Brown Butter Baked Alaska & Ice Cream Petit Fours

August 27, 2010 at 11:57 am 90 comments


Maybe you’re sick of hearing me saying it, but it’s the only thing on my mind right now – I’m so excited for college.

It’s been coming for months. I felt it in my bones as I reread my acceptance letter, checking and double checking every sentence. It crept up my spine as I leaned over a map of Massachusetts, marveling at the thrill of my school printed there on the paper. Most surreal of all, I might never forget the day I noticed our plane ticket confirmation on the table… two tickets for each of my parents, and a one way ticket for me. There’s no turning back.

And even though my friends have slowly left one by one, the change hasn’t felt real until the past week, when I myself began packing. My whole life fits into four suitcases. Now I look at my room and realize next week I won’t fall asleep beneath these glow in the dark stars, or wake up to these familiar blue walls. I know that each day is one of my last here, and I want to make the most of every one.


One of the best parts? I hosted the Daring Bakers this August. I’ve been a member for over a year, and it’s one of the most dedicated, inspired, supportive communities I’ve ever been a part of. I was beyond thrilled and grateful for the chance! The month they had in mind for me to host was a joint challenge with Sugar High Friday. The creator of SHF, Jen, picked the theme ingredient brown butter, so I needed to incorporate that into the Daring Bakers recipe.

In all honesty, it was difficult. Not only did the month’s challenge need to use brown butter, it also needed to be versatile, accessible, and summery enough for the end of August. Finally, it came to me – brown butter in the form of a toasty, nutty pound cake, with homemade ice cream as ice cream petit fours or a baked alaska.

Individually, I’d made the ice cream, meringue, and glaze recipes before. I knew they’d be successful. But I couldn’t ignore a hesitant uncertainty. I’d never browned butter before, and kept pulling the pan off the heat too soon, mistaking the chocolate brown milk solids for burnt scraps. I didn’t know if the cake would freeze well, or if I could properly glaze petit fours. Worst of all, I wasn’t sure if I could be a good host.


But I shouldn’t have been afraid. Sure, the recipe didn’t work out for some, and I spent plenty of time researching foreign ingredients to answer every person’s question. But I should have known that even if I’d been a complete flop, I’d be greeted with nothing but cheeriness and charm. For most people, the brown butter pound cake was a wild success, and even though last month’s challenge also included ice cream and cake, just about everyone tackled August with an open mind and stomach.

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

How cool is that? (That’s me, in the blog checking lines!)


Since my access to a kitchen will be limited the next ten months, this was my last Daring Bakers challenge, and admittedly my favorite one. Every day I opened the Daring Kitchen website to more and more photos of finished Baked Alaskas and ice cream petit fours, and every adaptation, failure, or success made me smile. I loved scrolling through photos and thinking, “At this very second – someone somewhere might be churning a batch of this ice cream, or snacking on brown butter cake scraps.” It’s like we’re all in this together.

And as you’re reading this right now, what am I doing? I might be in our living room, trying to force a stuffed suitcase shut, wondering if I can fit a few more socks in the gap. I might be on my one-way plane, peering out the window, trying to catch one last glimpse of the Puget Sound glittering in the darkness. More than likely, I’ll be in Boston when you read this. I might even be meeting my roommate for the first time, hugging my parents for the last.

Wherever I am, wherever you are, I’m glad we’re in it together – thanks for reading, baking, supporting and inspiring. See you on the other side.


Thanks to all the Daring Bakers who made the August challenge a success! I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this month, or how much I’ll miss you guys when September 27th rolls around. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with next.

Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (165g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract

Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife and add to the milk, along with the bean pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for an hour. (If you do not have a vanilla bean, simply heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams, then let cool to room temperature.)

Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2 litre) bowl inside a large bowl partially filled with water and ice. Put a strainer on top of the smaller bowl and pour in the cream.

In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks together. Reheat the milk in the medium saucepan until warmed, and then gradually pour ¼ cup warmed milk into the yolks, constantly whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the yolks are warmed, scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan of warmed milk and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a spatula until the mixture thickens into a custard which thinly coats the back of the spatula.

Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 teaspoon [5ml] if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons [15ml] if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.

Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make it without a machine. See instructions from David Lebovitz:

Brown Butter Pound Cake

19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.

Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Glaze (For the Ice Cream Petit Fours)

9 ounces (250g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (32g) light corn syrup, Golden syrup, or agave nectar
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract

Stir the heavy cream and light corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dark chocolate. Let sit 30 seconds, then stir to completely melt the chocolate. Stir in the vanilla and let cool until tepid before glazing the petit fours.

Meringue (For the Baked Alaska)

8 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon (3g) cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1 cup (220g) sugar

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar gradually in a slow stream until stiff peaks form.

Assembly Instructions – Ice Cream Petit Fours

Line a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) pan with plastic wrap, so that no sides of the pan are exposed and so there is some extra plastic wrap hanging off the sides. Spread 1 ¾ to 2 cups (450ml to 500ml) ice cream into the pan. Cover with more plastic wrap and freeze several hours.

Once the brown butter pound cake has completely cooled, level the top with a cake leveler or a serrated knife. Then split the cake in half horizontally to form two thin layers. Unwrap the frozen ice cream. Flip out onto one of the layers of cake and top with the second layer of cake. Wrap well in plastic wrap and return to the freezer overnight.

Make the chocolate glaze (see above.) While the glaze cools, trim ¾” (2cm) off each side of the ice cream cake to leave a perfectly square 7.5” (19cm) ice cream cake. Cut the cake into twenty five petit fours, each 1.5”x1.5” (4cmx4cm). Glaze the petit fours one at a time: place a petit four on a fork and spoon chocolate glaze over it. Place the petit fours on a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the freezer for one hour.

Assembly Instructions – Baked Alaska

Line four 4” (10cm) diameter tea cups with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all the sides and hangs over the edge. Fill to the top with ice cream. Cover the top with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze for several hours, or until solid.

Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four 4” (10cm) diameter circles from the cake. Discard the scraps or use for another purpose.

Make the meringue (see above.)

Unwrap the ice cream “cups” and invert on top of a cake round. Trim any extra cake if necessary. Pipe the meringue over the ice cream and cake, or smooth it over with a spatula, so that none of the ice cream or cake is exposed. Freeze for one hour or up to a day.

Burn the tips of the meringue with a cooking blow torch. Or, bake the meringue-topped Baked Alaskas on a rimmed baking sheet in a 500°F/260°C oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.

Printer-Friendly Version – Brown Butter Baked Alaska & Ice Cream Petit Fours

Entry filed under: Cake/Cupcakes, Daring Bakers, Frozen Desserts, Sugar High Fridays. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Blackberry, Peach, and Ginger Crumble Soft Pretzels

90 Comments Add your own

  • 1. marcellina  |  August 28, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Elissa, thank you so much for hosting this months challenge. You have been a great host you shouldn’t have worried. I ended up making both even though it wasn’t planned that way. As I read through your post I think of your parents buying you that one way ticket and even though we raise our children to be mature, independant citizens of the world it must be difficult to take that final step. My daughter is 15 and I know that my time too, is limited but if she is well adjusted and happy as I hear you are I will know my work is done. Congratulations to you but also to your parents. All the best at college!

  • 2. Brianna Bolden  |  August 29, 2010 at 5:22 am

    This was a wonderful, heartfelt post.
    which most of your posts are. I love that about reading your blog.
    Its so inspiring.

  • 3. Tara  |  August 29, 2010 at 9:16 am

    just happened on your blog today. yours is a real gem. beautiful photos and words. i was taken back 9 years to when i was leaving home for college. home will always be home, though. i still go back to find my mom watering her flowers, and wake up to beautiful music my dad fills the house with. and now that it’s a rarity, my dad doesn’t complain about my baking in the middle of the night. ;)

    best of luck, have a blast!

  • […] The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alasa or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”. […]

  • 5. miriam  |  August 29, 2010 at 10:14 am

    this looks so good!! x

  • 6. Ingrid  |  August 29, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    These look wonderful! Not sure I could make mine look tlike that! :)

  • 7. Jessica @ Jessiker Bakes  |  August 29, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    I loved this challenge by the way. I’m so sad I didn’t get to do it but I will definitely do it eventually. Browned Butter anything is ah-mazing. Remember to cross this off your “things to bake” list!

  • 8. kitchenmisfit  |  August 29, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    I had such a great time participating in this month’s challenge. As a Bostonian I’d like to welcome you to our amazing city!! I went to college in Boston and never left. Have fun and if I could give you one piece of advice is to EXPLORE as much of the city as you can!

  • 9. Tara  |  August 29, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    This was my first Daring Baker challenge and I really enjoyed it! (both the making AND eating) Best wishes in college Elissa!

  • 10. linda  |  August 30, 2010 at 3:53 am

    wishing you all the best!
    enjoy, absorb, be true to yourself, learn, have fun & explore!
    your next chapter begins…

  • 11. shaz  |  August 30, 2010 at 5:09 am

    Thank you for such a wonderful challenge Elissa. Good luck in college, you’ll have a blast!

  • 12. thebackwash  |  August 30, 2010 at 6:23 am

    omg, i just started cooking at 17 but you shot, you wrote, since 17? wow. best of luck in everything! :)

  • 13. theurbanbaker  |  August 30, 2010 at 8:11 am

    you are a beautiful writer and an inspiration. good luck to you. i know you are going to accomplish great things!

  • 14. Julie M.  |  August 30, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Thanks for such a great challenge, you did an awesome job! Have a wonderful first year of college. It’s such a magical time!

  • 15. Perfecting Pru  |  August 30, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Good luck at college Elissa, I enjoyed this task alot, and whilst the ice cream melted every time I poured the chocolate on, we ended up with a very delicious mess, and then with the second coating of chocolate, beautiful petit fours. You have a great website, and I will be popping back soon.

  • 16. Tania  |  August 30, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    That is so pretty!

    Elissa, today was the first day of school — the hallways were much too full of new freshman, but it still felt empty … I feel like I barely know anyone anymore ! This year will be awful, thank god we get out early … The classes all feel like silly, trivial busy work and it’s all the same routine as these last three years. I’ve had enough of it, and it’s all made worse by your absence.

    But I’m so excited for you! Keep updating us … and I want to know about your roommate, and Boston, and living by yourself, and your classes, and your free time… and of course, your baking/photography! ;) Thank you SO much for the SAT books — I’ve already started using them! Missing you already :(

  • 17. Kitty  |  August 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Thank you for a great challenge! Good luck in school! I graduated a back in 2007, and I’ve wanted to go back ever since! You will love it!

  • 18. Zoe  |  August 30, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Whoa, are you going to Harvard? Haha, that’s the only school I know of in Massaschusettes.

    Enjoy college, it’ll fly by. Wishing you the best of luck. Always.

  • […] with no large ice crystals despite my total lack of a churn. As usual, I’ll direct you to the challenge host’s blog for recipe details. The brown butter pound cake I was much less satisfied with– I thought it […]

  • 20. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  August 30, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    I understand your excitement for college. I was so pumped that whole summer beforehand. You’ll LOVE it!

    Hope you keep baking :) This recipe is awesome!

  • 21. maybelles mom  |  August 30, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    hey great challenge. I went with the petit fours (b/c I make alaskas often.) good luck with school.

  • 22. annmartina  |  August 31, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Thank you for the challenge. I envy people who have the patience to make cute petit fours : )

  • 23. Melissa  |  August 31, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks so much for all the wonderful posts and recipes! Good luck as you start college – Boston and the New England area in general is a great area – loved my time in college there. Enjoy!

  • 24. alimonia  |  September 1, 2010 at 2:11 am

    thank you for your blog… las recetas son maravillosas y tus entradas muy tiernas… buena suerte.. goog luck with your new life… besos

  • 25. Sharon  |  September 1, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Great job Elissa! Hope Boston is treating you well! Wishing you continued success.

  • 26. Rose  |  September 1, 2010 at 8:23 am

    I am in awe of your talent and skills.

  • 27. Valérie  |  September 1, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Thank you for this challenge, Elissa! I finished it late, but I made it! Thank you for introducing us to the delight that is browned butter!

  • 28. Aunt LoLo  |  September 2, 2010 at 12:29 am

    Girl, the Baked Alaska looks GREAT!! I joined DB two years ago, when I relocated with my small family from Seattle to rural Connecticut. I thought it would be a good distraction for me, so far from home. Unfortunately, I didn’t factor in 1) my EXTREME impatience with my own failures or 2) the baby I was carrying. I lasted…three months. Heh. Life took over, and that was that.

    That said, I’m sure you were an AMAZING hostess this month, and you’ll have a BLAST in Boston!! I was able to visit a few months ago, before I relocated BACK to Seattle. Boston is…gorgeous. Amazing. The “North End” has some of the friendliest vibes I’ve ever felt in a city. (And go to Modern’s for a cannoli. Just trust me.) (Also, the cherry pit clam shooters, at the green market? Get ’em. You’ll be glad you did!)

  • 29. Jood  |  September 2, 2010 at 7:19 am

    Really cute petit fours. All the best with college.

  • 30. Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking  |  September 2, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Wow, these are so impressive! What a beautiful, delicate dessert and lovely photos. Wishing you confidence and success as you begin your new life in college!

  • 31. Marta  |  September 2, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Elissa… By now you are in Boston. Your life in four suitcases… I sincerely hope all things will smile at you! I wish you luck with your room mates, luck with your teachers… All my best wishes to you!
    Now, I think I gained some weight just by looking at these pictures! I was eating with my eyes, one after the other, blissfully shifting between petit fours and alaskas!
    Looking forward to your next post, cheers Elissa :)

    (Oh and I loved the Procrastibaking comment)

  • 32. bakersunite  |  September 2, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Amazing… Once again! :) You’re desserts look delicious and the presentation is amazing (something I have to work on… lol)! Good luck in college, and have fun! :D

  • 33. Jessica  |  September 3, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Oh man I’ve been wanting to do a Baked Alaska for SO LONG! It’s almost bittersweet you finally got to host a challenge and now you won’t be able to bake all year!

    I hope you have a great time here in beantown despite our heatwave and impending Hurricane Earl doom. Our winters are always windchill bitter cold and summers oppressively humid. Beware of the T during Red Sox game nights and have fun exploring! Not to sound like a creep but I’ve lived here my whole life and I’m not that much older than you so if you have any questions, holler!

  • 34. lisamichele  |  September 4, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Elissa, thanks for hosting such a great challenge – enjoyed every second of it as did my tasters :) Your Alaskas and Petit Fours are beautiful!

  • 35. Y  |  September 5, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Gorgeous gorgeous photos, and great pick – I love all things ice-cream related :) So sorry I couldn’t take part in the challenge that you hosted. Guess I’m sort of ineligible to be a member now anyway, as I’ve missed too many challenges recently, due to work commitments.

  • 36. Let’s Go Nuts for Doughnuts! « Kats’ Kitchen  |  October 27, 2010 at 2:27 am

    […] last month which I was tempted to try, but before I knew it September was over.  August was Ice Cream Petit Fours and Baked Alaska which looked yummy but way to complicated for me at the time and July was Swiss Swirl Ice Cream […]

  • 37. The Terribly Tardy Bakers Challenge | Butterscotch Sundae  |  April 25, 2013 at 7:13 am

    […] Baked Alaska or ice cream petit fours […]

  • 38.  |  September 13, 2014 at 1:56 am

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    Brown Butter Baked Alaska & Ice Cream Petit Fours | 17 and Baking

  • […] For the full Daring Bakers version of Baked Alaska and Ice Cream Petit Fours, Click HERE. […]


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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