Skip to main content

Season 17, Episode 14 Recap: How to Make Baked Alaska

Plus, learn what to look for in an ice cream machine and an offset spatula.
By Published Apr. 10, 2017

This episode of America’s Test Kitchen opens with hosts Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison talking about why Baked Alaska is usually only cooked in restaurant kitchens. Later, they demonstrate how to make the decadent dessert at home. Dan Souza discusses the thermodynamics of the dessert in question, and Adam Ried reviews ice cream makers. Finally, our gadget expert Lisa McManus discusses what qualities to look for in an offset spatula.

Want to know where and when America’s Test Kitchen airs in your area? Enter your zip code into our station finder.

Five Takeaways from the Episode

1. Cake Flour Makes the Best Chiffon Cakes: Cake flour contains much less gluten than all-purpose flour, which results in a lighter crumb.

2. When Choosing the Right Cake for Baked Alaska, It’s All About Thermodynamics: Heat transfers when molecules bump into each other. In solids, tightly packed molecules bump into each other frequently, so heat transfers quickly. The molecules in air are fewer, and with more space in between—heat, therefore, transfers less quickly in air than in a solid. All cakes contain some pockets of air, but some contain more than others. Chiffon has a light, airy crumb, making it the perfect candidate for Baked Alaska.

3. In Ice Cream Makers, Design Matters: Ice cream makers' paddles come in a range of designs, with blades and bars designed to scrape the sides of the bowls while churning. Some models had horizontal bars that spun just above the contents of the bowl, so ice cream clumped up on top, forcing us to stop the ice cream makers every few minutes and push it back into the mixing action. The horizontal bars also got in the way of our instant-read thermometers, which we use to tell when the ice cream has cooled to the optimal 21 degrees. Better designs had the crossbar located further down the paddle, where it didn't obstruct the mixture or our thermometers.

4. When Making Swiss Meringue, Slow and Low is Key: You’ll need to cook your raw egg whites to 160 degrees to ensure they’re safe to eat, but cook them too fast and they won’t turn into meringue—they’ll scramble!

5. For Bakery-Caliber Results, Frost Your Cakes with an Offset Spatula: Their long, narrow blades (an ideal blade length is between 7 and 8 inches) are perfect for scooping and spreading frosting. The offset bend near the handle (look for a bend that’s offset to a 30 degree angle relative to the handle and the blade) allows you to get good leverage, and also ensures your hands stay clean. When frosting cakes from now on, say goodbye to your butter knives and hello to an offset spatula.

Quote of the Week: “[Chiffon is] the yoga of cakes—it can bend.” —Julia Collin Davison to Bridget Lancaster while making Baked Alaska

Can't wait for next week's episode? Get your fill with our past episode recaps:

What was your favorite part of this episode of America’s Test Kitchen? Let us know in the comments!