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How Did This Unique Dessert Originate?

Alaska, Florida. It's not a town. It's the original name of the iconic American dessert we know as Baked Alaska - A popular dessert created by French chef Charles Ranhofer, said to have been served to celebrate the U.S purchase of the Alaska territory in 1867.

This patisserie made from egg whites and sugar contains slices of sponge cake topped with a ball-shaped mass of ice cream encased in meringue - typically flambéed or baked until browned.

Seems physically improbable, given the tendency of ice cream to melt under heat.

However, the layer of sponge cake at the bottom and the coating of meringue, insulate the well-chilled ice cream, leading to a surprising blend of warm and cold that has proved popular for generations!

The name 'Baked Alaska' works when you consider the inspiration for Ranhofer's warm-versus-cold layer cake reportedly stems from his desire to showcase the contrast between the warmth of Florida and the cold of Alaska, according to Untapped New York.

Still, it doesn't quite roll off the tongue and who knows why Florida was even in the mix. Maybe a play on the opposite corners of the United States?

Earlier versions of Baked Alaska appeared as early as 1802. Thomas Jefferson was one of the first presidents to serve ice cream at a state banquet in the White House and requested it to be served encased in a hot pastry.

In 1804, Benjamin Thompson Rumford, an American physicist who invented several cooking devices, was curious about the heat resistance of beaten egg whites. He discovered a new dessert and called it 'omelette surprise'.

By the 1850's, unique shaped molds filled with frozen creamy custard called 'ice cream 'bombes' and meringue-encased desserts were popular at teas and formal dinners.

Within a decade, several variations of Baked Alaska were circulating the globe!

Today, Baked Alaska is served in restaurants across the world. In the US, many restaurants feature a rum-doused meringue that is flambéed tableside - Hong Kong's version is Flame on the Iceberg, whiskey and syrup are poured over the dessert before being lit on fire and served - There's even a 'reverse Baked Alaska' known as Frozen Florida, which contains a hot toddy filled frozen meringue!


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