Wait! Before summer is over! I’m a bit late, I know, but I still need to say something –
Well, actually… eight years of tentimestea… and it feels like I have less to say than ever!
But we’ll try anyhow. Around this time last year I was pondering what has stayed the same, but I suppose this year I found myself thinking more of what has changed.
Here’s one thing: my blog dwells happily in the comfortable depths of obscurity. But this year during rhubarb season, 99% of my traffic starting coming through pinterest for a single recipe. To be clear, minuscule traffic and hardly anything relative to what a popular blog would receive, but it was still a bit nerve-wracking! It was a recipe I was happy with and had tested a couple times. People on the internet that made it and told me about it were happy. Still, it did remind me that any recipe has the (slim) potential to be seen and made by others, and that there is a some responsibility that comes with that. I haven’t been trying to share nonsense recipes of course – but I will certainly never be doing that now.
Admittedly, up until the last couple of years, there were some old questionable recipes lying around. When I first started tentimestea – as a still-somewhat-teenager! that excuses everything, right? – it was to keep track of what I baked. That included disasters, which at the time were quite relishing to post given how terrible descriptions are much more exciting to write than good ones. I transitioned sharing more proper recipes years ago, but there were still those legacy recipes lying around. The posts remain, but the super old recipes I felt unsure about have been redacted to avoid anyone innocently coming across a recipe for disaster fully recorded in all its gory detail. (Well, you can still read the gory details, you just can’t replicate it!)
But all this talk of traffic and responsibility aside – first and foremost, the blog is still about having fun with baking – because that’s what has kept me around for eight years.
onto the recipe: baked alaska!
As is sort of-semi-tradition-esque-ish, I make an annual (out of season) rhubarb cake. This year it’s baked alaska, a suitably retro recipe for an aging blog like mine. I made mine with a strawberry rhubarb sorbet layered over a vanilla elderflower semifreddo, all seated on an almond cake base, covered in meringue and some roasted fruit.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this cake! It’s fruit and cream (and yes, some rather sweet meringue) all stacked together in a refreshing slice. The amount of work is makes for a decent project: multiple components, but none too tricky, and a relatively fuss-free assembly. You could also use this recipe as a template for whatever adaptations you want to make – another fruit sorbet, infuse some different flavours into the semifreddo, and so forth.
- strawberry rhubarb sorbet: This is probably my favourite component of the cake – I would definitely eat it on its own! Made from strained rhubarb juice and strawberry puree, it’s the refreshing fruity counterpoint in this dessert. Sorbet usually needs a certain amount of sugar for texture, but it’s not overly sweet given the tartness from the rhubarb. I also helped keep it soft and sliceable a little splash of elderflower liqueur (more on that below).
- vanilla elderflower semifreddo: I knew I wanted to have a bit of alcohol in the cake if only to keep it a bit softer and sliceable. Even better if it’s part of the flavour profile! I used a slightly lemony elderflower liqueur, St. Germaine, to go along with the fruit and vanilla. You can certainly use whatever alcohol you prefer (or leave it out entirely for an alcohol free version – it will just be a bit harder and may need to sit on the counter for a few minutes to soften before slicing). Semifreddo is a foamy parfait made of whipped eggs and cream, making it a lot airier than ice cream and also a bit more manageable to eat when it comes to a generous slice. I also like using semifreddo as a component in layered frozen desserts as it doesn’t need to be churned; it can save a bit of time if you use a freezer canister which needs to be washed and refrozen for each churn.
- almond financier base: I found that the texture of frozen financier is quite good – chewy and toothsome, but certainly still soft enough to bite – from this ice cream. Here it was recruited as the base for the cake.
- meringue: I usually don’t care much for meringue, but I discovered it’s surprisingly suitable for frozen desserts! Not only do you get to dramatically toast it for contrast with the cold filling, but meringue doesn’t harden when frozen (unlike, say, whipped cream) and also helps to insulate the cake to prevent it from melting too quickly on the counter. While I used raw egg whites, there are alternatives for food safety to reduce salmonella risk. I’d suggest trying something like an Italian meringue, in which boiling sugar is whipped in beaten egg whites, or Swiss meringue, in which the eggs and sugar are heated together before whipping. These methods can be a bit trickier though, so depending on what you’re comfortable with, simply whipping egg whites and sugar together is easiest.
- roasted strawberries and rhubarb: I sort of modeled the look of my baked alaska after a pavlova, and so to finish it off, a garnish of roasted strawberries and rhubarb.
a note on sizing…
I’ve described the bowl I used to make this in the recipe below (i.e. 900mL volume and 19cm top diameter) but this recipe can be amenable to whatever bowl you have on hand. If your bowl is bigger, the baked Alaska may just not fill the bowl the whole way. If your bowl is smaller, just layer in part of the sorbet and then part of the semifreddo. Put the remainders in separate containers and freeze to eat later. As necessary, trim the cake base so that it is the right size. Or, you can also multiply the recipe as needed if you want a larger baked Alaska.
To get an idea of how it might turn out, you can check the volume of the bowl you plan to use and compare it to what I used. The easiest way is to fill it with water and weigh how much it can contain (1g = 1mL). In this recipe I used a 900mL bowl with a top diameter approximately 19cm (7 1/2″). It may not sound that big, but it makes for quite the cake once it is covered in meringue. It can definitely serve eight or more very generously.
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
Financier adapted from Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery, sorbet free-handed, semifreddo adapted from Stella Parks’s recipe, meringue adapted from classic ratios.
equipment: I made this in a bowl about 900mL in volume and with a top diameter of about 19cm/7 1/2″. But you can definitely use whatever size you happen to have on hand – please see the note on sizing in the blog post above. I also used a 8″ diameter cake tin to bake the cake base.
1. bake the financier base
- 75g butter
- 45g finely ground almonds
- 30g all-purpose flour
- generous 1/8 tsp salt
- 60g granulated sugar
- 75g egg whites
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 425F. Butter a 20cm/8″ diameter cake tin and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Place the butter in a small pan and heat until melted. Cook, stirring, until the butter solids brown and the butter is fragrant. Immediately transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool while you make the rest of the batter.
Stir together the almond flour, flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the egg whites and vanilla, and mix until a thick batter is formed. Whisk in the browned butter. Spread the batter into the prepared pan in an even layer.
Place in the oven and turn the temperature down to 350F. Bake about 10 minutes or until springy to touch or an inserted skewer is removed clean.
2. make the strawberry rhubarb sorbet as the first layer of the baked alaska
- 350g chopped rhubarb
- 150g fresh strawberry puree
- 45g simple syrup (1:1 water and sugar)
- 1 tbsp St. Germaine (or other elderflower liqueur to taste; elderflower cordial could be an alcohol-free alternative)
Place the chopped rhubarb in a small saucepan along with a spoonful of sugar and a splash of water (enough for 1-2cm on the bottom). Together, the sugar and water should help draw the juice out of the rhubarb. Cook over medium allowing the rhubarb to release enough juice to mostly cover the rhubarb pieces. Let simmer until the rhubarb is tender and cooked through. (If it’s looking a bit dry it helps to put the cover on while cooking to generate more liquid. The resulting rhubarb juice will be less concentrated, so it will just need to be boiled down more in the following step.)
Transfer the cooked rhubarb to a jelly bag set in a sieve over a bowl and allow the rhubarb juice to drain in the bowl. Once cooled, squeeze the bag to extract as much juice as possible. (Discard the fibrous contents in the jelly bag.) With the cover off, I got about 170g of juice, and cover on, about 260g of juice. Exactly how much you get out will depend on how much water already cooked off. To make whatever amount you get consistent, place the rhubarb juice back into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook down until it is reduced to about 120-130g.
Let the rhubarb juice cool. Stir in the strawberry puree, simple syrup, and St. Germaine. Adjust the simple syrup to taste. Chill completely.
When ready to churn, line a bowl with plastic wrap. Churn the sorbet in an ice cream maker, then spread into the bottom of the bowl and place in the freezer to freeze completely.
3. make the vanilla elderflower semifreddo and pour over the sorbet
- 3 large eggs
- 35g granulated sugar
- 185g whipping cream
- seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or substitute 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste for both seeds and extract)
- 2-3 tbsp St. Germaine (or other elderflower liqueur to taste; elderflower cordial could be an alcohol-free alternative)
Set a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water – or other double boiler set up. Whisk together the eggs and honey in the bowl. Mix continuously with a rubber spatula until the eggs appear syrupy and reach about 160-165F – though if you’re getting close to temperature (i.e. 155+) and you start noting any clumping, immediately remove from the heat and stop there. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until the bowl feels cool to the touch and the eggs have quadrupled in volume – and in the words of Stella Parks (original recipe) “thick enough to briefly mound up like soft-serve ice cream when dropped from the whisk.” This may take 5-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, whip up the cream with the vanilla seeds and extract. Whisk in the St. Germaine at the end (use more or less depending on your taste). Add half of the whipped cream to the eggs and whisk in until combined. Add the remaining cream, folding it in gently with a rubber spatula. Pour the semifreddo over the sorbet in the prepared bowl, leaving just enough room for the financier. You will have extra semifreddo if you use the same size bowl as me – put the leftovers in a container and freeze as a dessert for later.
Trim the financier base as necessary so it can fit into the bowl and place over the semifreddo. Return to the freezer and allow to freeze completely.
4. (optional) roast the fruit as an optional garnish, and chill until use
- 50g chopped rhubarb
- 50g chopped strawberries
- 1 generous tsp sugar
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a small baking pan with parchment paper. Combine the 50g each of chopped rhubarb and strawberries with a bit of sugar and transfer to the pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, mixing partway through, until the fruit is tender. Chill completely until ready to use.
5. make the meringue and cover the baked alaska
- 90g (3 large) egg whites
- pinch cream of tartar
- 90g granulated sugar
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip until frothy and sprinkle in a pinch of cream of tartar. Beat until the egg whites and foamy before gradually adding the sugar. The continue to whip on high speed until firm peaks are formed. (I find you get a smoother swoopier meringue if you stop at firm peaks rather than stiff. Peaky, yes, but still nice and soft.)
Take the bowl out of the freezer and turn out onto a tray or upside down-baking tin. Remove the plastic. Cover with meringue and then use the back of a spoon to draw meringue up the sides. Use the spoon to make a nest in the top to hold the roasted fruit.
At this point, you can either torch the meringue or do a quick bake in a very hot (500F) oven until the meringue is browned. If you’re not ready to serve right away, the cake can be put back in the freezer until ready. Top with roasted fruit just before serving.
for posterity – past tentimestea birthday rhubarb cakes
- 1st year – roasted rhubarb layer cake linked to for legacy purposes only; I remade it much improved in my 5th year
- 2nd year – rhubarb victoria sponge
- 4th year – croquembouche with cardamom cream and rhubarb curd (though I would recommend these for a rhubarb cream puff)
- 5th year – revisited roasted rhubarb layer cake
- 6th year – rhubarb, coconut and rooibos mousse cakes
- 7th year – lemon verbena and roasted rhubarb fraisier