It's very clear that forms of the dish were made well before it had this name. Other names for the dish are Norwegian omelette, omelette norvegienne, omelette a la norvegienne, omelette surprise, and glace au four.
It is believe that Delmonico used the name "Alaska" in the 1870. In the 1890s the name "Baked Alaska" is cited multiple times.
Culinary historians continue to debate the "Baked Alaska"--a "New York" dish that you won't find anywhere today!
Early versions of this dessert consisted of ice cream encased in a piping hot pastry crust. A guest of Thomas Jefferson at a White House dinner in 1802 described the dessert as "Ice-cream very good, crust wholly dried, crumbled into thin flakes."
The later version consisting of ice cream on sponge cake covered with meringue and browned quickly in a hot oven, is claimed as being created by many people, and popularized by many others. American physicist Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford) claimed to have created it in 1804, after investigating the heat resistance of beaten egg whites. This was called omelette surprise or omelette Ã¡ la norvÃ©gienne.
And then there is the story of it being passed on to the French in the mid 19th century when a Chinese delegation was visiting Paris. The Master-cook of the Chinese mission was staying at the Grand Hotel in 1866, and the French chef at the hotel (Balzac?) learned how to bake ice cream in a pastry crust in the oven from him.
The name Baked Alaska originated at Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City in 1876, and was created in honor of the newly acquired territory of Alaska. An Englishman (George Sala) who visited Delmonico's in the 1880s said: "The 'Alaska' is a baked ice....The nucleus or core of the entremet is an ice cream. This is surrounded by an envelope of carefully whipped cream, which, just before the dainty dish is served, is popped into the oven, or is brought under the scorching influence of a red hot salamander."
It is was supposedly later popularized worldwide by Jean Giroix, chef in 1895 at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo.
What's Cooking America - Baked Alaska
1867 - Charles Ranhofer (1836-1899), the French chef at the famous Delmonico's restaurant in New York, created a new cake to celebrate the United States purchase of Alaska from the Russians. William H. Seward (1801-1872), a Senator from New York, negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia, and the bill was signed on October 18, 1867. This puchase was known as "Stewart's Folly" and/or "Stewart's Icebox." In Charles Ranhofer's 1893 cookbook, The Epicurean, he called it an Alaska, Florida, and makes it in individual portions.
Alaska, Florida - Prepare a very fine vanilla-flavored Savoy biscuit paste. Butter some plain molds two and three-quarters inches in diameter by one and a half inches in depth; dip them in fecula or flour, and fill two-thirds full with the paste. Cook turn them out and make an incision all around the bottom; hollow out the cakes and mask the empty space with apricot marmalade. Have some ice cream molds shaped as shown in Fig. 667, fill them half with uncooked banana ice cream, and half with uncooked vanilla ice cream; freeze, unmold and lay them in the hollow of the prepared biscuits; keep in a freezing box or cave. Prepare also a meringue with twelve egg-whites and one pound of sugar. A few moments before serving place each biscuit with its ice on a small lace paper, and cover one after the other with the meringue pushed through a pocket furnished with a channeled socket. beginning at the bottom and diminishing the thickness until the top is reached; color this meringue for two minutes in a hot oven, and when a light golden brown remove and serve at once.
1880 - George Augustus Henry Sala (1828-1895), British cookbook author and journalist, wrote the following on Baked Alaska after tasting it at Delmonico's restaurant in New York.:
Imagine carrying the employment of ice to such an extent that it culminates in that gastronomical curiosity, a BAKED ICE! The "Alaska" is a BAKED ICE, of which the interior is an ice cream. This latter is surrounded by an exterior of whipped cream, made warm by means of a Salamander. The transition from the hot outside envelope to the frozen inside is painfully sudden, and not likely to be attended with beneficial effect. But the abuse of a good thing is no argument whatever against its use in a moderate and rational manner..
[This is not a quote by Sala. Sala is merely mentioned on this same page in the book The Art of Living in Australia (1987) by Philip E. Muskett -- ed.]
(New-York Historical Society, menu collection)
NYHS menu 1889-2E (restaurant not indicated) has "Alaska" in its ice cream section.
The Stillson's menu (1890) has "Baked Alaska Pudding."
Boldt's Restaurant, Bullitt Building, Fourth Street, Philadelphia, 30 July 1896 (no NYHS menu number) has "Baked Alaska."
The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook
by Fannie Merritt Farmer
Boston: Little, Brown and Company
Whites 6 eggs
6 tablespoons powdered sugar.
2 quart brick ice cream.
Thin sheet sponge cake.
Make meringue of eggs and sugar as in Meringue I., cover a board with white paper, lay on sponge cake, turn ice cream on cake (which should extend one-half inch beyond cream), cover with meringue, and spread smoothly. Place on oven grate and brown quickly in hot oven.
Mrs. Rorer's New Cook Book
by Sarah Tyson Rorer
Philadelphia: Arnold and Company
(Index - ed.)
Alaska Bake, 601
24 December 1902, Washington Post, pg. 5:
From the New York Sun.
4 July 1904, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 10:
BAKED ALASKA--Cover a mold of vanilla ice cream with a meringue made from whites of six eggs and six tablespoonfuls of powdered sugar, put in plates, stand on a board, and put in a hot oven for a moment. Serve immediately.
29 June 1916, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 14:
THE most picturesque name for a slice or block of ice cream on a bed of cake, then covered in heat, is "omelet infernal." There is a long rhapsody on this combination in a famous French book. The author says that it enraptures the tongue and, to translate a little: "It expresses admiration, ferver, knowledge, and the grand human sentiments. Ices diverse, fine flavors, hide themselves in the sides of the omelet infornal. . . . Imagine the equator and the pole. It is a sensation of ecstasy which spreads itself from the lips to the toes. It is a caress."
This famous thing, said to have been invented by Count Rumford, the American who had the most wonderful of careers in Europe, is called here in America "Baked Alaska," and is seldom seen outside of hotels.
4 July 1909, New York Times, pg. X6:
An ideal Summer dessert is baked Alaska. To make it pack a round mold with vanilla ice cream. COver and bind the seams of the mold with strips of muslin dipped in melted paraffin. Repack in ice and salt, and stand aside for at least two hours. At serving time turn the ice cream on a folded napkin on a platter. Beat the whites of four eggs until light, add four tablespoons of powdered sugar, and whip until light and dry. Cover the ice cream thoroughly with this meringue, and dust well with powdered sugar. Stand the platter on a cold board, and run the whole in a hot oven for a moment to brown. Serve at once.
14 April 1996, New York (NY) Times, pg. RCW7:
According to Gale Harris, a historian with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Charles Ranhofer, the chef of Delmonico's, created baked Alaska and lobster Newburg.
New York City • Food/Drink • (1) Comments • Monday, December 20, 2004 • Permalink
When I finished writing my blog on Baked Alaska I saw your article--so well researched I had to go back and post your link…
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