I love holidays and trivia. Much of my writing combines these two passions.
February 1: National Baked Alaska Day
National Baked Alaska Day celebrates the fancy dessert made with hard ice cream on a base of sponge cake and then covered in a shell of toasted meringue. Add a few garnishments and you have a dessert worthy of a five-star restaurant. This dessert is also known as Bombe Alaska and omelette norégienne, however, the name Baked Alaska is the preferred moniker.
National Baked Alaska Day not only celebrates this delicious dessert, but the purchase of the state of Alaska from Russia.
The History Of Baked Alaska
The history of the Baked Alaska desert is intertwined with the history of America. There are several different theories to the origin of this dessert, however, they all lead back to the celebration of the acquisition of Alaska as the 49th state.
In 1867, the United States was politically divided over the potential purchase of Alaska from Russia. A year later, the purchase was confirmed, and Alaska became a US territory. The first theory claims that “Baked Alaska” was coined at New Orleans, Louisiana’s restaurant Antoine’s by their head chef Antoine Alciatore.
Another theory claims that a popular chef at the Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City, notorious for renaming old dishes after famous people and events, took inspiration from this controversy and capitalized on it. Representing the frozen, rugged state of Alaska, this dessert is cold, frozen ice cream quickly toasted in an oven before serving.
The third theory strays away from the influence of the Alaska purchase. During the Paris World’s Fair in 1867, the chef of the Grand Hôtel created a ‘scientific dessert’ by using Benjamin Thompson’s discovery of the low thermal conductivity of egg whites. A geographical mistake inspired the chef to name his dessert the “Norwegian omelette,” or omelette norégienne.
Regardless of where this dish came from, it is a favorite for many people. However, many people still question how or why the ice cream doesn’t melt when baked. The answer lies in the physics of the insulation properties of the air trapped in the cell structure of foam, in this case, the sponge cake and the meringue. The air pockets keep the heat from reaching the ice cream. Similarly, when pie crusts were used, the air trapped between the layers for the pastry, and the pastry crust and the ice cream, protected the ice cream from the heat. Ultimately, it was discovered that meringue is the best insulation to use and compliments the flavors of the dessert best.
How To Celebrate National Baked Alaska Day
Here's how to celebrate Baked Alaska Day with some fun holiday related games, activities, foods, and crafts!
1. Create a Baked Alaska of your own. Impress your family and friends by creating your own baked Alaska. The recipe is not as complicated as it seems. It only required a few ingredients; however, the process takes a while as you need to let the ice cream freeze.
2. Invite your family and friends out for a fancy evening of decadence with this dessert. Find a local restaurant that serves Baked Alaska, enjoy the evening out, and savor every bite of this signature dessert.
3. Learn about the state of Alaska with your kids. Alaska offers a vast diversity of plants, animals, and culture. Dive into this educational session by learning about the rich Inuit culture and lifestyles. We designed igloos by cutting paper plates in half and adding a door. The children then glued on ‘snowballs’ (or cotton balls) to give their igloos texture. We also added silver rhinestones for extra sparkle.
4. Play a game of Ice Fishing. For this game, I glued a magnet on the end of my cat’s fishing rod toy and cut fish out of cardstock. I also glued magnets on the bottom of the fish. We scattered the fish and went fishing. For an added bonus, I wrote “winner” on the bottom of one of the fish and rewarded the kids with prizes when they found it.
5. Make a snowman out of fake snow. For this activity, you will need baking soda and white hair conditioner. You don't have to use expensive brand conditioner either, the cheap brand is good enough. I usually pick up a bottle of conditioner from the dollar store and get a large bag of baking soda from Costco. Mix 2 ½ cups of pure baking soda with ½ cup conditioner. Stir the mixture until it is combined and enjoy your fake snow. Make sure to supervise toddlers as they may be tempted to eat the snow or to rub their eyes with their hands during play. Children need to wash their hands after playing and though this activity may get messy, cleanup is minimal. Simply wipe down counters and sweep or vacuum the floors.
6. Want to take celebrating to new level? Take a cruise in Alaska. Alaska is known for its gorgeous landscape views and wildflower blooms. Plan a trip to see this photogenic scenery during the spring and appreciate Alaska firsthand. And eat Baked Alaska whenever you see it on the menu.
Fun Facts of Trivia about Baked Alaska
- American physicist Benjamin Thompson discovered how to make meringue in the early 1800s. This is an essential part of the Baked Alaska dessert.
- Earlier versions of this dessert used pie crusts instead of meringue.
- In 2005, ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s decide to protest the drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge by creating the largest Baked Alaska. Their dessert measured 4ft tall and wide and weighed in at 1,140 pounds. This dessert was composed of 90 lbs. of cake, 150 lbs. of marshmallow cream, and 14,400 scoops of Ben & Jerry’s Fossil Fuel ice cream, each scoop weighing 4 ounces.
- Instead of baking your Baked Alaska dessert, you can toast the meringue with the help of a blow torch, sometimes called a butane torch. These usually require you to buy a can of butane.
- 5. A variation of Baked Alaska, the Bombe Alaska, is created by splashing some dark rum over the dessert, which is then flambéed while served instead of baked in the oven.
Video Tutorial To Make Baked Alaska
Other names for Baked Alaska
Baked Alaska is sometimes called:
- Bombe Alaska
- Omelette norvégienne
- Omelette surprise
- Omelette sibérienne
- Glace au four
Baked Alaska Recipes With Step By Step Pictures
- Beautiful Baked Alaska Desserts | Martha Stewart
Looking for an impressive dessert to elicit oohs and ahhhs from the crowds? Get your phones ready because these Baked Alaska recipes are totally Instagram friendly.
Facts About Alaska
Here are some fun facts about the state of Alaska. You can have a little trivia fun with these bits of information and your kids will learn while they are having lots of fun.
- The letters in Alaska are all on the same row on your computer keyboard.
- Giant vegetables are common in Alaska because of the long growing season.
- How many lakes are there in Alaska? Over 3,000,000!
- There are more than one hundred volcanos in Alaska.
- There are over 12,000 rivers in this state.
- The biggest King Salmon caught in Alaska weighed in at 97 pounds, 4 ounces.
- You can see the northern lights an average of 243 days per year in Fairbanks.
- About a third of the land in Alaska is inside the Artic Circle.
- Alaska is only about 55 miles from Russia. We bought it from Russia for 7.2 million dollars.
- The Willow Ptarmigan is the state bird of Alaska and the color of its feathers from light brown to white to protect it in the winter.