The most perfectly creamy key lime sorbet (dairy-free, natch), summery strawberry curd, and a tender graham cracker cake are
all covered in a lovely and stable Italian meringue. This modern baked Alaska is the most amazing dairy-free treat for any celebration – make it for a birthday, the 4th, or any other special day! Not the flaming (yet somehow still disappointing) baked Alaska ubiquitous to cruise ships, this recipe includes many elements that you can make and enjoy on their own, but together = magic! The sorbet, cake, and curd can each be made several days ahead of time, which makes assembling this baked Alaska a snap!
Key Lime Baked Alaska
If you can’t find fresh key limes, use regular limes with about 25% lemon juice or just all regular lime if you like a sharper flavor. Don’t bother with the bottled stuff – you’re putting a fair amount of time and effort into this lovely recipe, don’t ruin it with weird-tasting substitutes! If your condensed coconut milk turns the sorbet a touch grey, as alas it can, add a dab of green and yellow food gel to adjust the color.
The cake, sorbet, and curd can be made and stored separately up to 4 days ahead of time – freeze the cake and sorbet, refrigerate the curd, and assemble the dessert the day of with freshly made meringue. You can save the extra egg whites from the strawberry curd to use in the meringue, they will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Prettily pipe the meringue if you have a pastry bag and tips; if not you can also slather it on and make decorative swoops and peaks with the back of a spoon. If you don’t have a kitchen torch, I provide directions for using your oven to brown the meringue.
Key Lime Sorbet Ingredients
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) condensed coconut milk
- Zest from 3 key limes
- 1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (about 1 lb of key limes)
- Pinch of salt
Condensed Coconut Milk
- 2 14-ounce cans full fat, BPA-free coconut milk
- 2/3 cup sugar
Strawberry Curd Ingredients
- 1 pound sliced fresh strawberries
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons butter
Graham Cracker Cake Ingredients
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cups graham crackers (about 20 squares)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup plain coconut yogurt
- 1/4 cup oat milk
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Italian Meringue Ingredients
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Condensed Coconut Milk Directions
Combine two cans of full fat coconut milk with sugar in a medium saucepan. Reserve one can for storing and cooling the finished condense milk. Bring coconut milk to a low boil over medium high heat. Reduce the burner to low and simmer, stirring frequently to avoid a skin developing, until the volume is reduced by half, about 45 minutes.
While simmering, if the bubbles become very small, organized, and start building on top of each other, pull the pot off the heat and stir vigorously until the bubbling subsides (we don’t want caramel here!), then adjust the burner to a slightly lower setting and continue simmering. If you can’t get the volume of coconut milk down by half, as brands vary in fat/water content, stop simmering once you feel it is not reducing any further. Refill one of the cans and discard any excess.
If not using immediately in the sorbet, return the coconut milk into the reserved can, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. It will keep for up to one week.
Key Lime Sorbet Directions
Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Off the heat, mix in the condensed coconut milk, lime zest, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust salt as needed. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and cover, laying the plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture (as with a custard). Refrigerate until completely cooled, at least 4 hours.
Churn the completely cooled lime mixture in your ice cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions, usually about 25-30 minutes. The temperature of the churned mixture should ideally get down to 21º F, although many of the cheaper ice cream makers (like mine, alas) don’t have strong enough motors to keep churning when the mixture gets too stiff, so get as close to 21º F as you can!
Scoop the churned sorbet into a bowl with the interior surface lined with plastic wrap. Choose a bowl that will create a dome of frozen sorbet that will fit on top of your cake while leaving about an inch of cake uncovered around the edge. I use a bowl that won’t fill completely so that it creates lower and more gently curved dome. Cover the sorbet and freeze completely, at least 4 hours.
Strawberry Curd Directions
Place sliced strawberries and 2 tablespoons of water in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, simmering for 5 minutes until all the strawberries have softened.
Process the strawberries in a blender or food processor until smooth and return to the saucepan off the heat. First whisk in the sugar, cornstarch, and lime juice until dissolved, then quickly whisk in the eggs and egg yolks. Turn burner to medium and, whisking constantly, bring mixture up to just before the boiling and the mixture measures 175º F. Immediately remove from heat and whisk in the butter.
Quickly transfer the curd to a medium bowl and cover, laying the plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Chill completely, at least 4 hours.
Graham Cracker Cake Directions
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease your cake pan well. When making a single, full-sized baked Alaska, I have used a strawberry shortcake pan (like this one) because the fluting looks nice, but a 10″ round or springform pan will work too as long as it is at least 2″ high. You can also use muffin tins or other cake pans for individual cakes.
Process the graham crackers into a fine powder in a food processor. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, and baking powder. In a liquid measuring cup, stir the oat milk and coconut yogurt together.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until the sugar dissolved and the mixture has become pale and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing the mixer to completely beat in each egg as added, 1-2 minutes per addition. Mix in the vanilla.
Add the flour mixture and then the milk mixture 1/3 at time, alternating. Allow the mixer to just stir in each addition before the next so as not to overbeat.
Pour the batter into the greased cake pan, smoothing the top evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Cool completely then wrap and freeze.
Italian Meringue Ingredients
Use room temperature egg whites, which ensure a faster and more stable meringue.
Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat over high heat until sugar syrup registers 240° F on an instant read or candy thermometer.
While the sugar syrup is heating (and keeping an eye on it, too), combine egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, start whipping the eggs. Start the mixer on low (e.g., setting 2 on a Kitchen Aid) until the eggs have become foamy, then turn the mixer up to medium-low (4) until the eggs start the get white and thick, about a minute. Turn the mixer up to medium (6) for another minute, and then up again to medium-high (8) for another minute or two. Stop once soft peaks form: when the head of the mixer is lifted, the meringue will shape gentle peaks that curve over and very slowly slump down.
With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in hot sugar syrup in a steady, thin stream. Once all the syrup is incorporated, increase the speed to high and whip until firm peaks are form, about 3 minutes.
Baked Alaska Assembly
For a traditional baked Alaska, smooth the strawberry curd on top of the frozen cake (if you used a standard cake pan, cut a 1/2″ deep disc out of the top of your cake, leaving a 1″ lip around the edge). Invert the frozen dome of key lime sorbet on top of the curd. Pipe or slather the meringue over the top of the sorbet, making sure to overlap the lip of the edge of the cake to completely seal in the sorbet. Decorate with attractive piping or all over swirls and peaks. Return to freezer for another 1.5 hours. Just before serving, brown the tips of the meringue with a kitchen torch. (If you don’t have a kitchen torch, preheat oven to 500° F and bake the cake until the meringue peaks are golden, about 4 minutes.)
You can also play around with a deconstructed assembly, which allows you to keep the sorbet in the freezer until just before serving. Make sure the rest of the components and the plates are cold before you put out the sorbet and serve.