Baked Sunday Mornings: Individual Baked Alaskas

This week's Baked Sundays Mornings recipe, "Individual Baked Alaskas with Vanilla and Coffee Ice Cream," seemed a little strange to me. I wasn't surprised that the gentlemen bakers included baked Alaska in their cookbook -- but what was odd is that the recipe is really just a recipe for meringue. That's because they don't provide a recipe for the other three main components of the dessert -- vanilla ice cream, coffee ice cream, and chocolate cake. So while this dessert requires a lot of time -- most of which is inactive time waiting for things to freeze -- it has a low degree of difficulty, especially if you don't take the time to make your own ice cream.
For the chocolate cake, I decided to use one of my favorite cupcake recipes from Food & Wine, "Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Filling." It's easy to make, tender and moist, and has a deep, pure, chocolate flavor. Instead of baking the batter in a cupcake pan, I used a snack cake pan by Fat Daddio's that produces round cakes that are 2.75 inches in diameter with straight sides. I got six perfect little hockey pucks of chocolate cake from a batch of cupcake batter.

I decided to assemble the Alaskas in cake rings, because I thought it would be much easier to layer and release the cake and ice cream from rings compared to a cupcake tin lined with plastic wrap. I have a huge supply of rings, including some that were the perfect size to hold my hockey pucks of cake. Instead of vanilla and coffee ice cream, I decided to use chocolate and pistachio gelato --  although in retrospect I think that a Neapolitan theme with vanilla and strawberry ice cream also would have been beautiful and quite tasty.

In any case, I packed a layer of chocolate gelato inside a cake ring, topped it with a layer of chocolate cake (I split each puck of cake into two layers), followed by a layer of pistachio gelato and more cake, with lots of freezing and waiting times in between. The photo below shows one of the frozen composite cylinders of cake and ice cream after I released it from the cake ring.
I covered the cake and ice cream with meringue, and then stuck Alaskas back in the freezer before browning the meringue. I tried to brown the meringue in a hot oven as specified by the recipe, but the bottom layer of ice cream was melting out from beneath the meringue before the meringue took on any color. I finished off the job with a butane torch instead. If you compare the picture directly above with the photo at the top of this post, you can see that most of the bottom layer of chocolate gelato is missing in the finished product -- and, in fact, is melting and running all over the plate. I think that using a kitchen torch is the way to go to brown the meringue. Or even better, it would make more sense to use cake for the bottom layer of the baked Alaska instead of ice cream.

I didn't love this recipe. The finished product tasted really good, but that's because I used a terrific chocolate cupcake recipe and chocolate cake tastes great with ice cream. The meringue doesn't really add anything in terms of flavor to the overall dessert. There is the visual wow factor of a dessert like this, but I think it's just flash without much substance. Plus, even though no part of the recipe is technically difficult, it's time consuming and a bit of a pain in the butt with all of the freezing and waiting time. Honestly, I would just as soon have some chocolate cake with a scoop of ice cream on the side.

However, I did get a nice bonus out of making this recipe. I only made two baked Alaskas (I didn't have time to plan a dinner party to serve more any than that!), so I made some ganache to top off the leftover chocolate cakes and shared them with our friends Jim and Colleen, who have eaten these cupcakes several times before including at the baptism of their oldest daughter McKenna.
I am a big fan of the snack cake pan, because I like the nice neat shape of straight-sided cake. I am a neatnik when it comes to baking and maybe that's part of the reason I don't appreciate a dessert that forces me to deal with melting ice cream leaking out from a cake ring or from underneath a layer of meringue. In short -- I enjoyed this dessert, but it was totally not worth it.

Recipe: "Individual Baked Alaskas with Vanilla and Coffee Ice Cream" from Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.

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Sally said…
Do you have a link for that specific Fat Daddio pan? I couldn't find it... Thanks!
Robyn said…
I am obsessed with the straight sided cupcakes! They look so good! I didn't make these this week....didn't have the desire to tackle something with so many steps. Nice to hear your review and Dafna disagree on the outcome!
Sally, I bought mine at Sur La Table a while ago on super clearance -- but I'm not sure if they still carry them. But you can see them here on the Fat Daddio website: -- it's the "Classic-Wheel" pan in the drop down menu.
Louise said…
Dafna's Baked Alaska has cake as a bottom layer from flipping them out of the cupcake pan. : )
Ah, well that would have been the smart thing to do! :) I thought about this when I made the recipe, but there was no explicit instruction to put the cake on the bottom -- and the recipe mentions putting the domed cupcake top on the top of the stack -- so it seems like if you turned it upside side maybe that would create an uneven bottom for a lot of folks, unless they leveled the cupcake first? But yeah, not smart to put ice cream directly on a baking tray that you stick in a very hot oven.
Anonymous said…
I put my ice cream on the bottom too, oh well, it was still tasty! Love your straight sided cakes.
The cake on the bottom definitely kept these intact. There was an instruction to invert the cupcake pan, but now that I look at the recipe again, I guess it's not super explicit. My cupcakes were very flat, so the dome thing wasn't an issue. I agree with Robyn-- I love those straight-sided mini cakes! I too would like to make those beautiful ganache-topped pucks. :)