Text and recipe by Nicole Rees
With its layers of cake and ice cream and a billowy toasted-meringue topping, baked Alaska is a sight to behold and makes a gorgeous grand finale for a holiday feast. Given its dramatic looks, you might think a baked Alaska would be difficult to make, but it’s actually quite straightforward.
Get the recipe: Baked Alaska with Chocolate-Rum Sauce
Traditional recipes for baked Alaska start with sponge cake, which retains its soft texture when frozen. But because I love the way deep, dark chocolate pairs with sweet meringue, I make a devil’s food cake, tweaking the recipe—adding beaten egg whites to the batter, for example—to keep the frozen layers soft.
A common (or French) meringue makes an easy topping. Made by simply whipping egg whites and sugar, this meringue is the easiest kind to make. As its name implies, the dessert then gets baked long enough to brown the meringue but not so long that the ice cream inside melts.
I like to serve the cake with a chocolate-rum sauce. The contrast of the warm sauce and the cold dessert isn’t traditional or essential, but it is wonderful.
Baked Alaska is a great make-ahead dessert. The cake layers can be baked, wrapped, and frozen for up to two months, and the dessert itself (without the meringue) can be assembled and kept frozen for several days before serving. This makes it perfect for entertaining, as does the fact that it can serve up to 20 people. You’ll need a warm knife and a little muscle to cut the cake, and the slices will be so tall that you’ll want to serve them on large plates.