Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Brown Butter Baked Alaska

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.
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Baked Alaska is a dessert that has been on my “must try” list for some time now, so I had to go in that direction with this challenge.

Here’s a rundown of my experiences with the recipe components:

Brown Butter Pound Cake: There is nothing like the smell of brown butter!  Good heavens.  I don’t think I’ve worked with it since my very first Daring Bakers’ challenge back in November 2008 (Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting), and now I want to put it in everything.

When I was browning the butter, my splatter screen sure came in handy because the mixture spurted quite a bit.  Also, I really did need to keep an eye on it because my milk solids were the desired chocolate brown when the foam on top started turning a golden brown.  I couldn’t see the solids beneath the foam, though, so I’m glad I pushed it aside to check before the butter burned.

I didn’t modify the cake recipe for altitude (I usually try things as is on the first attempt), so I knew I probably wouldn’t get perfect results.  My cake needed 28 minutes (instead of 25) and it ended up with a sunken center, but I just used my cake leveler to take off the top so I would have nice, even bases for the Baked Alaska.  In terms of flavor and texture, the cake was outstanding.  It was moist, very buttery, slightly nutty, and not overly sweet.  The crumb was perfect.  I enjoyed it so much that it would be worth the work of tweaking it for altitude.

Vanilla Ice Cream: I know, I know, this is the part of the recipe that practically begs for a creative injection.  I like vanilla ice cream, though.  And I really like this recipe, so I’m awfully glad I tried it in its purest form.  The only challenge I had in this part is that I opened my vanilla bean jar to find my last remaining vanilla bean had dried to a crisp.  Boo.  So despite my best vanilla bean intentions, I had to add the 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract indicated for those of us without vanilla beans.

Also, based on my experience with several other ice cream recipes, I only chilled the milk/egg/cream mixture in the refrigerator for an hour (not overnight) before freezing it in my ice cream maker.  Everything turned out great!  This ice cream is so amazingly creamy, vanilla-y, and delicious that I’m lucky the Baked Alaska portions even made it to the freezer.

Meringue:  Everything went according to plan here.  The only “problem” is that the recipe made over twice as much as I needed to cover the outside of my four desserts.

Assembly: I used a Wilton 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter to cut my cake bases; I was able to get 4 bases out of the cake.  I used 1/2-cup ramekins (instead of tea cups) lined with plastic wrap for the ice cream toppers.  When it was time to pipe the meringue, I tried to be somewhat original and do mine in a continuous outside swirl (like a beehive); even with my rotating cake stand, it was hopeless.  The star tip method (shown in my photos) worked so much better.  I used my kitchen torch to brown the meringue.

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

I absolutely loved this dessert!  The ice cream was beyond incredible and I loved the toasty, marshmallow-y flavor of the meringue.  The cake flavor didn’t come through as well once it was frozen, but I didn’t think it was dry like some of the other Daring Bakers did.  Each portion was seriously gigantic and built for sharing…  My husband has an endless appetite, and even he eyed an individual portion nervously and said it looked “filling.”  If you were going to serve these to guests (this is a perfect entertaining dessert since it’s meant to be frozen ahead), you could get away with one dessert for every two to four guests.

Thanks for an amazing challenge, Elissa!  You’ve given me my new go-to vanilla ice cream recipe and I’ll definitely try making Baked Alaska again (perhaps with chocolate cake next time?).

Recipe link: Brown Butter Baked Alaska

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5 Responses to “Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Brown Butter Baked Alaska”


  1. 1 Mary August 29, 2010 at 4:18 am

    This looks fantastic! Funny, I tried to make a beehive too and was unsuccessful, so changed to a star tip. I think I’ll have to try that vanilla ice cream, as I think it’s the best flavour too. I’ve just been overrun with peaches lately. the meringue did taste like roasted marshmallows, which inspired another ice cream. More on that next week!

  2. 2 Renata August 29, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Wow! What a beautiful Alaska! Well done on this challenge!

  3. 3 Julie M. August 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Great job! It looks absolutely perfect! Nothing wrong with staying true to the recipes roots. I love a good ol’ vanilla too. Nice work and congrats on a successful challenge!

  4. 4 Kitty August 31, 2010 at 3:21 am

    That is one of the prettiest challenges I’ve seen so far this month! I bet it tasted just as delicious!


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