Cherry & Coconut Bombe Alaska

So remember in my last post I spoke about how easy it can be, as a food lover, to consume loads of calories? Yeah… this is one of those times.

You see it was Paul’s birthday earlier this month, and being the loving wife that I am I try to make the day special for him, and I tend to show my love through food. On recent birthdays I’ve hand delivered cupcakes to his work, and another year I took a day off work to cook and surprise him with a 3 course dinner when he arrived home.

This year for his birthday I made him a breakfast of eggy crumpets with bacon and maple syrup (thanks Not Quite Nigella), ordered a surprise Crust pizza delivery to his work for lunch (inspired by Chocolatesuze), and took him for dinner (blog post coming soon).

As usual I also asked Paul what cake he’d like me to bake for his birthday. His answer was swift: the MasterChef Bombe Alaska *cue fear-inducing music*. Despite not being interested in MasterChef, Paul did see the Bombe Alaska pressure test episode and had been hinting at it ever since. Neither of us had eaten one before, and I had been curious about it for a while… Then the June issue of MasterChef Magazine arrived with that Bombe Alaska displayed on the cover, and with the 2 page recipe inside how could I say no?

There are different variations of this dessert. The meringue on a ‘Baked Alaska’ can be finished with a blowtorch or in a 220C oven for a few minutes or until golden. The meringue acts as insulation for the ice-cream centre which prevents it from melting.

Some recipes have cake only as the base, the cake can vary from sponge to Christmas cake, and a true Bombe Alaska (technically the MasterChef version is a Baked Alaska) is all dining room theatre: with dimmed lights, liquor such as brandy or rum is set alight and poured over the meringue for some tableside flambΓ© action.

Sometimes everything goes really well for me in the kitchen, and other times, stressful, ‘character-building’ times, things do not go well. At all. Like my own personal pressure test, getting this Bombe Alaska on a plate was bloody hard. It was a lesson in compromise, pre-preparation, time management, and finally, as Paul likes to remind me, that ‘not everything is going to turn out perfect’.

It’s actually not a difficult recipe, just time consuming. The issues I had making this are numerous, and though my poor time management was partially to blame, it all started with being unable to find the specified ’2.25L pudding basin’ anywhere. The pressure mounted with each little issue I had, snowballing into a near total failure that all I could do was laugh at the end.

Considering the effort involved I don’t think I’d make this again. The MasterChef recipe uses sixteen egg yolks, and 10 egg whites, so to make things quicker I simplified parts of the recipe. Even after those shortcuts it still took me 3 days to prepare this. Imagine what I would have been like following the full original recipe! LOL.

We had this as dessert for Father’s Day lunch with Paul’s family as it was the same weekend. The Bombe Alaska tasted great, looked pretty cool (despite my blow-torching skills) and everyone enjoyed it, including Paul, but… it just didn’t make me think ‘oh my god, this is amaaazing!’. Too much anticipation and drama preceding it perhaps. But I suppose just as not everything can be perfect, not everything can be amazing. Even if it is dessert ;)

If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, or if you really just can’t be bothered (and I wouldn’t blame you) you could totally make a cheat’s version of this instead. However, below is the adapted recipe plus my silly mistakes to learn from should you wish to make this Bombe Alaska yourself.

What is the most challenging dish you have cooked?

Kai gave the Bombe Alaska his approval!

Cherry & Coconut Bombe Alaska: A Cautionary Tale!
Or ‘What Not To Do’…

  • The recipe calls for a 2.25L pudding basin. This doesn’t exist in a store near me and the bowl I used was too large which led to my next issue:
  • I ran out of ice-cream and sorbet to fill the too-large bowl, so the sponge base sat lower. Not enough ice-cream goodness, and too much sponge, which again leads to to my next issue:
  • The sponge cake is to be made in two specific tray and pan sizes which I don’t own and couldn’t find in the stores. Specific measurements are then given to cut the sponge to fit the bowl. But of course I didn’t have the right sized bowl anyway, so…
  • Panicky and out of time, I did something I would never normally do. I bought the sponge cake, pre-made. I justified this to myself by saying ‘Hey, it’s ok! There isn’t much time, and the sponge ends up covered in ice-cream and meringue and is frozen anyway!’. So I shopped where a MasterChef shops *ahem* and bought a couple Coles Bakery circular and rectangular sponges.
  • With a list of unnatural-sounding ingredients, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the store-bought sponge was the weakest part of the final dessert. It was too sweet and artificial in flavour. I think I could have sliced it thinner also.
  • The recipe says to grease the bowl before laying down the sponge but it was still very difficult to remove the bowl after. I think lining with clingfilm instead might be easier?
  • Homemade ice-cream freezes a lot harder than store-bought. Still rushing, I used the coconut ice-cream straight from the freezer which made it difficult to spread nicely over the sponge.
  • To make an Italian meringue you need a sugar thermometer, which I don’t own. I left it to the last day and, of course, could not find one in the stores so I had to make a regular meringue instead.

What Went Right:

  • I made a simpler version of coconut ice-cream adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe (which he adapted from elsewhere). Using just cream, coconut milk, palm sugar, and toasted shredded coconut, it was quick and delicious.
  • I precisely followed the MasterChef recipe for the cherry sorbet and it was also delicious. Vibrant in colour, it was tangy yet sweet and I’d definitely make it again to have by itself.
  • Regular meringue is simple and easy to make! Yay!

Coconut Ice-Cream

Cherry Sorbet simmering

Cherry Sorbet mixture cooling after boiling, processing, and straining

THAT Coles sponge cake

Um, please excuse my messy sponge laying / filling in any gaps with small pieces of sponge

The finished product!

Cherry & Coconut Bombe Alaska
Adapted from MasterChef Magazine (original recipe here)

Coconut Ice-Cream (adapted from David Lebovitz)

  • 300ml pure cream
  • 400ml tin coconut milk
  • 25g (1/3 cup) shredded coconut, toasted
  • 90g palm sugar, grated
  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring all the ingredients to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, discard shredded coconut, and chill the mixture thoroughly.
  3. Once chilled, churn in an ice-cream machine for 30 minutes or until frozen.

Cherry Sorbet

  • 110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 1 lemon, rind peeled into strips, juiced
  • 280g frozen pitted cherries
  1. Combine sugar, lemon peel and 125ml (1/2 cup) water in a saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Cover with a lid, bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add cherries, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes or until cherries have softened.
  3. Discard the lemon peel and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cool for 15 minutes.
  4. Process mixture in a food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, then stir in lemon juice. Refrigerate for 45 minutes, then churn in an ice-cream machine for 35 minutes or until frozen.

Sponge (The Official Recipe)

  • Vegetable oil, to grease
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 220g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • 75g (1/2 cup) plain flour, sifted
  • 40g cornflour, sifted
  • 80g unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  1. To make sponge, preheat oven to 160C. Grease a 26cm x 38cm oven tray and an 18cm springform pan with oil, then line both with baking paper. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg yolks and 110g (1/2 cup) sugar until thick and pale.
  2. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites and a pinch of salt to soft peaks. Add remaining 110g (1/2 cup) sugar, 2 tbs at a time, whisking after each addition until combined, to stiff peaks. Using a metal spoon, fold in one-third of the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture, then gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Fold in flours, then the butter.
  3. Spoon 2 cups batter into the lined pan and spread the remainder into the tray. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and centre springs back when pressed with your fingertip. Cool in the pan and tray, then turn out sponge onto a wire rack.

Meringue

  • 4 egg whites
  • 145g caster sugar
  1. Beat egg whites in a (preferably) metal bowl with electric mixer until soft peaks form.
  2. Gradually add sugar, beating until dissolved after each addition. When all sugar is added and beaten, the meringue will be beautifully thick and glossy.

Assembly – Version #1
(For those that bake their sponge to the correct measurements and who also have the correct pudding basin)

  1. To assemble, lightly grease a 2.25L pudding basin and line base with baking paper.
  2. Cut sponge rectangle in half widthwise, then trim each half to make 2 x 18cm x 26cm rectangles. Cut each rectangle lengthwise into 4 x 4.5cm x 26cm rectangles, then cut each in half on the diagonal to make 16 long triangles.
  3. Place 1 triangle in the pudding basin with the tip pointing towards the centre of the base. Repeat with the remaining triangles to make a snug sponge layer with no gaps, trimming the tips to fit. Trim sponge layer 2cm from the top of the basin. Freeze for 10 minutes to firm.
  4. Spread a 2cm-thick layer of coconut ice-cream over sponge, leaving a cavity for the cherry sorbet. Spoon sorbet into cavity and level. Top with the sponge round; it should sit inside the pudding basin. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 4 hours or until firm.
  5. Invert pudding basin onto a plate. To remove basin, wipe a hot tea towel over, then lift the basin. Working quickly, spoon the meringue over the bombe, then using an off-set spatula or palette knife, spread evenly in a swirl pattern. To make spikes, using your fingertips, lightly and quickly pull the meringue all over. Using a kitchen blowtorch, caramelise meringue evenly, then serve the Bombe Alaska immediately.

Assembly – Version #2
(For those like me who bought or made whatever sponge size they could, and who couldn’t find that pudding basin)

  1. To assemble, lightly grease a metal bowl and line base with baking paper. The bowl I used, which was too large leaving me without enough sorbet, was 22cm in diameter at its widest, and 16cm deep measuring flush against bowl from the middle of the base to top edge. So use one smaller!
  2. Cut rectangular sponge to approx 1cm thickness, then cut into long triangles. Cut circular sponge to the bowl’s lip / outer edge size.
  3. Place 1 triangle in the pudding basin with the tip pointing towards the centre of the base. Repeat with the remaining triangles to make a snug sponge layer with no gaps, trimming the tips to fit, and fill any gaps with more sponge. Trim sponge layer 2cm from the top of the basin. Freeze for 10 minutes to firm.
  4. Spread a 2cm-thick layer of coconut ice-cream over sponge, leaving a cavity for the cherry sorbet. Spoon sorbet into cavity and level. Top with the sponge round; it should sit inside the pudding basin. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 4 hours or until firm.
  5. Invert pudding basin onto a plate. To remove basin, wipe a hot tea towel over, then lift the basin. If that doesn’t work, use a thin knife to loosen the sponge from the bowl. Working quickly, spoon the meringue over the bombe, then using an off-set spatula or palette knife, spread evenly in a swirl pattern. To make spikes, using your fingertips, lightly and quickly pull the meringue all over. Using a kitchen blowtorch, caramelise meringue, then serve the Bombe Alaska immediately.

Note: we had a wedge leftover so I tightly wrapped it in clingwrap and froze it to see what would happen to the meringue. The meringue doesn’t freeze, and it kept well, and edible, for a week after.

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34 Comments

Filed under Baking, Cake, Dessert, Frozen, Ice-Cream, MasterChef Magazine, Recipes

34 responses to “Cherry & Coconut Bombe Alaska

  1. Great post, so much work, thanks so much for sharing!

  2. “On recent birthdays I’ve hand delivered cupcakes to his work, and another year I took a day off work to cook and surprise him with a 3 course dinner when he arrived home.” Aww, Chanel I love this! What a sweet wife :) I hope I can be that awesome when my time comes around!!

    Looks like an absolute stunner of a dessert – I’m so impressed with the hours you put in :) … I mostly conk out pretty quickly.. haha. Hmm don’t think I’ve got any similar sounding impressive desserts to add to the list, guess I’ll have to up my game now hehe

  3. hehe and did Paul appreciate the pizza? that is one beautiful bombe alaska!

  4. Wow! I’ve been waiting to hear about this one… amazing job but lots of work! Love the tips on what NOT to do! I may try this at home soon, but perhaps a shortcut version of some sort.
    My most challenging reciope would have had to be the Peking duck with mandarin pancakes… well worth it too though!

  5. Oh wowzers! This looks amazing. Sooo many steps, well done.

  6. Dianne

    Love the post Chanel. WOW!!! I didn’t realise there was so much work to a most impressive dessert!
    Di xx

  7. Awesome tips!!! Wow 3 days? I think they had 3 hours? I would have had a nervous breakdown lol

    • I think I’d have a nervous breakdown attempting most of the things they do in their MasterChef timeframes ;)
      Yeah, 3 days, if only I had a blast chiller! Also I only have 1 ice-cream churner bowl which had to be refrozen between them :D

  8. Wow! What an achievement. You should be so proud. It looks beautiful. This is definitely motivating me to give it a try. Thanks for all the tips. Glad I’m not the only one that doesn’t mean recipe time frames!

  9. Well done Chanel! Bombe Alaska is quite a challenge indeed and you totally blitzed it! :D And I’m so glad that you guys like the eggy crumpets! Happy Birthday to Paul!

  10. Incredible! Even if you don’t think it was worth the time, it looks great and you now have the privilege of telling people that you made it, with a nonchalant air of course :P Well done!
    I think the hardest thing Stephen and I have made so far is the Adriano Zumbo croquembouche, it was finicky and time-consuming :|

  11. oh Dog! That looks SOOOOO good!

  12. it looks so utterly perfect, i want some!

  13. This cake looks great. Sounds like a lot of work, but when looking on the result, I would say, it was worth doing the job, awesome.

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  15. Marky C

    Great effort Chanel, you’ve got tremendous willpower to see if through to the end! Although not that technically difficult, my most challenging recipe was probably Alvin (Masterchef)’s Caramelised Pork Belly (http://www.masterchef.com.au/greed-caramelised-pork-belly-with-chilli-vinegar-and-saffron-rice.htm). My issue was with ‘step 2′, where it says to deep fry the pork – I didn’t have a deep fryer so thought that shallow fry in a frying pan would be OK….until the pork started jumping out of the frying pan because the oil was spitting so furiously, and I covered the kitchen from top to bottom in oil, and also narrowly missed my eye as well! But it tasted SO good….! Mark

  16. this looks sooooo good!

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