska is as a dessert. It is one of my core childhood memories during Sunday dinner at my granny’s house. Made with a sponge flan case and bright yellow soft scoop vanilla ice cream. I don’t think I ever really appreciated the magic of it because it was just another dessert in the rotation. I love as an adult seeing the utter disbelief and delight when I tell people I’ll be putting the ice cream in the oven, and it will still be frozen when we eat it. Watching Sophie try it for the first time was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. There were just lots of noises and wide wide eyes, and no full sentences for at least 5 minutes while she tried to articulate her thoughts on it. I’m taking that reaction as a win anyway.
While bright yellow soft scoop ice cream will always hold a special place in my heart, I have realised that the flavour combinations are endless, and how could I continue to use that when ice cream like Joelato Gelato exists?! The strawberry sorbet was so perfect in this recipe as it gave a different texture than a creamy ice cream does. The addition of basil in the jam really helps to add another dimension to the flavour and cut through all the sweetness.
I chose to bake these in the Bertazzoni Professional Range because it has such a great viewing window to see them bake, which all adds to the theatre of the dessert. I used our reusable piping bag to finish off these wee beauties, but you don’t even need to pipe at all. You can just use a palette knife to spread the meringue on, just make sure you cover every inch leaving no gaps or you won’t have a showstopper of a dessert, you’ll have a heart stopper of a mess in the oven!
You can alter the flavours of this recipe and be as creative as you like! If you’re pushed for time, you can use a ready made cake and jam. You can add different colours to the meringue. You could even use brownies instead of cake. The possibilities really are endless.
You’ll need a 8x8 in square cake tin, an electric hand whisk, a stand mixer (not essential), round cutter just bigger than the size of your moulds, piping bag and nozzle (not essential), dome moulds (not essential).
For the cake
25g melted butter plus extra for greasing
125g caster sugar
125g plain flour
Pinch of salt
For the jam
300g strawberries (this is the weight after hulling)
300g caster sugar
Bunch of basil
For the meringue
6 eggs whites
350g caster sugar
Roughly 500ml of Sorbet or ice cream – to recreate this version use strawberry sorbet
You can make all the components of this dessert a day in advance, apart from the meringue. Everything needs to be completely cold before the Baked Alaska’s are assembled.
For the ice cream/sorbet – the day before you plan to make the baked Alaska’s, or at least 2 hours before, pop the sorbet in the dome moulds and freeze until you are assembling. You don’t have to use moulds if you have none. You can just scoop it onto the cakes when assembling and freeze again until completely solid. Try to get it as round as you can.
Preheat the oven to 190/170 fan. Prepare a square 8x8in cake tin by brushing with melted butter and dusting with flour. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Put the sugar and eggs in a bowl over a pan of very lightly simmering water and whip with an electric hand whisk for around 7 minutes, until the mixture has tripled in size. Take the mixture off the heat and gently pour in the butter, fold in to mix thoroughly. Next add the flour and fold in until its all completely incorporated. Do this stage carefully and thoroughly as its easy to miss pockets of flour leaving lumps throughout the mixture. Gently tip the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
While the cake is baking get started on the jam. Place a saucer or small plate in the freezer. Prepare the strawberries by removing the leaves. Pop them in a pan with the sugar. Take the bunch of basil and bruise the leaves by crushing it in your hand slightly, this releases more flavour. Add the basil to the pan and bring to the boil. Don’t let it boil too ferociously, just a gentle rolling boil. It should take about 30 to 45 minutes to achieve the soft set you are looking for. As it boils, use a spoon to remove the scum – the frothy white substance that appears at the top of the pan. To test if the jam is ready, pop a teaspoonful on the cold saucer and push your finger through it, if it holds its shape and doesn’t run back together it is ready. Remove the pan from the heat and pour into a shallow dish to help it cool quicker. Take the basil leaves out.
When the cake is cold, use a round cutter about a cm bigger than the shape of your ice cream and cut 3 rounds. Slice each cake in half. Spread with a liberal amount of jam, and two or three of the whole strawberries left in the mixture. Place the ice cream on top of the jam. Repeat with all six cakes. Leave them in the freezer while you make the meringue.
Preheat the oven to 220/200 fan. Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer or use a hand mixer, and whisk on a medium speed until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar one spoon at a time, waiting until each spoon has been fully incorporated before adding the next. The meringue should be glossy and hold its shape.
Put the meringue in a piping bag with a star or round nozzle. Take the cakes out of the freezer one at a time and pipe small blobs all over the baked Alaska ensuring there are no gaps at all, as the meringue is what insulates the sorbet to keep it frozen. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes until the meringue has a nice, toasted look.
Serve and demolish immediately.