Baked Alaska has several layers – ice cream, cake, and meringue, which is doused in spirits and lit on fire. Similarly, the history behind the torched treat has several layers. First credit goes to American-born physicist Benjamin Thompson Rumford, who invented meringue in the early 19th century. Realizing that the air bubbles in the whipped egg whites served as excellent insulators, French chefs created Omelette Norwegge (sometimes referred to as Omelette Norvégienne or omelette la norvienne), which featured meringue covered layers of cake and ice cream, which was then broiled.
In 1867, French-born pastry chef Charles Ranhofer at Delmonico’s in New York City began serving his version of the dessert — banana ice cream, walnut spice cake and flame-kissed meringue. He dubbed it “Alaska, Florida” in honor of the components’ contrasting temperatures and America’s purchase of the 49th state from Russia. The name Baked Alaska was given to the dessert three decades later by a British journalist. In a return to elegance, the creation is now back in vogue. Here are 10 top Baked Alaska desserts to end your meal with a fiery finale — and some old-school flair.
Oceanaire, Washington, D.C.
The bonne bouche delivers dessert and show. A sweet hillock of cake and ice cream is covered in a swirling spire of meringue. While guests snap Instagrams, it’s flambéed until its ridges turn a dusky gold. Make a reservation at Oceanaire.
Delmonico’s, New York, New York
Taste an icon. Executive chef Bill Oliva offers his take on the original with walnut cake, apricot jam, banana gelato, and meringue. Approximately one hundred of the archetypal desserts are sold every day. Make a reservation at Delmonico’s.
RPM Steak, Chicago, Illinois
Its pretty peaks come drizzled with warm chocolate sauce. Dig in to discover salted caramel and vanilla gelatos. Serves two to four lucky diners. Make a reservation at RPM Steak.
Komodo, Miami, Florida
The Franco-American delicacy gets an Asian accent and a Floridian flourish. Yuzu and key lime ice creams are paired with orange chiffon cake and crunchy graham cracker. Definitely not your average Baked Alaska. Make a reservation at Komodo.
DBGB DC, Washington, D.C.
This complex confection takes five full days to make. Featuring blueberry sorbet, brown sugar ice cream, vanilla gelato graham cracker biscuit, and Swiss meringue, it sits in the freezer until it’s ready to be served. A mixture of kirsch and vanilla-infused vodka is poured over it tableside and set ablaze to elicit the requisite oohhs and ahhs. Make a reservation at DBGB DC.
CUT, New York, New York
Pastry chef Zairah Molina goes all out with her dulce de leche Baked Alaska. The gorgeously composed dessert features a covey of components: buttermilk cake, dulce de leche gelato, coconut sorbet, Satsuma orange sauce, crispy lime meringues, marinated Cara Cara orange, graham cracker crumbs, roasted coconut gel, and micro sorrel. Make a reservation at CUT.
The Inn at Little Washington, Little Washington, Virginia
Guaranteed to give you a buzz. A beehive of chocolate ice cream arrives enrobed in torched meringue. Marzipan bees provide the finishing touch. Make a reservation at the Inn at Little Washington.
Fowler & Wells, New York, New York
Executive pastry chef Abby Swain has earned a cascade of kudos for her Baked Alaska. Slightly scorched spires of meringue hide a trio of flavors: chocolate, pecans, and bourbons. It reminds us of a highly refined Derby Pie. Make a reservation at Fowler & Wells.
LB Steak-Santana Row, San Jose, California
A pinnacle of vanilla cake, white chocolate-raspberry ice cream, and meringue sits off to the side. It’s complemented by fresh raspberries and circlets of raspberry sauce. Simply divine. Make a reservation at LB Steak–Santana Row.
L’Auberge Chez Franҫois, Great Falls, Virginia
The team here uses the French name, Omelette Norvégienne. Sponge cake is complemented with vanilla and pistachio ice and topped with meringue. Baked quickly at a high heat, the exterior crests are slightly browned while the ice cream stays perfectly chilled. Make a reservation at L’Auberge Chez Franҫois.
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Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: B. Milne (DBGD DC); Beth Stevens (LB Steak).