The Snow Child and Mini Baked Alaskas

IMG_4822The Connection.  The main connection is that The Snow Child takes place in Alaska in the early 1900s, and the Baked Alaska was created to commemorate the United State’s purchase of Alaska in 1867. But the novel also plays with themes of heat and cold (much like the Baked Alaska), and the magical nature of the story is well suited to such an unlikely and whimsical dessert.

IMG_4806 IMG_4813 IMG_4815Baked Alaska

This is a fantastic dessert for dinner parties because they can be made a day in advance and frozen. The only thing to do the night of is stick them in the oven for two minutes and serve. Plus, they’re pretty exciting.

I was not smitten with the yellow cake I used, so I’m not putting the recipe here. It was a little thick and didn’t warm up enough in the oven. I would recommend buying a pound cake or trying another popular Baked Alaska base (e.g., Martha’s).

1 pound cake or 9-inch layer cake, any flavor
1 pint ice cream (I used raspberry and vanilla gelato)
1/2 cup and two tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
2 drops lemon juice
3 egg whites

First prepare the cake. Slice it into about 3/4 inch layers if necessary, then use a cookie cutter (or a wine glass) to cut out circular pieces. This will the be the base of your Alaskas, so pick the size that you want.

Place the cake circles on parchment paper, then, making sure the cake is completely cool, take an ice cream scoop and carefully mound the ice creams on top of the cake about 1 inch high. Pack them down a little. If things get messy, stick the whole project in the freezer for a few minutes.

After the bases are prepared, put them in the freezer while you make the meringue. Using a stand mixer with a whisk, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Turn off the stand mixer, and in a small sauce pan bring the sugar, water, and lemon to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Continue boiling for about two minutes after the sugar has dissolved until you reach a syrupy consistency. Turn the mixer to medium-high, and carefully drizzle in the syrup until thoroughly combined.

Remove the cakes from the freezer, and glob on the meringue however you see fit. I sort of like the messy approach—they look like mini icebergs—but you can use a more refined methods if you so choose. Place in the freezer for a few hours or over night.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and bake for two minutes. The outside of the meringue should brown nicely, while the ice cream remains frozen. Serve and eat immediately to fully appreciate the warm, crisp meringue piled on top of the cold, soft ice cream.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (391 pages) ♥♥♥♥

“We never know what is going to happen, do we? Life is always throwing us this way and that. That’s where the adventure is. Not knowing where you’ll end up or how you’ll fare. It’s all a mystery, and when we say any different, we’re just lying to ourselves. Tell me, when have you felt most alive?”

snowchildThe Story. 

This is an enchanting novel based on the old Russian folktale about an eldery man and woman who want a child so badly that they build one out of snow and she comes to life. The story takes place on a farmstead in the harsh and rugged Alaskan wilderness in the 1920s. It starts out bleak and isolated, but a delicate touch of magic slowly breathes life into its pages. This is how I like my magical realism. It doesn’t vex or confuse, it’s just there to give space for a delicate “What if?” Exquisitely told, the book is about marriage, love, and death. It’s also living without the shadow of fear—you can’t know what the future holds, so grab on to happiness while you can.

I loved this story. I felt like I was reading a fairy tale with the same sense of wonder and belief that I did as a kid, and the pages flew by. The characters are believable, and the harsh depiction of homesteading in Alaska in the early 1900s gives the tale weight, but it never loses its sense of hope and magic.

Notes.

  • This is an excellent book about Alaska. Ivey grew up there, and her descriptions feel realistic and compelling. I read it tucked under a blanket during a warm spell in February, but I was constantly convinced that I was freezing to death and that there was a raging blizzard outside. Very atmospheric.
  • The tale comes in part from Freya Littledale’s version of the folktale, which I remember reading as a kid. But the author did her research and draws from older versions as well.
  • Yes, Eowyn Ivey was named after the Lord of the Rings character. I know you were wondering. It’s okay, I was too.
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