Omelette norvégienne, a festive classic

Inspired by snow and ice

Omelette Norvegienne - Baked Alaska

Photo: Kristi Bissell
The classic dessert Omelette Norvégienne, also known as Baked Alaska, is sure to be a crowd-pleaser this 17th of May or on any festive occasion.

Kristi Bissell
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American

Lori Ann Reinhall
Editor-in-chief
The Norwegian American

Omelette Norvégienne—known in North America as Baked Alaska—is a retro dessert that is has recently been making a comeback on food blogs. And why shouldn’t it? It is not particularly hard to make, looks extremely impressive, and tastes absolutely divine.

So, with the recent Arctic Encounter Symposium in Anchorage and Norwegian Constitution Day on its way, I decided to bring out my old recipe for our Taste of Norway Editor, Kristi Bissell. It had been 55 years since I had made and eaten it (the first time was for a school home economics class project), but once again, the results were simply amazing.

But first about the name and this history of this tour-de-force dessert that is made up of sponge cake, ice cream, and meringue.

The story is that during the Paris World’s Fair in 1867, the chef of the Grand Hôtel there decided to make a “scientific dessert.” He had become familiar with  American-born scientist Sir Benjamin Thompson’s discovery of the low thermal conductivity of egg whites, so he beat up a meringue mixture to insulate a serving of ice cream on top of a layer of sponge cake as it went into a hot oven. It worked, and the dessert was a hit. Since Thompson lived in Bavaria at the time of his egg white discovery, the French chef decided to call his dessert “Omelette Norwegge” (Omelette Norvégienne)—Norwegian Omelette—believing that Bavaria was located in cold and snowy Norway.

So how did Omelette Norvégienne come to be known as Baked Alaska?

Within in few years, the dessert invented in Paris had made its way to New York City, where is was served at the legendary restaurant Delmonico’s in 1876 to commemorate the U.S. acquisition of Alaska from Russia in March 1867. The expat French pastry chef there, Charles Ranhofer, originally called it “Alaska, Florida” for the extremes of hot and cold, but it soon came to be known as simply Baked Alaska. Over time, it has also come to be known as Bombe Alaska, Omelette Surprise, or Omelette Sibérienne.

So why make this dessert for the 17th of May? First of all, the name is fun, paying a tribute to Norway, but most of all, it incorporates ice cream—the food of choice for the day—and it is fun and festive. There are many variations with different types of sponge cake and flavors of ice cream, so you can be creative. One thing is for sure: this Omelette Norvégienne will be a winner with your guests.

OMELETTE NORVÉGIENNE

Serves 8–10

INGREDIENTS

For the ice cream dome:

2 cups (1 pint) chocolate ice cream, softened

6 cups (1.5 quarts) strawberry ice

cream, softened

6 cups (1.5 quarts) vanilla ice cream, softened

For the cake base:

8 tbsps. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

cooking spray

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup whole milk

For the meringue:

8 egg whites, room temperature

¼ tsp. cream of tartar

1 cup sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

Line a 3-quart bowl with plastic wrap. Fill base of bowl with chocolate ice cream; layer with strawberry ice cream, then finish with a layer of vanilla ice cream. Cover surface with plastic wrap and freeze until ice cream is very hard, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours in advance.

Heat the oven to 350°F and move the rack to the middle position. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with baking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Combine the sugar and butter in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla extract and continue beating until the mixture is smooth and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn the mixer off. Add the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until everything just comes together. With the mixer running, gradually add 1⁄2 cup whole milk and continue mixing on low speed until the batter is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and spread into an even layer. Bake until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the cake cool completely in the pan.

Use the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites and cream of tartar for 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Increase the speed to high and add the sugar in a slow stream until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Remove the ice cream dome from the freezer.  Remove plastic wrap. Cover the ice cream dome with the meringue, covering it completely, using the back of spoon to make swirly peaks. Freeze for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

This article originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Kristi Bissell

Kristi Bissell is the founder of True North Kitchen, a Nordic food blog designed for the American home cook. She enjoys creating recipes that celebrate her Scandinavian heritage and that approach traditional Nordic ingredients in a modern, fresh and approachable way. Kristi is a native of Minneapolis and currently resides in Omaha, Neb. When she’s not cooking and baking in her cozy kitchen, Kristi teaches private and corporate yoga classes and leads Scandinavian cooking and baking workshops. For more information, visit her blog, www.true-north-kitchen.com.