Hunger Games Cherry Pistachio Baked Alaska

by Cara Nicoletti on March 6, 2012

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From the minute I picked up The Hunger Games I knew I was going to love it. Say whatever disparaging things you want about YA novels, (we all know I’m not opposed to them) anything that gets teenagers excited about reading is fine by me. Who knows, maybe Twilight will be a gateway drug for Stoker’s Dracula or Shelley’s Frankenstein, maybe The Hunger Games will give way to Orwell’s 1984 or Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange–a nerd can dream. I felt a lot less embarrassed about reading The Hunger Games in public than I did about Twilight (Even though when I told my friend that he said “You shouldn’t). Collins’ ideas are original and unsettling in a way that most young adult novel plots aren’t. Unlike Bella, Katniss is strong, feisty, clear-headed, dynamic, lovable–a female lead that I would feel good about my (hypothetical possible-future) daughter identifying with. Beyond that, The Hunger Games is filled with food.

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After her father dies in a mine explosion, her mother takes to her bed and it becomes Katniss’ sole responsibility to keep herself, her mother and her little sister, Prim alive. “The woods became our savior” she says, “each day I went a bit farther into its arms. It was slow-going at first, but I was determined to feed us. I stole eggs from nests, caught fish in nets, sometimes managed to shoot a squirrel or rabbit for stew, and gathered the various plants that sprung up beneath my feet” (51).

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Having almost died of starvation on multiple occasions, Katniss is hyper-focused on and appreciative of any food that comes her way and because of this the reader is treated to incredibly detailed and mouth-watering food descriptions often throughout the novel. Only eight pages in, Katniss and Gale are eating still-warm bakery bread with homemade goat’s milk cheese and tart berries, the description of which is enough to make you light-headed–and you wonder why I liked this book?

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When Katniss is taken to the Capital before The Hunger Games begin she encounters food she has only ever dreamt of.  There are: “Eggs, ham, piles of fried potatoes. A tureen of fruit…The basket of rolls they set before me would keep my family going for a week. There’s an elegant glass of orange juice…A cup of coffee…A rich cup of something I’ve never seen. ‘They call it hot chocolate,’ says Peeta. ‘It’s good.’ I take a sip of the hot, sweet, creamy liquid and a shudder runs through me” (54)

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Later, there is “chicken and chunks of orange cooked in a creamy sauce laid on a bed of pearly white grain, tiny green peas and onions, rolls shaped like flowers and for dessert, a pudding the color of honey” (55). There is “goose liver and puffy bread,” (75), “Mushroom soup, bitter greens with tomatoes the size of peas, rare roast beef sliced as thin as paper, noodles in a green sauce, cheese that melts on your tongue served with sweet blue grapes” (76)

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When my friends, Emily and India told me that a friend of ours was having a Hunger Games themed birthday party (yes, we are all in our mid-twenties) and that they were in charge of bringing the cake we all started brainstorming ideas. India pointed me to the passage in which Katniss is brought a beautiful cake and it is set on fire right in front of her.

I try to focus on the talk, which has turned to our interview costumes, when a girl sets a gorgeous looking cake on the table and deftly lights it. It blazes up and then the flames flicker around the edges awhile until it finally goes out. I have a moment of doubt “What makes it burn? Is it alcohol?” (77)

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Add food-coloring if you want your ice creams this vibrant

The only cake that I know of that is covered in warm alcohol and set on fire is a baked Alaska–the most elegant, fanciest dessert I had ever seen as a ten-year-old. At first I wanted the inside to be a blackberry sorbet because of all of the references to blackberries throughout the novel, but then I decided that any cake served in the capital where “All the colors seem artificial, the pinks too deep, the greens too bright…like the flat round disks of hard candy we can never afford to buy at the tiny sweet shop in District 12” (59) had to be ridiculously flamboyant and brightly colored. I decided on the brightest pink cherry ice cream and the most electric pastel green pistachio. Homemade chocolate pound cake serves as a base and chocolate wafers serve as a crispy barrier between ice cream flavors.

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The great thing about this dessert is that, while everything here is homemade, you can easily use boxed cake and store-bought ice cream to make this infinitely simpler–the only thing that has to be homemade is the meringue. Any variety of ice cream and cake flavors can be subbed in, you can add fruit purees, nuts, cookies, go wild! Just be patient. I was very impatient and didn’t believe the directions that told me to let each layer freeze before adding another layer. Try to be more patient than I was if you want clean separate lines. Another caveat: Don’t light this cake on fire unless you are ready to be absolutely terrified. Seriously, alcohol fires are scary as heck. I saw my life/all wooden kitchen flash before my very eyes for a solid two minutes. Put the cake in a 500 degree oven for a browned meringue with less heartburn.

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Hunger Games Baked Alaska 

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart cherry ice cream (recipe follows)
  • 1 quart pistachio ice cream (recipe follows)
  • 1 box chocolate wafer cookies, ground
  • 1 9inch chocolate pound cake (recipe follows)
  • Meringue (recipe follows)
  • 1 nip of any alcohol 40-60 proof (i used brandy)

Chocolate Pound Cake: 

  • ¾ cup softened butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Teaspoon instant espresso dissolved in 1/8 cup of hot water
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • ¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Directions:

Add dry together and set aside. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla. Alternate adding the dry with the buttermilk and espresso water. Beat until fully mixed and smooth. Pour into a 9 inch round greased or non-stick cake pan and bake at 325 for about 35-40 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack and set aside to cool while you assemble the rest of your baked alaska.

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Cherry Ice Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz 

Makes about 1 Quart

  • 1 jar amarena cherries, drained, juice reserved (if it’s summer and you can get fresh cherries, do! Sup jarred cherries for a pound of fresh ones, stemmed and pitted. Add 2 Tablespoons of sugar and cook them in a saucepan until they are soft and the juices are seeping out, drain and reserve the juice)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • pinch of salt
  • seeds and pod of 1 vanilla bean
  • 6 large egg yolks

In a medium saucepan heat milk, cream, vanilla beans, vanilla pod and 1/2 cup of the sugar until almost boiling–steam will be rising from the surface and small bubbles forming around the rim. Whisk yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar together in a bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly add hot cream mixture to yolks until totally mixed together. Return to saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until your thermometer reaches 82 degrees Celsius. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a container and immediately set over an ice bath. Stir until cool. Once completely cool add custard to your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturers instructions. Once almost churned add cherries and reserved juices and continue to churn. Put in freezer overnight to churn.

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Pistachio Ice Cream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

Grind pistachios and 1/4 cup sugar in food-processor until finely ground but not butter-like and set aside. Follow exact same directions for cherry ice cream, adding pistachios and almond extract into the ice cream maker at the end, just like you did with the cherries and cherry juice.

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Assembly Directions:

Line a metal bowl (I used my Kitchenaid bowl) with plastic wrap. Pack cherry ice cream into the bowl, smoothing the top and let freeze for 30 minutes. Once set, pack crushed cookies on top in a smooth layer and let set again for 30 minutes. Pack pistachio ice cream in a smooth final layer and let the whole thing freeze at least 6 hours, or overnight if you can stand it. Place pound cake on cake stand and invert bowl on top of the cake. You may have to wait a few seconds for the ice cream to loosen and fall out, but it will. Once it does, remove the plastic and place back in the freezer. While the cake is setting make the meringue.

Meringue:

  • Egg whites of 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of cream of tartar

Directions:

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment whisk eggs and cream of tartar until foamy, slowly add sugar and whip until glossy and stiff peaks form. Spread meringue all over the ice cream and cake in a thick layer, making it thicker around the top until it is completely covered. Use the back of a spoon to make decorative peaks all over. Let this freeze for at least two hours. When you’re ready to serve it put it in a 500 degree oven until browned (5-7 minutes). If you absolutely must light it on fire, heat the nip of alcohol in a sauce pan until warm (don’t boil) and pour over the cake. Quickly, while alcohol is still warm, light it with a long match and stand the heck back! Seriously. The savages I served this to devoured it so quickly (I blame the wine) that I couldn’t get a picture of the inside, but I think even Effie Trinket would have approved.

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Not to be a nag, but I do want to remind you all that The Homies Best Recipe Blog competition is still going strong until Friday at 3 PM. Yummy Books made it to the finals because of all of you and I need your help more than ever now! To be one of the only bloggers up there without a television show, cookbook, or even advertising feels pretty amazing. Help out the little guy! Vote Yummy Books!

Homies Topper 2.24.12

If you already made an account to vote in round one voting is super easy, just log in at Apartment Therapy and cast your vote! If you haven’t made an account yet:

  • Head over here and enter your email address to create a login–I promise no spam will come your way and Apartment Therapy is a great site, you won’t regret having an account.
  • Once you have an account go here and right beneath the six blog names it will say “sign in.” After you’ve signed in there will be “vote” bubbles next to the names.
  • Vote for Yummy Books!!!
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If there’s a literary food scene you want to see come to life be sure to leave me a comment and let me know! Or take a peek in the Recipe Index.

Leave a Comment

Fran March 6, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I voted twice. Oh my gosh, I can’t get enough of your blog. Even more so now that you’ve appealed to my inner fangirl.

When I went to buy the first book, I was a bit sheepish in asking for direction to the correct genre. And then the faithful book assistant yelled, “It’s in teen sci-fi.”

But now? No shame.

I’m going to go set my cake on fire now.

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yummybooks March 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Thank you, Fran! I appreciate it so much. Your blog is amazing–the writing, the photos–I’m so glad you commented and introduced me to it. I’m such an untraveled rube, I can’t wait to live vicariously through you. I hope you’ll stop by again!

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susan corson March 6, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Brilliant!!!!!
The best yet :)))

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Seymour Salett March 6, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Baked Alaska was a real favorite in 1960′s and 1970′s. At the club where I belonged this was the climax of a great evening of dinner and dancing. The lights were dimmed and the wait staff , all15 of them , marched out holding the Baked Alaska, all lit up, above thier heads. It always was a spectacle. That being said, they never tasted as good as the ones you are making. I might just have to have Linda make one.
Seymour

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yummybooks March 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Thank you, Seymour! I remember going to an ice cream store called Cabot’s when I was a kid with my grandfather and seeing a baked Alaska in the frozen cake case and asking what it was–he told me a similar story. If Linda makes one tell her to put it in the oven instead of lighting it on fire, it’s not as much of a spectacle but it’s still delicious!

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sheilaly March 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm

You had so much more success than I did! I tried to flambe a cake, I have not posted it yet and it was an utter failure. I hope you make more food from the books! I have been a bit obsessed with that as of late :)

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yummybooks March 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm

It’s terrifying, isn’t it!? I was having bad luck until I warmed the alcohol up, then it nearly blew up!

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sheilaly March 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Thanks for the tip! I will try that next time.

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ren March 7, 2012 at 9:17 pm

this is beautiful. you’re so creative. you should be blowing these other fish out of the water for best blog. it’s amazing that you kept them on their feet for so long, being the only one without a book deal or tv show. watch out everyone–yummy books is definitely here to stay.

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jack March 8, 2012 at 11:03 am

Haven’t thought about Baked Alaska(or anything Alaska) since I was a kid. Now thanks to Yummy Books, that’s all I think about. Thank you so much ,you’re the best!

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yummybooks March 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Thank you, Jack! I think you’re the best!

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laura k March 8, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I’ve always dreamed about making a baked alaska, but was too intimidated. It might be time. It’s funny: In the Hunger Games scene that inspired your baked alaska, I thought she was referring to Bananas Foster, but that’s not a cake, is it?

I want to have a Hunger Games party just because of all the awesome food mentioned in the books. And I’m in my 30s: I don’t think these books are solely for a YA audience. :-)

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yummybooks March 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Hi Laura! It’s funny because I was so tempted to make Bananas Foster for this post (it’s one of my most favorite things in the world) but I thought it would be too much of a stretch since it isn’t a cake. Don’t be intimidated by the baked Alaska, it’s really so easy! I’m glad to hear there are other non-teens out there who loved The Hunger Games as much as I did. If you have a Hunger Games birthday party take pictures of the food, I’d love to see!

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Marcy March 9, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Another excellent post! You are so brave and so talented; last week a pig’s head and this week setting meringue ablaze. So inspiring. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

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yummybooks March 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Thank you, Marcy! The Baked Alaska took way more bravery than the pig’s head! I wish I could have gotten a better picture of the blaze but both Juddy and my hands were shaking too much!

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thegallivant March 12, 2012 at 4:51 pm

The cake looks amazing, and I commend your bravery in lighting an open fire in a nyc kitchen! that being said, I LOVE the diagrams you drew of the cake….do you sketch out your other recipes?

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yummybooks March 12, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Thank you! I almost always sketch out what I’m cooking, just to organize my head a little bit–it helps to have a completed vision to aim for. I loved your post today, Happy Purim! I hope you’re eating lots of hamantaschen!

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The Cozy Herbivore March 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I just finished the Hunger Games trilogy, and may I just say how utterly amazing this is? Truly gorgeous, the flavor combinations sound incredible and it fits so, so well with the theme! I can just imagine Effie lighting this for Katniss, and Katniss devouring it, all the while plotting how to use this flaming dessert to her advantage in the arena. Well done!

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yummybooks March 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Thank you, Sara May! So glad I’m not the only grown-up who enjoyed The Hunger Games. I absolutely love your site, I might just make those lemon-sesame noodles tonight!

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Better Know A Book March 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm

This looks scrumptious! I’ve been dying to read The Hunger Games, and dying to one day try making Baked Alaska. What I’m trying to say is, your blog combines two things I love, and I’m drooling while reading. I’m not too ashamed to admit it.

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yummybooks March 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Thank you, Sarah! So glad you stopped by, your blog is wonderful–it will be a great resource when I’m looking for my next book to cook! From one literary nerd to another I honestly would recommend this series, if nothing else it’s a really fun, exciting read.

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DoubleR March 16, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Hilarious, I love it! Thanks for visiting Good Penmanship. The Hunger Games provided many a mommy-avoidance moment in the last few months — “honey, can you wipe the kid’s butt, Katniss is fighting mutant dogs…”

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yummybooks March 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Your blog is too funny, I’m so glad you followed so I could be introduced to it. I love your candor and honesty and humor, it will be so fun for the Bunny to read someday!

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Porsha March 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm

I just found out about your blog!. Wish I could have voted..you should have won! Your blog is fantastic…captures everything that I love..words and the weave of wonderful food. Thank you for creating this!

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yummybooks March 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Thank you so much, Porsha! I hope you’ll stop by again!

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Nick March 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Great blog! My book club is gonna love the fact that I came across this awesome project. We’re reading ‘Great Expectations’ this May, and I’m totally making Miss Havisham’s Toasted Almond Cherry Cake. Thanks for the idea!

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yummybooks March 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Thank you, Nick! A book club is exactly how Yummy Books originally started! If you make the cake be sure to let me know how it turns out, thanks for reading!

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bob April 16, 2012 at 9:38 pm

the hunnger games book was sweeet

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isabeastateverything April 16, 2012 at 9:40 pm

cool book man

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Debbie Tanner September 26, 2015 at 5:07 pm

Hi Cara
I heard you America’s Test Kitchen and I loved hearing about your blog and your book. I’m an elementary school librarian married to a chef so this is totally in my wheelhouse. You SO need to read “Five Quarters of the Orange” by Joanne Harris and right after that, read “Chocolat” also by her. You totally nailed this one about the Hunger Games (loved that one too!). Cheers!
Debbie

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