Ammon Shea provided evidence of ‘baked Alaska’ from 1891.
Alaska, or baked Alaska, is a dessert made of ice cream topped with meringue, baked in a hot oven so that the meringue cooks before the ice cream melts. There are earlier examples of similar desserts, but the baked Alaska proper is always said to have been invented in 1876 by Charles Ranhofer, the chef of Delmonico’s restaurant in New York. However, the earliest example OED editors have found is 1882. We’d like to see if we can fill in this gap.
The earliest quote OED’s lexicographers have found so far calls the dessert simply ‘Alaska’:
1882 George A. Sala America Revisited I. vi. 90, I dined at Delmonico’s hard by the Fifth Avenue Hotel… Among the dainties..was an entremet called an ‘Alaska’. The ‘Alaska’ is a baked ice..surrounded by an envelope of carefully whipped cream which..is popped into the oven.
Our first example of ‘baked Alaska’ in full comes a few years later, in Fannie Farmer’s famous Boston Cooking School Cook Book:
1896 Fannie M. Farmer Boston Cooking-School Cook Book 375 Baked Alaska… Make meringue of eggs and sugar.., cover a board with white paper, lay on sponge cake, turn ice cream on cake.., cover with meringue, and spread smoothly. Place on oven grate and brown quickly in hot oven.
Can you find an earlier example of baked Alaska? Cookbooks and menus from the 19th century would be a good place to start.
Posted by OED_Editor on 1 November 2012 2.19