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Family Central: The world of white tablecloth restaurants

Easy Baked AlaskaYou don’t hear it often anymore, but when I was a little girl, my mother called fancy restaurants “white tablecloth” restaurants. Back in the day, eating out was a special occasion, and the tables were covered with white tablecloths. No one I knew ate dinner through their car window on their way to somewhere else.

One of my earliest memories of eating at one of these nice restaurant is from New Orleans. I was five or six years old, and we went to visit my aunt for the weekend. Aunt Jo always took us to the great dining establishments in NOLA, and it was only when I grew up did I realize how fortunate I was to experience some of the best restaurants in the world at such a young age.

I can’t remember the name of the place we went one of the nights, but it was my first time to see Bananas Foster prepared tableside – and it was my first time to taste Baked Alaska. To this day, both of these desserts remind me of a wonderful, magical time in my life where everything was new, fascinating and “wordly.” I thought I was Miss Fancy Pants indeed.

I probably should confess that I slept through the entire dinner wrapped in a white tablecloth, awakening just in time for dessert of course. My Aunt Jo actually fed me an American cheese sandwich with Miracle Whip on white bread when we got home, and it was good.

Baked Alaska can seem like an intimidating dessert with lots of steps, but it really isn’t – especially when you pick up the pound cake already made in the FRESH bakery and grab some strawberry ice cream from our freezer case. We make it easy for you!

I have had the best success with this dessert when I keep the cake and ice cream as cold as possible before baking. I even freeze the pound cake ahead of time before slicing. The colder, the better!

It’s really easy to get this on your table tonight, and it can turn an ordinary family dinner into a fun, fancy evening for you to enjoy!

Easy Baked Alaska

1 FRESH bakery pound cake, frozen for best results
1 quart strawberry ice cream, softened
6 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Cut cake into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cover the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with the slices, cutting them however you need to fill the bottom.  Halve additional slices to place around the edges of the plate as well. Gently spread softened strawberry ice cream over cake slices, mounding in center to make it the tallest part. Return to freezer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450°F. Just before the 30 minutes are up, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until foamy. Add lemon juice and beat until soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, beating the entire time. You want to beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy.

Working quickly, remove ice cream and cake from freezer and mound meringue over to the edges, completely covering the ice cream.

Bake in center of oven for six minutes, until meringue is golden brown. Serve immediately!

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