baked alaska
Art credit: Brooke David

Moon Cake (Baked Alaska)

(It’s curved like the Moon, and best served if you are hosting the book club, as it entails ice cream. Recipe courtesy of Gail Monaghan.)

Serves 12 very generously

1 round yellow or white cake layer (10 inches in diameter, 1–2 inches thick—store-bought or homemade; recipe below)
5 pints best-quality coffee ice cream (Vanilla, or another flavor of your choice may be substituted.)
2–3 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Meringue topping:
8 egg whites, at room temperature
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Bake and cool the cake layer. Wrap well. This may be done a day or two or up to 4 weeks ahead and frozen.
2. Soften the ice cream and freeze in a metal bowl with a diameter an inch or two smaller than the cake layer. Cover the ice cream with foil and then freeze until very hard, preferably at least 6 hours and up to 4 weeks.

When ready to serve:

1. Preheat the oven to 450º or 500ºF.
2. Place the room-temperature egg whites and the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. With the whisk in place, mix on low speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and mix on medium speed until soft peaks form. While mixing, add the sugar in a slow, steady stream and raise the speed to high. Beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Add the vanilla and mix to blend.
3. Place the frozen cake on a heatproof oval platter large enough to hold it. Drizzle with the liqueur, if using, and sprinkle with the granulated sugar.
4. Unmold the ice cream and place on top of the cake, making sure the cake border is even all around the ice cream. Using a spatula, decoratively swirl all the meringue over the cake and ice cream, running the meringue down to the platter. Make sure the cake and ice cream are completely sealed in by the meringue.
5. Sprinkle the last 2 tablespoons of sugar over the meringue and immediately place in the upper third of the oven. Cook until lightly browned, about 3–5 minutes. Watch carefully. Serve immediately, before the ice cream melts.

Cake layer:

(All ingredients should be at room temperature.)
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter, flour, and line two 10-inch cake pans.
2. Stir dry ingredients together and set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and then the vanilla. Beat well, then add dry ingredients and beat just until combined.
5. Divide batter between two 10-inch cake pans and bake just until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.
6. Cool 10 minutes and then invert onto a rack and cool completely.