We humbly present our gift to the genre of Baked Alaskas: It's semi-homemade, homespun fun, and kitsch all the way. But it’s still impressive, don’t you worry—I'd even say as flashy as Erin's Flag Cake.
It’s the Baked America: red cake, white-and-blue striped ice cream, and meringue—aflame. And, maybe better: No one will know it was a cinch to pull together, inexpensive, and made days before you served it—or at least, they won’t care.
Fourth of July is already a showy occasion—we set fire off into the sky and celebrate in ways our forefathers may or may not esteem—so if there is ever a moment to hide a sort-of American flag beneath torched sugar, it is now. (Right?)
Here’s how to whip up a Baked America like it ain't no thing:
1. Gather Your Ingredients
If you make this with all store-bought ingredients, this puppy will cost you less than $25, the most expensive part being the food coloring. Here’s what you need:
If you choose yellow cake, pick up some food coloring. (Or you can make your own version of that, too. You can also use pulverized freeze-dried strawberries for a similar—but slightly pinker—effect.)
48 ounces of vanilla ice cream
Eggs for the meringue
2. Bake a Cake
Make the cake in an 8-inch round or 9-inch round pan, depending on the size of mixing bowls you have (see below). If your cake is vanilla, add red coloring to the batter to your desired color. It's okay if it's a little pink! Your Baked America can be abstract!
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Once the cake is out of the oven, invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely. Then, wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 3 days.
3. Layer Ice Cream in a Mixing Bowl
The ice cream can be homemade blueberry ice cream, but it’s simpler, and better, to go the store-bought route here; the stabilizers in store-bought ice cream will keep it from melting as fast as the homemade version. Line a plain old mixing bowl with plastic wrap: Just make sure it is not wider than the diameter of the cake. If it’s smaller, that’s okay—you can always trim the cake.
Let the vanilla ice cream defrost a bit so it’s pliable, then scoop some into the bottom of the lined bowl. Then schmear some of the blueberry jam over into a thin, evenish layer. (Abstract, remember?) Continue layering until the whole bowl is filled with ice cream or you run out of ice cream. There: You have your stripes. They’re blue, not red—deal with it.
Wrap the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and stick it in the freezer. It can keep for a very long time.
4. Prepare the Cake
Put the frozen cake disk on the serving plate. Take the ice cream bowl out of the freezer as well, and remove the plastic wrap from the top. Invert the ice cream dome onto the cake, moving it so it’s centered on the cake. Take the bowl off, as well as the plastic wrap that’s stuck to the ice cream.
If there is cake overhang, cut it away: Align your knife with the dome and cut around it so the cake is in line with the edge of the ice cream. Move the ice cream cake to the freezer while you make the meringue.
Make a batch of Swiss meringue. Take the cake out, and with a spoon or offset spatula, cover the cake and ice cream fully with meringue. (Make swoops and swirls by undulating your tool.) You can make spikes (call them stars to fit the theme) by pulling away from the meringue.
At this point, you can return the Baked America to the freezer. We worried the meringue would sag, but Cristina Sciarra told us to do it (she was right, of course)! Or, go forth and torch it with a kitchen torch—you can in fact freeze the Baked America even after it’s been torched. We told you this was a low-maintenance, make-ahead affair.
Transfer it to a serving platter, or prop it up on a cake stand. You should also definitely stick sparklers in this baby. We would’ve if had some the day we were photographing ours (also the day we invented it—it’s really that easy!).
Run a chef’s knife under hot water to slice through your masterpiece. You’ll see stripes of blue and white and bright red, and the luscious swoops of burnished meringue.
Who needs fireworks?
All Baked America images by Bobbi Lin
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).