Also known as omelette á la norvégienne,
omelette norvegienne, and glace au four. Baked Alaska is ice
cream encased in some sort of hot casing (pastry crust or meringue).
Early versions of this dessert consisted of ice cream encased in a
piping hot pastry crust. The later version consisting of ice cream on
sponge cake covered with meringue and browned quickly in a hot oven. The
creation of Baked Alaska is claimed as being created by many people, and
popularized by many others.
1802 - According to some historians, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), third president of the United
States from 1801-1809, was one of the first to serve ice cream at a
state banquet in the White House. He is reported to have served ice cream encased in hot
pastry at a White House dinner during his presidency. Although the name came much later, it is likely that this was a dish
similar to Baked Alaska. An article from the LeRoy PennySaver & News
called "An 1802 Menu," by Lynne Belluscio states the following:
A menu of a meal Jefferson offered on February
6, 1802, included "rice soup, round of beef, turkey, mutton, ham, loin
of veal, cutlets of mutton, fried eggs, fried beef, and a pie called
macaroni." The desserts included "ice cream very good, crust wholly
dried, crumbled into thin flakes; a dish somewhat like a pudding . . ."
Ice cream dishes frequently appeared in visitors' accounts of meals
with Thomas Jefferson. From the web site The Home of Thomas Jefferson,
one visitor reportedly commented:
"Among other things, ice-creams were produced
in the form of balls of the frozen material inclosed in covers of warm
pastry, exhibiting a curious contrast, as if the ice had just been taken
from the oven."
A true Baked Alaska starts with the meringue. A meringue is a "patisserie" made
from egg whites and sugar. Patisserie is the French word for various
preparations made of pastry and generally baked in the oven.
1720 - The book,
Larousse Gastronomique, by Prosper Montagné, says the following on
the history of meringue:
cookery say that this little patisserie was invented in 1720 by a Swiss
pastry-cook called Gasparini, who practised his art in Mehrinyghen, a
small town in the State of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The first meringues made
in France were served in Nancy to King Stanislas who, it is said, prized
them highly. It was he, no doubt, who gave the recipe for this sweetmeat
to Marie Leczinska. Queen Marie-Antoinette had a great liking for
meringues. Court lore has it that she made them with her own hands at
the Trianon, where she also made vacherins, for which a similar
mixture is used. Up to the beginning of the nineteenth century,
meringues were shaped in a spoon, as the pastry forcing-bag had not been
1804 - Omellete
surprise, which is virtually identical to Baked Alaska is said to have
been first invented by an American-born physicist named Benjamin
Thompson Rumford (1753-1814), later known as Count Rumford. An American
Loyalist in the Revolution in Boston, it is said that he served as a spy
and informant for the British Army. He was forced to flee from
America to England 1776.
He had an interest in cooking and
he invented the fire-grate, a double boiler, an oil lamp, a coffee
percolator (drip), and the kitchen range. As a result of his
interest in investigating the resistance of beaten egg whites to heat,
which is based on the principle that beaten egg white is a poor
conductor of heat, a created a dessert that he called "omellete
surprise." In The American Heritage Cookbook, Rumford is
quoted as saying,
surpirse was the by-product of investigations in 1804 into the
resistance of stiffly beaten egg whites to the induction of heat."
During the Victorian Era (1937-1901), elaborate ice cream
desserts made by local dairies and confectioners were the height of
refinement, served at the best teas and formal dinners. They prided
themselves on fancy ice cream "bombes" (ice cream pressed into molds
which produced elegant and elaborate frozen desserts in fancy and
festive shapes. These tradition was taken from molded puddings and
custards. These were also known as ice cream cakes.
The technique of covering foods with
meringue and then baking until the meringue is delicately browned seemed
to have been a popular dessert technique during the middle 1850s.
1855 - The cookbook, The Philadelphia Houswife, by Aunt Mary (a pseud for Mary Hodgson)
added a few fanciful French desserts as "Apples aux Pommes" and "Baked Alaska Applie Pie:"
Baked Alaska Apple Pie - Do
everything as directed in Meringue aux Pommes, but instead of filling
the apple centers with marmalade, fill them with vanilla ice cream, and
spoon ice cream in the spaces around the apples. Top with the meringue,
bake and serve.
1866 - The French food
writer, Baron Leon Brise, wrote a column in the French Journal,
Liberte, on June 6, 1866 which suggests the creation of the
dessert, Baked Alaska, was introduced into France by French Chef Balzac.
According to historians, the master-cook, accompanying a visiting Chinese delegation at the Grand Hotel in
Paris, taught Balzac how to bake ice cream in a pastry crust in
the oven. Following is what Baron Brise wrote:
During the stay of the Chinese Mission in
Paris, the master-cooks of the Celestial Empire have exchanged
civilities and information with the chefs of the Grand Hotel. The French
chef in charge of sweet courses is particularly delighted with
this circumstance. He has learnt from his Chinese colleague the method
of baking vanilla and ginger ices in the oven. The pasty is baked before
the ice protected by the pastry shell can melt. This phenomenon is
explained by poor conductibility of certain substances. The gourmets can
thus give themselves the double pleasure of biting through piping hot
crust and cooling the palate on contact with fragrant ices.
1867 - Charles Ranhofer
(1836-1899), the French chef at the famous Delmonico's restaurant in New
York, created a new cake to celebrate the United States purchase of
Alaska from the Russians. William H. Seward (1801-1872), a Senator from
New York, negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia, and the bill
was signed on October 18, 1867. This purchase was known as
"Stewart's Folly" and/or "Stewart's Icebox."
In Charles Ranhofer's 1893 cookbook, The Epicurean, he called
it an Alaska, Florida, and makes it in individual portions.
Florida - Prepare a very fine vanilla-flavored Savoy biscuit
paste. Butter some plain molds two and three-quarters inches in diameter
by one and a half inches in depth; dip them in fecula or flour, and fill
two-thirds full with the paste. Cook turn them out and make an incision
all around the bottom; hollow out the cakes and mask the empty space
with apricot marmalade. Have some ice cream molds shaped as shown in
Fig. 667, fill them half with uncooked banana ice cream, and half with
uncooked vanilla ice cream; freeze, unmold and lay them in the hollow of
the prepared biscuits; keep in a freezing box or cave. Prepare also a
meringue with twelve egg-whites and one pound of sugar. A few moments
before serving place each biscuit with its ice on a small lace paper,
and cover one after the other with the meringue pushed through a pocket
furnished with a channeled socket. beginning at the bottom and
diminishing the thickness until the top is reached; color this meringue
for two minutes in a hot oven, and when a light golden brown remove and
serve at once.
It is possible that what Ranhofer
deserves is the credit for popularizing an already known dessert.
1876 - Mary F.
Henderson, in her book Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving,
published in 1876, calls it "German Steamer Baked Ice-cream." She shows
some familiarity with Delmonico's restaurant and gives a recipe for
their vanilla ice cream. Following is how it is described:
This dish was at least a curiosity, served at
the table of one of the German steamers. A flat, round sponge-cake
served as a base. A circular mold of very hard frozen icre-cream was
placed on this, and then covered with a meringue, or whipped white of
egg, sweetened and flavored. The surface was quickly colored with a
red-hot salamander, which gave the dish the appearance of being baked.
The gentleman who told me about this dish insisted that it was put into
the oven and quickly colored, as the egg surrounding the cream was a
sufficiently good non-conductor of heat to protect the ice for one or
two. Minutes. However, there is less risk with a salamander.
1880 - George Augustus Henry Sala (1828-1895), British
cookbook author and journalist, wrote the following on Baked Alaska
after tasting it at Delmonico's restaurant in New York:
Imagine carrying the employment of ice to such
an extent that it culminates in that gastronomical curiosity, a BAKED
ICE! The “Alaska” is a BAKED ICE, of which the interior is an ice cream.
This latter is surrounded by an exterior of whipped cream, made warm by
means of a Salamander. The transition from the hot outside envelope to
the frozen inside is painfully sudden, and not likely to be attended
with beneficial effect. But the abuse of a good thing is no argument
whatever against its use in a moderate and rational manner.
1894 - Agnes Marshall's 1894 book, Fancy Ices,
has a recipe for an ice cream bombe, called "Princesse Marie de Orleans
Surprise Bombe," with a meringue around the outside, seared with a hot
salamander, that is similar to a Baked Alaska:
Princess Marie d'Or1eans Surprise Bomb - Prepare and freeze a white
coffee ice, and when frozen put it into a plain bomb mould with a pipe,
and place the shape into the cave to freeze for two and a half hours;
remove the lid and pipe, and fill the hollow space with pieces of fresh
sponge cake steeped in Marshall's Maraschino Syrup; then turn out the
ice on to a layer of sponge cake that is placed on the centre of the
dish, and by means of a forcing bag with a large rose pipe cover it well
in an ornamental style with a stiff meringue mixture prepared as below,
and sprinkle it with Marshall's Icing Sugar. Stand the dish containing
the bomb in a tin with water, and place it in a quick hot oven to brown
the outside of the meringue, or glaze it with a salamander, and serve it
immediately with a purée of peaches (prepared as below) round the base.
Mixture for Princess Marie D'Orleans Surprise Bomb - Take four
large or six small whites of eggs and whip well with a pinch of salt,
then add half a pound of castor sugar, stirring it into the egg with a
wooden spoon, and use
Jean Giroix, French chef at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, is also
said to have made the dish popular. He called it omelette á la
norvégienne or Norwegian omelet.
1896 - The name Baked Alaska, seems to have first
appeared in print in the The Original Fannie Farmer 1896 Cookbook
by Fannie Farmer. Following is how Fannie Farmer describes making a Baked Alaska:
Whites 6 eggs
6 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 quart brick of ice cream
Thin sheet sponge cake
Make meringue of eggs and sugar as in Meringue
I., cover a board with white paper, lay on sponge cake, turn ice cream
on cake (which should extend one-half inch beyond cream), cover with
meringue, and spread smoothly. Place on oven grate and brown quickly in
hot oven. The board, paper, cake, and meringue are poor conductors of
heat, and prevent the cream from melting. Slip from paper on ice cream
For a detailed history of the following individual types of ice cream, click on the underlined:
Ice Cream and Ices
Ice Cream Cone
Ice Cream Sundae
A Day in the Life of Thomas Jefferson,
Monticello, The Home of Thomas Jefferson.
An 1802 Menu, by
Lynne Belluscio, LeRoy PennySaver & News, January 14, 2002./font>
Baked Alaska and Rumford, The Oxford Companion to Food, ed. Alan
Davidson, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Biography: Benjamin Thompson.
Boston Cookery Book, Chapter XXVI, Ices, Ice Creams, and other Frozen Desserts,
by Fannie Farmer, Bartleby.com.
Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla: A History of American Ice
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Renaissance, From Queen Elizabeth I to Mrs. Beeton, The Menus, The
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