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. Shelley C  |  August 27, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Elissa, thank you so much for such a wonderful, delicious, and, most of all, FUN challenge. And to host as you are preparing to start college? And move all the way across the country? Wow – really, really awesome. Thanks for being such a great host, for letting me participate in so many ways, and for your amazing and inspiring creativity in the Daring Kitchen. I certainly hope you’ll keep in touch. Most of all, I wish you best of luck in college, and that you have a fun, wonderful, amazing experience there.

  • 2. nikki  |  August 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I just wanted to thank you for posting this challenge… so fun!

  • 3. Christina  |  August 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Oh yours are sooo cute! Thank you for such a fun challenge :)

  • 4. stylefyles  |  August 27, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    yummmmmmmms – looks so tasty!

    Have fun at college aka the time of your life =)

  • 5. Alpineberry Mary  |  August 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for doing a super job as hostess this month. Good luck to you as you begin your collegiate life in Boston!

  • 6. Dana - Food for Thought  |  August 27, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Looks like you did a great job, both as a host and with your desserts… I’ve been seeing baked alaskas and petit fours all over people’s blogs today! Good luck at school!

  • 7. Lindsay  |  August 27, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Good luck as you begin your collegiate life!

    I’ve so enjoyed reading your blog- I hope you can keep posting!

    Let me know if you need a kitchen to borrow (or bakery recommendations!)- I live in Brookline!

  • 8. Jennifurla  |  August 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    You are such a talented lady, you blog is beautiful and I really had to branch out with the making of the petit fours! Thanks & I look forward to reading more of your blog!

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

    Great job on the challenge, Elissa, both hosting and completing it! You did a fantastic job of checking in on the forums and answering all questions asked. Good luck with your first year of college!

  • 10. Alisha  |  August 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Hello Elissa,

    I just wanted to drop by and say how perfect this first challenge was for me. You chose 2 truly challenging desserts that perfectly fit the season. Job well done! And also, thank you for stopping by my blog and for your kind words!

  • 11. Leslie  |  August 27, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    This was a great challenge, Elissa! I enjoyed every part of it, well, maybe not my goof with thinking transfers would work on the chocolate. Good luck with your first semester of college!

  • 12. Indigo  |  August 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Both the petit fours and the baked alaska look wonderful. I contemplated joining Daring Bakers but I am, also, heading for university very soon.
    Thank you for another wonderful post and good luck in college.

  • 13. Alisha  |  August 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    I just read your post and saw that this is your last challenge. That’s bittersweet I am sure but have a lovely time in Boston and really soak up this time in your life. I hope you join the group again when you can!

  • 14. Jeanne  |  August 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you so much for hosting this challenge, Elissa! It was fun and delicious. You were a perfect hostess and we’ll miss you in the Daring Bakers group. Have fun in Massachusetts and say hello for me (I grew up there)!

  • 15. sadaf  |  August 27, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    thank you s much for this great challenge. i must say we enjoyed a lot .

  • 16. Ashlae  |  August 27, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    You have inspired me to write a brown butter cookie recipe – thank you!

  • 17. Annalise  |  August 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Thank you for the challenge! I LOVED it, probably my favorite yet! The results were beautiful, delicious, and all around spectacular.

  • 18. Mary  |  August 27, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks for hosting such a creative and fun challenge Elissa! I missed July’s, so I was happy with the ice cream and cake combo. Please don’t think I didn’t like the cake, because the scraps disappeared fast! Best of luck on your first year of college. I remember packing and leaving and missing my kitchen very much.

  • 19. Barbara Bakes  |  August 27, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Awww – I love this post – such a gracious hostess. Have a fabulous time at college!

  • 20. Renata  |  August 27, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Elissa! First of all, thank you so much for this wonderful challenge. For such a young girl, you seem to be very obviously aware of what you want for your life! I would like to wish all the best to you on this starting point of a new road!

  • 21. Christine  |  August 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks for hosting this month! Best of luck in college – I remember that excitement – doesn’t get much better than that – enjoy it – it goes by soooo fast!

  • 22. Lauren  |  August 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Elissa, this was such a wonderful post and you were just as wonderful of a host! Thank you so much for doing it (I know it isn’t simple) and I can’t wait to hear all about college. You are going to move mountains. xox

  • 23. Debbie  |  August 27, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks so much for hosting this month’s challenge! I LOVED the brown butter pound cake…very good flavour……and I’ve always wanted to make petite fours so it was perfect! Best of luck at school….and don’t forget to enjoy it!

  • 24. Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella  |  August 27, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Thanks for the great challenge Elissa! it was so much fun! :D

  • 25. Aparna  |  August 27, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks for picking an interesting challenge and being a great host. I know how difficult it is to pick a challenge for DBs. :)
    The browned butter pound cake is a great recipe.

    And loads of luck and good wishes as you start college. Its been a while, but I remember how it felt. :)
    Hope you manage to find time to keep blogging on and off.

  • 26. Procrastibaking  |  August 27, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Put off all work! Waste time deliciously!

  • 27. Claire  |  August 27, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    What a fun journey you are about to embark upon! I hope that you just love and enjoy college. Wish that you would be able to continue the challenges but we all have to make different steps in our lives. Maybe they’ll let you join in on holidays if you want! Anyway, thanks for the great challenge. Admittedly, I wasn’t pumped about ice cream again…but this made me see how much FUN making ice cream is…I think I need a freezer now! Wish I had been able to make the petit fours but the baked Alaska was fun, too. I love your little strawberry decorations.

  • 28. Lexi  |  August 27, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Those look amazing. I have two years before I’m packing my bags for college. It comes so fast. I hope you keep baking. I am absolutely in love with your blog and you just make everyday that much better. I’m so glad I found your blog a year ago.

  • 29. Kate  |  August 27, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    These recipes look amazing!

    I hope that college will provide an amazing adventure for you. Will you still be posting during your freshman year?

  • 30. Katy  |  August 27, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Congratulations on beginning the first of what I’m sure will be four fantastic years of college! It’s exciting, scary, nerve-wracking, and fun all rolled into one. Even if I did bawl like a baby when my parents dropped me off my first year. :)
    Enjoy college, enjoy Boston (It”s a really fun city! I’m planning on making a few trips there to do all sorts of Boston-y things….I’m not really sure what that meant though haha) and have a wonderful year! You’re incredible, and you’ll do incredible things! :)

  • 31. Katie  |  August 27, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Both your ice cream treats look divine. Thanks for choosing such a fun challange this month

  • 32. bake in paris  |  August 27, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    Thanks for hosting this delightful challenge! Both the Baked Alaska and Petite Four are delicious ….. I have finally faced my fear of raw meringue….

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  • 33. Emma @ Poires au Chocolat  |  August 28, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Thank you so much for this challenge – it was amazing. Baked alaska was always the thing I thought I would choose if I ever got the opportunity to host.

    Have a wonderful time starting college – it’s quite an experience!

  • 34. Jessica  |  August 28, 2010 at 2:07 am

    Have such a great time at College, Elissa – and never fear! Once you’re done with dorms, you might just have a kitchen good enough to get back to baking with us!


  • 35. Carly/fivesquaremeals  |  August 28, 2010 at 3:05 am

    Thankyou Elissa for this months fantastic challenge, you certainly have quite a few people converted to browned butter everything!
    I don’t quite know US geography being an Aussie, but I googled where you are moving from/to and that’s a huge move, but incredibly exciting. Good luck with your studies!

  • 36. indie.tea  |  August 28, 2010 at 3:07 am

    Wow, both your ice cream petit fours and the baked alaska look incredible. “Brown butter pound cake”…yum.
    I’m sure that you will have lots of fun at your new college…and hopefully get an apartment with a kitchen soon :)

  • 37. musketnuss  |  August 28, 2010 at 3:38 am

    Great and tasty looking photos! Good luck in college!

  • 38. Suz  |  August 28, 2010 at 4:15 am

    I loved reading this post. It really captured the spirit of the Daring Kitchen. Also made me a bit nostalgic for when I went off to uni. Have a wonderful time at college. I’m sure you will. :)

    Thanks so much for being such a wonderful host and coming up with such brilliant things to make. I’d never made a Baked Alaska or browned butter before and I adored them both, especially the browned butter. The smell! The taste of that cake! Just heavenly. Your examples were so inspiring too. I love the cute strawberry decorations on the petits fours and the beautiful clean lines in the Baked Alaska.

    Anyway, thanks again and all the best for college!

  • 39. Little Miss Cupcake  |  August 28, 2010 at 5:06 am

    Thank you so much for the amazing challenge! My family adored the ice cream petit fours! They were literally gone in 10 minutes. And best of luck to you as you embark on this new, exciting chapter of your life. I am sure your roommates will be thrilled to be gaining such a talented cook. Wish I had been so lucky in my university days! The world is your oyster! Cat x

  • 40. Elaine  |  August 28, 2010 at 5:20 am

    Good luck! I’ve loved reading your blog — have fun in college! It’s a wonderful time!

  • 41. Wendy  |  August 28, 2010 at 6:42 am

    I’M SO EXCITED FOR COLLEGE TOO!!! Ok well I’ve already arrived at mine, but I’m excited for you too!! Those mini baked alaskas and ice cream petit fours look absolutely adorable and tasty. All the best of luck for college :)

  • 42. Sally Woods  |  August 28, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Elissa you were a great host! I made the petit fours, and although I struggled once I got to the assembling and glazing stage, they were still delicious!!
    Well done, and good luck with college. Will you still be able to bake whilst you’re there? I hope so!!

  • 43. Monika  |  August 28, 2010 at 9:16 am

    You were a great hostess Elissa and you really chose a perfect recipe for the end of summer. The brown butter was something completely new for me but I loved it so much! And the pound cakse was perfect. So, thank you for giving me the opportunity to try somthing new and different. Best of luck in college!

  • 44. Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz  |  August 28, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Thank you for such a great and challenging challenge. And best of luck on your way to college. I am sure you will find a kitchen there to participate once in a while!

  • 45. Jill  |  August 28, 2010 at 10:36 am

    You made a great selection! I made baked Alaska with a brownie base last year, and it was very fun (and tasty).

    Best of luck with your college adventure! I hope you have a little time here and there to write blog posts.

  • […] link: Brown Butter Baked Alaska Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)I’ll Show You, Macarons (aka Daring […]

  • 47. Daring Bakers: Petit Fours « Full Time Foodie  |  August 28, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    […] chocolate.  Or brown brown butter cake or vanilla ice cream for that matter.  Thank you Elissa of 17 and baking, for yet another challenging but delightful challenge!  (you can check out her blog if you want […]

  • 48. numnumnum  |  August 28, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Very cute petit fours (I like the strawberry!). Good luck in college– i’m moving in on monday, too :) How are you going to deal with the shortage of kitchen, being a food blogger too? There’s no kitchen in my dorm at all…

  • […] but better late than never. 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 […]

  • 50. Daring Bakers – August « small town oven  |  August 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    […] Elissa’s blog 17 and Baking for the recipe. Also, congratulations to her on picking up and going to college all the way in […]


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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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