As I mentioned the other day, I want to discover who is behind the mysterious dessert I had at Delmonico’s (https://bit.ly/2tSmHvq); the baked Alaska.
Delmonico’s alledges that they were behind this creation.
But is that true?
Or is it one of the oldest urban restaurant legends in existence?
Surprisingly there is a lot of data out there about the origins of the baked Alaska and all of it seems to be in agreement. That is a rarity!
But before we get to how it came to be, let’s be clear about what constitutes a baked Alaska.
The dessert has many varieties and recipes, but at its core it is ice cream over cake topped with browned meringue.
All accounts do indicate that Delmonico’s pastry chef Charles Ranhofer was the man behind the cake, so to speak. He created this dessert, originally called “Alaska, Florida” (because it is both hot and cold) to celebrate the establishment of the forty-ninth state in the union; Alaska.
Alaska was purchased by the U.S. from Russia on March 30, 1867 for a whopping seven million dollars, about two cents an acre at the time.
The original concoction consisted of walnut spice cake, banana ice cream, and toasted meringue. At the time it was created, in 1867, making this dessert required A LOT of effort. Back then there were no electric mixers or blow torches. Instead it took a full kitchen staff along time and a lot of hard work to create just one. It also included bananas which had to be imported from Central America. That explains the forty dollars it cost!! Thus, only those who could afford such luxury got to sample any.
Despite the consensus on its origin, the baked Alaska was not the first dessert to combine cake and ice cream. That is thought to have occurred about sixty years or so earlier and a very famous founding father is behind it. That would be our country’s third president, Thomas Jefferson.
Although I could not find a date for the name change from Alaska, Florida to baked Alaska, it appears to have first been printed under that title in “The Original Fannie Farmer”. This was a cookbook that came out in 1896 authored by Fannie Farmer, obviously. I like to think it was the #dinneralaDonna of that era.
So while I might not have been wild about my first experience with baked Alaska, knowing there is a true, historical story behind it makes me more inclined to try other versions in the future.
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