A hearty thanks goes out to Mr. Benjamin Thompson, an American physicist, for discovering how to make meringue back in the early 1800s, which ultimately led to the invention of this delightful treat! For meringue is a key component of Baked Alaska, the spotlighted dish which is being celebrated on National Baked Alaska Day.
History of National Baked Alaska Day
Baked Alaska is a very special dessert that is unique in a very special way. And some people even think it borders on being magical! Not to take away the fun, but it’s not really magical–it’s just very good science. Now it’s time to learn more about this delicious dessert in honor of National Baked Alaska Day.
Baked Alaska is made by placing slices of sponge cake in the bottom of a pie pan, filling it with vanilla ice cream and then covering it all completely with a whipped meringue mixture. The whole thing is then baked in the oven at a very high temperature for a short period of time to allow the meringue to solidify slightly and brown.
Although most people would probably expect the ice cream to melt immediately when placed in the center of a hot oven, surprisingly, it does not. It keeps its cool. The meringue protects the ice cream from melting, thus giving this dessert its distinctive cold/hot sensation and creamy/crunchy texture that is loved by so many who have tried it.
When it comes to the origin of the dessert, a couple of stories exist. One story goes that this sweet treat was named by the chef at the famous New York Delmonico’s Restaurant in 1867, to celebrate America’s acquisition of its new territory. This famous restaurant continues to be open after more than 150 years and still serves the dish.
However, another story tells the tale that this dessert was named by chef Antoine Alciatore of Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. Either way, the reason was the same: to celebrate the territory of Alaska, which eventually became the 49th out of the USA’s 50 states, along with Hawaii, in 1959.
Its lesser-known name, Norwegian Omelette, also gives tribute to this dessert’s characteristic appearance of a cold, snow-covered mountain. In other places, it has also been known as Omelette Surprise or Siberian Omelette. But most people agree that this frozen, mountainous treat seems just right when called by its name paying homage to the northernmost US state.
Now it’s time to enjoy and celebrate National Baked Alaska Day in all its glory!
How to Celebrate National Baked Alaska Day
Getting involved in celebrating National Baked Alaska Day is a delight for anyone who wants to be involved! Whether it’s because they love the state of Alaska, they love cold mountains, or they just love yummy desserts, this is a day for just about everyone. Try out these fun ideas for celebrating the National Baked Alaska Day:
Enjoy Eating Baked Alaska
Although it’s a unique dessert that is not necessarily served at every restaurant, some particularly fancy ones might carry this dessert on the menu on a regular basis. It might even be a good idea to make a special request in advance of the day to see if they’ll accommodate and add the dessert to the menu in honor of National Baked Alaska Day.
Head on out for a night on the town and finish it off by enjoying a finale of Baked Alaska to share. Here are some restaurants that happen to be famous for carrying Baked Alaska on their menus:
- Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City, New York
Since this restaurant takes credit for inventing the treat, it seems like a natural place to enjoy it on this special day. This restaurant that offers a secret “billionaire’s menu” sometimes refers to this dessert as “Alaska, Florida”, which gives a nod to the hot and cold elements of both states.
- Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco, California
Since the restaurant celebrates the culture and cuisine of the state of Hawaii, this alternative version of the dessert is called “Baked Hawaii” and includes pineapple ice cream with shortbread cookies, coconut milk caramel and toasted coconut on top.
- Oleana Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts
A restaurant focusing on Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, Oleana brings delicious flavors together in its version of Baked Alaska featuring crunchy coconut cake, soft ice cream and passion fruit caramel.
- Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana
The oldest restaurant in the city is still family owned and may have had a hand in the origins of this classic dessert. The French-Creole themed restaurant is famous for its Try Before You Die dessert, and they’ll even personalize it for special occasions.
Make Baked Alaska
Impress friends and family members with culinary skills by making a treat that is baked–but still frozen in the middle! Although it is important to get work quickly and get the details right, this dish isn’t actually as hard as many people might think.
Baked Alaska only really takes 5 ingredients, though it does require some advanced preparation to allow time for freezing. Slightly softened ice cream is pressed into a bowl and covered with a layer of pound cake. Once frozen, the bowl is inverted, with the cake on the bottom. The ice cream is then covered with a thick layer of meringue (made from egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar) and baked in a very hot oven (500 F) for just 3-5 minutes.
Magically, even though the inside is filled with ice cream, the hot oven does not cause it to melt. The meringue is delightfully golden brown and the ice cream remains deliciously frozen in the middle. Such a treat!
Get Creative with Baked Alaska
Those who are avid pastry chefs might want to get a little adventurous when making this dessert. Try using different versions of cake, such as German chocolate, or unique ice cream flavors like bourbon vanilla or lime sherbet. The options for themes and combinations are almost endless!
Take a Trip to Alaska
One exciting way to enjoy Baked Alaska day is to take a trip to the state it was named after. Whether taking a cruise through the Pacific Ocean or flying up to the north, this expansive land is filled with wilderness, mountains, waterways, islands, and wildlife. Head north to take in the northern lights, appreciate one of the estimated 100,000 glaciers there, self-drive to view wildlife at Denali National Park, admire North America’s tallest mountains, or take advantage of sport opportunities by engaging in some world class fishing, skiing or snowboarding.One of the best places to get Baked Alaska in the state is in the Southcentral region, at the Alyeska Resort, where they make more than 500 of the desserts at a time. It’s not on the menu every day, unfortunately, but it can be found there several days each week, so book ahead to avoid missing out on this delicious treat in its namesake location.