How to Make a Baked Alaska, the Retro Dessert That Deserves a Comeback

updated Jun 21, 2021
Valentine's Day
Baked Alaska

A step-by-step recipe for making a classic baked Alaska.

Makes1 cake

Prep2 hours 30 minutes

Cook25 minutes to 30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Baked Alaska is an old-school dessert that consists of a layer of cake, a frozen ice cream center, and a coating of toasted marshmallowy meringue. It’s essentially a fancy version of an ice cream cake, and though it is, admittedly, fussier to make than your average dessert, it’s totally worth it for that wow-factor.

This version of the classic treat doesn’t require any special ingredients or equipment, meaning absolutely anyone can pull it off with a bit of planning. Here’s what you’ll do: Bake a simple vanilla cake, freeze the ice cream center, whip up a three-ingredient meringue, then assemble. It takes a few hours, but most of it is hands off — and you’ll have a seriously impressive dessert that’ll have people thinking you’re a pro pastry chef. We’ll take you through it step-by-step below.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

3 Tips for the Ultimate Baked Alaska

Before you head into the kitchen to make your baked Alaska, keep these tips in mind:

1. Freeze the ice cream center for at least two hours before assembling: Freezing the ice cream dome until it’s rock solid ensures it won’t melt when you toast the meringue.

2. Add cream of tartar to the meringue: Just 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar (which can be found in the spice or baking section of most grocery stores) helps the meringue become perfectly light and fluffy. It also stabilizes the meringue, preventing it from deflating as you spread it over the ice cream dome.

3. Serve immediately: Once the meringue is torched, baked Alaska will stay frozen at room temperature for a maximum of 30 minutes before the ice cream starts to melt. Leftovers can be kept in the freezer, but the meringue will become firmer and less marshmallowy.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Toasting the Meringue

A kitchen torch is the easiest and quickest way to torch the meringue. You’ll hold it about six inches away from the baked Alaska and move it in quick, circular motions until the meringue is evenly browned. Avoid getting too close, as the fuel can give the meringue an undesirable flavor.

If you don’t own a kitchen torch, you can toast the meringue under the broiler. Preheat the broiler and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Assemble the baked Alaska on the prepared pan and broil it on an oven rack positioned 12 inches below the broiler element. This will evenly brown the meringue on all sides without burning the top. If any of the meringue peaks get a little bit too brown, don’t worry. The small burnt bits are what make baked Alaska beautiful.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk
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Here's how to make the best baked Alaska.

Baked Alaska

A step-by-step recipe for making a classic baked Alaska.

Prep time 2 hours 30 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes to 30 minutes

Makes 1 cake

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the ice cream center:

  • Cooking spray

  • 3 pints

    ice cream

For the cake:

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • Cooking spray

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup

    whole milk

For the meringue:

  • 6

    large egg whites, at room temperature

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cream of tartar

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • 3-quart mixing bowl

  • Plastic wrap

  • Ice cream scoop

  • Offset spatula

  • Parchment paper

  • 9-inch round cake pan

  • Stand mixer or electric hand mixer

  • Cooling rack

  • Kitchen torch

Instructions

  1. Place the 1 stick unsalted butter for the cake in the bowl of a stand mixer and let it sit out at room temperature while you freeze the ice cream center. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.)

  2. Freeze the ice cream center: Coat a 3-quart glass or metal mixing bowl with cooking spray. Line the bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a 6-inch overhang around the edges. Fill the bowl with alternating scoops from 3 pints ice cream to create a mix of colors. (It’s OK if the ice cream melts slightly.) Smooth the top with an offset spatula and fold the plastic wrap over the top to completely cover. Freeze until completely firm, at least 2 hours. Meanwhile, make the cake.

  3. Make the cake: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Add 1 cup granulated sugar to the bowl of butter and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 2 large eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and continue beating until the mixture is smooth and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes.

  4. Turn the mixer off. Add 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix on low speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer running, gradually add 1/2 cup whole milk and continue mixing until the batter is completely smooth, scraping down the sides halfway through mixing, 2 to 3 minutes total.

  5. Scrape the batter into the cake pan and spread into an even layer. Bake until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the cake cool completely in the pan.

  6. Make the meringue: Place 6 large egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and whip on medium-high speed until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase the speed to high and gradually add 1 cup granulated sugar. Beat until the meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks, 2 to 3 minutes.

  7. Assemble the baked Alaska: If browning with the broiler, arrange an oven rack 12 inches below the broiling element and set the oven to broil. Line a rimmed baking sheet or broiler-safe cake plate with aluminum foil. Invert the cake onto it and discard the parchment.

  8. Remove the bowl of ice cream from the freezer and uncover the top. Gently invert it onto the cake. Remove the bowl and plastic wrap. Use an offset spatula to spread a thick layer of meringue over the entire cake and ice cream dome. Use the tip of the offset spatula to create tall peaks in the meringue that will brown when torched.

  9. Toast the meringue: Broil just until the meringue begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Alternatively, toast the meringue with a kitchen torch so the peaks are lightly browned. Transfer the baked Alaska onto a serving plate if needed, slice, and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The baked, cooled cake can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated 1 day in advance, or frozen up to 1 month. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

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