Baked Disaster

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Baked Disaster

By Andrea Goto

Because I’m my mother’s daughter, I’m not wasteful. I’ll hang a paper towel to try and use it again. But unlike my mother, I don’t play Russian roulette with expiration dates. I grew up thinking that her plastic cups made our milk taste funny, only to discover years later that sour milk makes milk taste funny. So I have to use the dozen eggs in my fridge before they hatch.

I call my cooking lifeline—my friend and Paula’s Senior Food Editor, Libbie Summers—and ask for a dessert recipe that calls for a litter of eggs.

“Baked Alaska,” she suggests, without hesitation.

“That’s disgusting. I’m not eating salmon for dessert,” I say.


“It is salmon, right?”

Once Libbie picks herself up off the ground and wipes the tears from her eyes, she clears things up for me. I’ve never had Baked Alaska, but somewhere along the way it got into my head that it was a hunk of salmon baked inside a shell of meringue, which sounds as appetizing as a jelly-filled hot dog. But really, Libbie should cut me some slack; she knows I’m a little behind in the cooking department. Just yesterday I learned that a scallion is a green onion, not Pirate-speak for “rascal.” The point is, I’m making progress.

Libbie says that Paula’s recipe for Baked Alaska with Strawberry Ice Cream is easy: make a red velvet pound cake, slap on some strawberry ice cream, cover it with meringue and put it under the broiler. I’m not sure why you’d cook ice cream, but then again, I thought baby carrots were born that way.

I smile and wave as Libbie leaves, still clutching her side. When she turns her back, I narrow my eyes in determination. I’ll show her.

Surprisingly, I have all of the ingredients on hand, though I don’t have enough red dye for the red velvet pound cake. The Twizzler factory doesn’t have that much dye. I use what I have, making a distinct pinky-red color that looks vaguely familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it. Otherwise, the pound cake—or rather, the ten-pound cake—comes together just fine; it’s so dense, my cooling rack strains under the weight, much like my sofa will after I eat this thing.

Libbie warned me that I’d “struggle” with the meringue (her exact words are not printable). But I don’t see what all the fuss is about: it looks like a fluffy little cloud.

As I prepare to broil the slices, I call Libbie and invite her back to sample my masterpiece—to eat my cake and her words.

Libbie comes over as I’m smearing the meringue onto the cake slices, which looks just like Cool Whip, so it must be good. However, I’m a little confused because I’ve used up the entire batch of meringue on three slices . . .

“Does this look right or should—”

Before I can finish, Libbie’s jaw hits the countertop. Apparently, it doesn’t look right.

She ticks off my dessert’s inadequacies one-by-one.

“First, meringue shouldn’t look like whipped cream. Second, your cake shouldn’t resemble Play-Doh” (Yes! That’s it!).

I laugh along with her, but only to make her think the tears running down my face are tears of joy, not humiliation and defeat. It doesn’t help that my husband seizes the moment to try out the new camera.

Libbie takes a few bites because somewhere underneath that stone-cold culinary perfection lives a heart. Then she sets it aside, claiming she can’t eat any more because it’s “too rich.”

To spite her, I force down every last bite of mine even though I can’t shake the thought that it looks alarmingly like a piece of uncooked salmon covered in meringue. The flavor isn’t much better.

At 5 AM I lie awake in my bed with a heating pad strapped to my stomach. I’m either suffering from third-degree heartburn or the agonizing pain of defeat.

Andrea Goto lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia. Her kitchen experiments (known as “cooking” in more conventional homes) most often end with a mushroom cloud of smoke or a call to Poison Control. In spite of this, she’s deeply loved by her husband who prefers neon-colored cereals to all foods homemade, and her 5-year-old daughter who will eat almost anything, as long as you call it “chicken.” Need more Andrea? Follow her at

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Reader Comments:


i love your show. i have watched you since the first shows started. i dont understand why your not on in the evening? i know alot of people watch

By susan on July 14, 2011


I know where Andrea is coming from. At my Mom's 90th B'day party our oldest son played a game of "guess the date on items in my refrigerator" and finished off the evenings entertainment with "guess what the item is?" with packages in our freezer. My theory is that if there is vinegar in a product, it can last indefinately, hence the winning date of 5/98 on a jar of dill pickle relish!! smile

By Linda Howard on June 07, 2011


@Erica: Maybe it's a NW thing to have never heard of this dessert. We know that underneath Alaska's snowy surface, the ground isn't red.

By Andrea Goto on June 03, 2011


@Debbie: Given your experiences with your mother, we might just be related!

By Andrea Goto on June 03, 2011


Luckily Andrea is not only beautiful, but she is funny AND I adore her husband and daughter...if it were not for all of these fantastic attributes I would never have accepted the invitation to try the play-doh colored baked alaska. And –it was way too rich. smile Can't wait to read the next installment of the Culinary Coward! Thanks Andrea.

By Libbie Summers, Senior Food Editor for Paula Deen on June 03, 2011


I am so glad that there is photographic evidence of this. If it makes you feel better, I didn't know what Baked Alaska was either. You crack me up.

By Erica Heintz on June 03, 2011


My mom used to make pudding with the sour milk. She also bought a huge jar of peanut butter and it was left in the car and rolled around and broke. We picked the glass off and used it anyway. That was pretty bad!! I agree with using all the left overs that you can, but there has to be a fine line. :o)

By Debbie on June 02, 2011


I want to see those pictures!!

By Lon Lofgren on June 02, 2011

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