Everything makes a comeback
Still, there are some restaurants that are featuring the dessert on their menus. Take DBGB Kitchen and Bar, where the Baked Alaska is their signature dessert in both the Washington DC and NYC locations. It takes them nearly a week to prepare for a weekend’s service -- each day consisting of freezing a layer of ice cream, first the pistachio and vanilla, then the raspberry sorbet, into long logs. Then they make the cake layer, a vanilla sponge, which is piped with meringue to order, before it’s covered in kirsch brandy and served to the customer still flaming.
“The background of DBGB, it’s kind of Daniel [Boulud’s] interpretation of the American table meets French bistro. So the idea was to put something that Americans could identify with,” executive chef Nicholas Tang says. Serving it flaming, executive pastry chef Jayce Baudry adds, was their way of incorporating French fine-dining showmanship into the dessert menu.
“In the last 10 years in pastry there has been a movement where everyone was taking back old desserts, in French, in America, and they try to reinvent them,” Baudry says.
It may be making a comeback in home kitchens, too. In 2016, Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen, a food blog for home chefs with about 6 million unique views, featured a Baked Alaska recipe for her 10th anniversary post. Just two years before that, the recipe was a “signature challenge” on an episode of The Great British Bake Off -- a show that features amateur home bakers who compete solely for bragging rights. That episode was one of the most scandalous in the show’s history, as one of the contestants mistakenly removed another’s dish from the freezer -- essentially sabotaging him. Bingate, as the ordeal was called, was all over the British tabloids for weeks.
And in an age where a pizza covered in tacos is bound to go viral, and we spend our time watching 30-second food videos of showstopping desserts, something as elaborate and photogenic as the Baked Alaska could be on the verge of making waves in the culinary social media world.
Swain’s Baked Alaska, though, serves as an homage to that classic Gilded Age table, rather than a stunt food for views. In fact, Delmonico’s, and their classic version, was the inspiration for including it on the menu. “When we started the concept of the restaurant, the focus was really on the time period in which the building’s built,” she said. “Having [Delmonico’s] signature dish be the Baked Alaska, I think really spoke to the time period we’re focused on here.”
Her take on the Baked Alaska is loosely based off the flavor profiles of a German’s Chocolate Cake. First, there’s hot fudge added to the plate, then a slice of blackout chocolate cake nestled in it. A praline icing is spread across that, then her homemade bourbon pecan ice cream is molded on top. An Italian meringue is piped around it, which, when torched, tastes almost exactly like marshmallow fluff.
“We’re doing all these classic dishes, so we also wanted to follow that through on dessert,” she says. And, of course: “Everything makes a comeback.”