The raison d’etre of Baked Alaska is the contrast between the cold, smooth ice cream within and the hot chewy, marshmallowy meringue without. This novel dessert is achieved by insulating the ice cream with sponge cake beneath and meringue everywhere else, and then quickly browning the meringue in a hot oven, then serving right away with or without flames.
The dessert was traditionally made with vanilla ice cream but I’ve always preferred coffee or lemon until someone recently suggested coconut, and I was hooked. Last but not least, coconut and rum is a food combination for the gods. If you can’t find coconut ice cream, just fold 1/ 2 cup (or more to taste) sweetened, shredded coconut and a bit of coconut extract if you have it on hand into softened vanilla ice cream. Just be sure to refreeze before continuing.
Everyone adores Baked Alaska. Add coconut and dark rum and it’s irresistible. —Gail Monaghan
Bake and cool the cake layer. Wrap well. This may be done a day or two ahead or up to 4 weeks ahead and frozen.
Soften the ice cream and freeze in a metal bowl with a diameter an inch or two smaller than the cake layer. Cover the ice cream with foil and then foil and freeze until very hard, preferably at least 6 hours and up to 4 weeks.
When ready to serve. Preheat the oven to 450F or 500F.
Place the room temperature egg whites and the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. With the whisk in place, mix on low speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and mix on medium speed until soft peaks form. While mixing add the sugar in a slow steady stream and raise the speed to high. Beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Add the vanilla extract and mix the blend.
Place the frozen cake on a heatproof oval platter large enough to hold it. Drizzle with dark rum if using and sprinkle with sweetened and shredded coconut.
Unmold the ice cream and place on top of the cake making sure the cake border is even all around the ice cream. Using a spatula, decoratively swirl ALL the meringue over the cake and ice cream, running the meringue down to the platter. Make sure the cake and ice cream are completely sealed in by the meringue.
Sprinkle the last two tablespoons of sugar over the meringue and IMMEDIATELY place in the upper third of the oven. Cook until lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Watch carefully as not to burn. Serve immediately before the ice cream melts.
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter, flour and line 2 10-inch cake pans.
Stir dry ingredients together and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla. Beat well, then add dry ingredients and beat just until combined.
Divide batter between two 10-inch cake pans and bake just until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.
Cool ten minutes and then invert onto a rack and cool completely.