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Combine two classic desserts for a showstopper that puts the cherry on top of your festive feast. Full of rich chocolatey goodness, sticky cherries, and covered in a light meringue, this bake is a challenge, but it will be one to remember... See method
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Preheat the oven to gas 5, 190°C, fan 170°C. Grease and line a deep, 18cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl with an electric whisk for 3-4 mins until light and fuffy. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Stir the four and cocoa powder together, then fold into the mixture, followed by the milk. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level. Bake for 35 mins until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 15 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack, drizzle over the 2 tbsp cherry syrup, then leave to cool completely.
Put the frozen cherries in a saucepan with the cornflour, sugar and star anise. Cook over a low heat for 2-3 mins, stirring occasionally, until the cherries start to release their liquid. Turn up the heat to medium and simmer for 8-10 mins until thick and the cherries have broken down. Stir in the brandy and jarred cherries; leave to cool completely. Remove the star anise and set aside 2 tbsp compote.
Bring the ice cream out for 15 mins to soften. Grease a 1ltr freezer-safe bowl with a little oil and line with 2 layers of clingfilm. Swirl a quarter of the cooled compote through the ice cream and spoon into the prepared bowl, smoothing the top. Freeze for 1 hr, then pour over the remaining compote and freeze overnight.
The next day, use a serrated knife to level the sponge and trim the edges so it will fit in the ice cream bowl. Put the sponge in the bowl, pressing into the compote layer, and freeze while you make the meringue.
For the meringue, gently heat the sugar in a pan with 80ml water for 3-4 mins until dissolved, then turn up the heat to high and simmer for 10 mins or until the mixture reaches 110°C on a sugar thermometer. At this point, put the egg whites in a non-plastic bowl and whisk to stiff peaks with an electric whisk.
As soon as the sugar reaches 116°C, remove from the heat and, with the whisk still running, slowly pour down the side of the bowl into the egg whites (avoid pouring it onto the whisk so it doesn’t splatter). Whisk for 10-15 mins more until no longer warm, then swirl through the reserved 2 tbsp compote.
Remove from the freezer and turn out onto a serving plate. Dollop the meringue over the ice cream and sponge and use the back of a spoon to spread and swirl it all over. Use a blowtorch to brown it if you have one, or place under a high grill for a few mins, watching it carefully, until just browned. Allow to sit for 15 mins for the ice cream to soften a little before serving.
Get ahead: Assemble the baked Alaska without the meringue up to 3 days ahead, or with the meringue up to 1 day ahead. Store in the freezer.
Freezing and defrosting guidelines
In order to enjoy optimum flavour and quality, frozen items are best used within 3 months of their freezing date. For more tips on freezing and defrosting food, read our article Love Your Freezer.
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