Cheat’s Bombe Alaska

Ever since we enjoyed Bombe Alaska on New Year’s Eve, it’s been on my mind how much I’d like to make one.  This is a theatrical dessert that was big in the 70’s when a dinner party wasn’t a dinner party unless you were setting your guests’ food on fire.

Cheat's Bombe Alaska

Cheat’s Bombe Alaska

But the dessert originated a long time before the 1970’s.  It is said to have been around as early as 1802 when it was served to Thomas Jefferson at a White House dinner.  But it lay low until it was greatly popularised by Charles Ranhofer, chef at the famous Delmonico’s restaurant in New York.  In 1867 Ranhofer created a new cake to celebrate the United States’ purchase of Alaska from the Russians.

The top layer is the raspberry sorbet

The top layer is the raspberry sorbet

At first it was called Alaska-Florida Cake but was soon changed to Baked Alaska.  Adapted by the French, it became known throughout Europe and the British Colonies as Bombe Alaska.  It’s a cake that’s topped with solidly frozen ice cream, that’s enveloped in meringue, then browned and served still warm from the oven.  The ice cream doesn’t melt because the meringue insulates it.

Add ice cream and spoon through the raspberries

Add ice cream and spoon through the raspberries

It’s a spectacular-looking cake that when brought to the table always creates ooohs and ahhhs however, then the theatrics come into play as warmed brandy is poured over the cake and the brandy set alight.  The cake becomes enveloped in a pretty blue flame that’s a real conversation stopper.  Served at the table, everyone receives a slice of dessert that contains many favourites; sponge cake, sorbet, ice cream, berries and meringue.

Cover ice cream with foil and place in freezer for six hours or overnight

Cover ice cream with foil and place in freezer for six hours or overnight

This sort of dessert can be a labour of love or, if you’re like me and wanting maximum applause for the minimum of effort, there’s my cheat’s version.

Cook sponge for 30 minutes

Cook sponge for 30 minutes

Last week we celebrated Archie’s birthday and just like the day he was born, the day of his birthday was a scorcher.  With the mercury soaring to 40C (104F), I knew we would need a cooling dessert.  With this version of Bombe Alaska the oven is only on for 30 minutes and everything else takes place in the freezer.  Perfect!

Rest for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack

Rest for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack

While traditionally made with vanilla sponge cake, I made a chocolate sponge as there are a lot of raspberries in this dessert and I think raspberries and chocolate are wonderful together.  This dessert may look complicated but it’s actually very, very easy and from start to finish, I’m quite sure I spent less than an hour putting it together.

Place the cake upside down on serving platter

Place the cake upside down on serving platter

Just before serving you need to make the meringue which takes less than 10 minutes.  Once it’s covering the ice cream, you can either place it in a hot oven to brown it or use a blow torch.  I used a blow torch or rather, the little guy used it.  He was so keen so I let him but hovered making sure he didn’t burn a hole in the bench top.  He was a little over-zealous and the meringue ended up with a few burnt patches but he had a good time!

A theatrical dessert

A theatrical dessert

And so did the birthday boy – he loved his cake.

Torched!

Torched!

5.0 from 11 reviews
Cheat's Bombe Alaska
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American and French
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
 
A spectacular dessert with a lot of theatrics.
Ingredients
  • 750g raspberry sorbet
  • 2 ltr good-quality vanilla ice cream
  • 150g fresh raspberries (or frozen if fresh not available)
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1¼ cups caster (super-fine) sugar
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • For the Chocolate Sponge:
  • 100g butter
  • ½ cup caster (super-fine) sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • ⅔ cup milk
Instructions
  1. Line a 1.5ltr (6 cup) capacity pudding bowl with a 20cm (8") rim with 2 sheets of cling film.
  2. Soften sorbet just until it's manageable (you don't want to melt it) and spread over bottom of mould. Place in freezer to harden.
  3. Soften ice cream in the same way and fold through raspberries. Spoon ice cream into the mould and spread over the top of the sorbet. Cover with foil and return to the freezer for 6 hours or overnight.
  4. For the Sponge Cake:
  5. Pre-heat oven to 180C (375F).
  6. Grease and line a 20cm (8") round cake tin.
  7. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  8. Add egg and beat until well incorporated.
  9. Sift together the flour and cocoa and fold into butter mixture alternating with the milk.
  10. Pour cake batter into the prepared cake tin and place in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes or until cake is cooked (test by gently pushing top of cake and if the indent bounces back, the cake is cooked).
  11. Rest for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.
  12. For the Meringue:
  13. Just before serving, place egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar. Continue to beat until thick and glossy (about 5 minutes).
  14. To Assemble:
  15. Place sponge cake in the centre of a large platter. Remove mould from freezer and upturn on top of sponge. Remove mould and cling film. Working quickly, use a spatula to cover ice cream and sponge with meringue. Don't smooth the meringue - it looks better with a rough finish.
  16. Use a blow torch to brown meringue (be careful not to burn it).
  17. Pour brandy into a jug and warm gently in microwave (do not boil).
  18. Take Bombe, brandy and matches to the table. Pour brandy over meringue and quickly light.
  19. When the flames have died down, cut into slices and serve.
Cheat's Bombe Alaska

Cheat’s Bombe Alaska

Comments

  1. Very nice indeed, Charlie. I’ve always wanted to make one! x

  2. Love this and love that you made an easy version. I so want to try it. Now, just need to find a blow torch!

  3. It’s terrible to admit, but I have never had a Bombe Alaska and don’t think I had a very good grasp of all the components until you talked through them in turn. I am now sorry I missed trying it as a child because I know I would have loved it! A chocolate raspberry version sounds particularly good and it sounds perfect for a summer birthday and a boy who wants to play with fire (and what boy doesn’t?). Happy birthday to Alfie 🙂

  4. Impressive! I’ve made one in the early blog days—and the pictures are awful. I need to revive my recipe (or make yours!). The family loved it!

  5. Love, love it! I can remember when every cruise ship and dinner party enjoyed the Baked Alaska’s. Your version is delightful. Thanks for sharing it with us, and reminding us what a great dessert this is-

    Velva

  6. A very impressive presentation dessert. Kudos. 🙂

    I’ve seen baked Alaska in my various cookbooks over the years and always wanted to try one but I didn’t want to wait to have a big party to indulge.

    So, a couple of years ago, I made a couple of individual mini cakes using ceramic ramekins as a base for the ice cream dome assembly. I cut a sheet cake into rounds for the base, topped them with the shaped ice cream, whipped egg whites and froze the Alaskas until I was ready to serve them. They were baked just enough to get some colour on the meringue. A torch would probably have done a better job … but I don’t do well with flame which is why I never tried the flaming brandy. 🙂

  7. oh yum charlie. this looks so lovely. and i agree raspberries and chocolate are a match made in heaven. how clever are you! i think i would burn the house down:)

  8. We’ve made this a few times but never set it on fire! Looks marvellous Charlie!! 😀

  9. Thanks so much for this recipe and info Charlie, Max sent me the link ….. bit of an in joke …..
    I have a huge smile thanks… Love your work Kandy xx

  10. It’s always a bit of a show stopper isn’t it when the Baked Alaska comes out – not that I’ve ever attempted one I hasten to add. I think the burnt bits are the best – nice and caramelised. How fun for Alfie to have a go with the blow torch I bet he loved it.

  11. I love making these. I remember making hundreds of them a week as we had them on at a restaurant I worked in . Little baby ones. Any way I am still laughing about “a dinner party just wasn’t a dinner party unless you were setting your guests’ food on fire.”, put as only you can lol . Happy birthday to your son.xxx

  12. Happy belated birthday, Archie.
    You make everything sounds so easy, saving recipe for one of these days when I summoned enough courage to try.

  13. It wouldn’t seem like I would be so thrilled to see your Baked Alaska Charlie considering the temperature here but, I am totally amazed at how easy you make it sound and, flambé too!!!

    Thanks for sharing your tips and of course the back ground of this historic dessert! Happy belated birthday to your hubby! The torching looks GREAT too!

  14. That’s one impressive birthday cake. Happy birthday, Archie!

  15. What a fun idea for a birthday cake!! I agree, chocolate and berries are the perfect match, especially in this delicious dessert. oh and, I like the cheats version of ANYTHING!!!
    Thanks for sharing
    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

  16. Baked Alaska is something I have tried to make (attempted 6 individual servings for a progressive dinner some time ago) but I have not posted it because it wasn’t as successful as I had wanted. Your version (cheat or not) is wonderful! I love that you let Alfie do the brulée on it, so authentic looking. I’m sure with the heat you’ve been experiencing, your guests were very appreciative. It’s very beautiful.

  17. Ta da! You’re are right – this is such a show stopper! What an amazing birthday cake, I too would be thrilled to be served this on my bday! I have never eaten or baked a Bombe but now I really want to give it a try. Love the simple recipe, thanks x

  18. Charlie, this is totally ace. I have never made one before, but have memories from my time in the kitchen watching the pastry chef prepare them (he wouldn’t let we apprentice anywhere near his work #sadfaces) My favourite bit was poking my head around the corner to see flaming cakes placed in front of customers and the cheering. I cannot wait to try this amazing recipe. Thanks heaps! 🙂

  19. I have never made a Baked Alaska before – think that will have to change with our next dinner. Happy birthday to Archie.
    Have a beautiful week ahead.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  20. Very impressed, Charlie … I’m not sure I’d have the courage to tackle such a spectacular dessert … I’d probably burn the house down!

  21. Sweet Posy Dreams says:

    Wonderful. It looks beautiful even with its few scorched marks.

  22. I have never made this with cake, only a Baked Alaska with just the ice cream and meringue–and that was probably 40 years ago! You inspire! I may just have to tackle this–what a presentation, Charlie. Looks amazing. And fun!

  23. I bet Archie had a ball! My niece and nephew were ecstatic at the chance to use my industrial blowtorch on the weekend when we were searing scallops. I do remember eating this for the first time as a kid and hating the taste of rum, so I’m even more impressed that Archie is such a fan!

  24. Happy birthday to Archie! What a fun birthday cake! I have a feeling Mr. N would LOVE this – raspberries, chocolate and a torch! I might have to whip this up for him one of these days. And a 104F?! That is a scorcher! Although I’d take a scorcher to a cold day any day of the year. I love the heat! Cheers Charlie!

  25. I haven’t had a flamed version of this dish in years! Probably not since the 70s or 80s. I’ve had it since then, just not flamed. And I’ve never made it. Love this recipe! Pretty straightforward, plus it gives me a chance to use my torch. 🙂 Move over Alfie, it’s my turn! Good stuff — thanks. And Happy Birthday, Archie.

  26. Wow, I’ve never heard of Cheats Bombe Alaska! Setting your cake on fire surely makes a memorable dessert!

  27. This is a great cake for a birthday! I’ve never made one, but I’d love to give it at try. The mix of raspberries and chocolate sounds delicious.

  28. I would so love to try this recipe, Charlie. I haven never tried, but my grandmother made Baked Alaska at Christmas several times and I remember what a treat it was. It was so special. It’s been thirty years since I’ve been served this special dessert. I would love to give this a try. So many steps, it’s a lot of work, but I think it would be worth it. Thank you for the recipe, and thank you for reviving such a pleasant memory!

  29. wow what a great birthday cake – quite the spectacle and you make it look very easy

  30. Baked Alaska has been on my ‘list’ since forever … I really need to make one soon. You’ve inspired me! And happy birthday to your little guy.

  31. This is such a cool recipe!!! I would love to make this and impress my family! They would be in awe!

  32. Oh WOW! I’ve never eaten a Baked Alaska much last eaten one. You make it quite irresistible!

  33. I love ice cream bombes and used to make them a lot, though I’ve never made a Baked Alaska. Think I may have to try this one once the weather warms and we are entertaining on the deck. Happy Belated Birthday to Archie!

  34. This desert featured heavily during my childhood – Mum excelled at it. But I do love the idea of a cheats version – always looking for those shortcuts. xx

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