This is the ultimate celebration cake. Why, you ask? Because it is cake, pie, and ice cream all in one lovely layered concoction. You could do any flavor combo you like – Chocolate cake, pumpkin pie, cinnamon ice cream, and brown sugar meringue – oh yeah! Or Neapolitan, or death by chocolate goodness, or maybe you are an ALL VANILLA kinda gal. It’s your Baked Alaska. For mine, and to embrace the soul of Summer in the South, I made lemon.
My Baked Alaska is four layers: 1) Barely Brown Butter Cake; 2) Lemon Pie Filling; 3) Lemon-Vanilla Bean Ice Cream; and 4) Swiss Meringue. The resulting balance was really pretty perfect. The cake, a Christina Tosi creation, is utter perfection. A dense and rich butter cake that gets heaps of flavor from a mere 2 Tablespoons of brown butter. It’s my favorite and my “go to” recipe for any recipe requiring a yellow cake base. The Lemon Pie Filling is basically a lemon curd or lemon bar filling, slightly thickened by flour, because that is how my Southern Grandma thickened pie fillings – never with cornstarch. I didn’t want to top super tart and rich lemon filling with more intense lemon flavors… so for the ice cream I mixed vanilla-bean and lemon sorbet. The resulting frozen cream was fantastic. Light, but crisp lemon flavor with a creamy mellow vanilla finish. The balance was spot on and since you are mixing two store-bought ice creams the work was minimal! Finally I topped it off with Swiss Meringue; toasted of course! Individually all the elements were great, but all together it was phenomenal! Truly a celebration worthy dish.
Next time I think I’d like to do individual servings. But, for my first Baked Alaska adventure, I must admit, I enjoyed making a huge centerpiece worthy cake. Other than loads of freezing time it was all really simple. If you don’t want to put all the work into several layers – no worries! You could do meringue covered ice cream – it would still be divine and impressive for guests. I made this cake to celebrate my sixth wedding anniversary though, so I went full Monty!
LEMON BAKED ALASKA
Layer One ~BARELY BROWN BUTTER CAKE
makes 1 8″ round cake
- 1/2 stick butter
- 2 tablespoons brown butter
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
can substitute canola
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
DIRECTIONS: Brown Butter
To make the brown butter, place 2 tablespoons of butter in a microwave-safe bowl and top with a microwave-safe plate. Microwave for 3 to 5 minutes. The butter will pop while browning. Check the butter, and if not browned enough, microwave again in 1 minute increments. While the brown butter is cooling, stir periodically to incorporate the caramelized bits of butter. Cool completely.
(1) Heat the oven to 350° F.
(2) Combine the butters and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and mix on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl of the bowl once more.
(3) Stream in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla while the paddle swirls on low speed. Increase the speed to medium-high and paddle 5 to 6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogenous. You’re basically forcing too much liquid into an already fatty mixture that doesn’t want to make room for it, so if it doesn’t look right after 6 minutes, keep mixing. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(4) On very low speed, add the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until your batter comes together an any remnants of dry ingredients have been incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix on low speed for another 45 seconds to ensure that any lumps of cake flour are incorporated.
(5) Pam-spray a quarter sheet pan and line it with parchment, or just line the pan with a Silpat. Using a spatula, spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 25-30 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly. Leave the cake in the oven for an extra 3 to 5 minutes if it doesn’t pass these tests.
(6) Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer (don’t worry, it’s not cheating). The cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.
Recipe from Momofuku Milkbar – Christina Tosi
Layer Two ~ Lemon Filling
- 3 lemons, juiced (about 1/2 cup)
- zest of 3 lemons
- 4 eggs
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter
DIRECTIONS: Combine lemon zest, juice, salt and sugar in medium bowl; let sit for 5 minutes – the lemon juice will break down the sugar. Add butter and cream together; then add eggs one at a time, combining in between additions. Whisk in flour.
Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 5-8 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon filling will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.
Or if you want a super smooth consistency, which I prefer… put the mixture through a small mesh strainer.
Layer Three ~ Lemon-Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
- 1 pint lemon sorbet
- 1 pint vanilla-bean ice cream
DIRECTIONS: Soften ice cream for 10-15 minutes; combine in a medium mixing bowl and stir together until evenly incorporated. Line a bowl or mold with saran wrap and add the ice cream mixture; freeze for 20-30 minutes; or until top is set enough to add lemon pie filling layer.
Once both layers are in mold; freeze for at least 4 hours.
Layer Four ~ Swiss Meringue
can be substituted for plain meringue, if you please
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 5 egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch kosher salt
DIRECTIONS: Combine sugar, water, and corn syrup in a 2-quart saucepan and place over high heat. Stir just until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Clip on a candy thermometer and bring the mixture to 240 degrees F.
While the syrup is cooking, place the egg whites, salt, and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs on high speed until they reach medium peaks, 4 to 5 minutes.
When the sugar syrup reaches 240 degrees F, remove from the heat and, with the stand mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour the syrup in a thin steady stream into the egg white mixture, being careful not to come in contact with the whisk. Once all the syrup has been added, increase the mixer speed to high and whisk until stiff peaks are formed and the mixture has cooled, 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t be like me – I let my sugar get too hot and my meringue wasn’t all purdy like usualy, but it still tasted dandy… no worries.
Cut the top from cake round and baste the exposed crumb with fresh lemon juice. Then remove the ice cream/pie filling mold from freezer. Using warm water or an offset spatula, loosen the frozen layers from the mold and invert on the cake; remove plastic wrap. Trim excess cake for even layers.
Completely cover the ice cream cake combo with a 1-inch layer of meringue all around, sealing the meringue to the pan around the bottom edge.
Use a propane torch to brown the meringue all over. Serve immediately. May be frozen again. I re-froze mine for 45 minutes before serving.
This is a seriously awesome and fun dessert! It really is like 3 desserts in one and how can that be bad??? 🙂
Your daring baker/freezer of dessert type things,