When you are confident with your meringue it’s time to impress with this classic dessert. The key to success is to have all the components made ahead of time. Then, just before serving, you can assemble and serve. Called ‘baked’ Alaska, the original version was baked in the oven to brown the meringue. I think individual serves are more elegant than one large one but baking them would be very risky! The alternative is to scorch the meringue with a blow torch or flambé tableside.
Madeira Cake Base
1 cup sugar
grated rind of a lemon
1¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
Cream the butter and sugar and lemon rind together until fluffy. Beat the eggs until thick and add to the butter alternately with the dry ingredients. Pour into a greased loaf tin and bake at 180°C for 35 minutes.
When cool, slice into 1.5cm thick pieces and cut these into rounds the same size as an ice cream scoop.
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
pinch cream of tartar
Put the sugar in a small pot along with the water and bring to a simmer. When the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat. Using a candy thermometer, measure the temperature. When it reaches 115°C, start to whisk the egg whites.
Whisk the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until the whites form soft peaks. By this stage the sugar syrup should have reached 130°C (or hard ball stage). While you continue to beat the egg whites, slowly drizzle in the sugar syrup and continue to beat for a further 20 minutes until the egg whites have cooled.
Place a scoop of ice-cream, sorbet or gelato onto each sponge round. Cover both these with the meringue, either by piping or using a small pallet knife. Scorch with a blow torch or for a real show stopper flambé them by heating approx ¼ – ½ cup of alcohol (rum, vodka, brandy…) in a small pot. Place the plated baked Alaska on the table and pour over a little of the warmed booze then quickly light with a long match.