The Ice Cream Cake That Reminds Zoë François Of Sister André

Before she was Sister André, she was Lucile Randon. She lived quite a life, one that began on February 11, 1904. Born into a French Protestant family, she ended up embracing Catholicism and becoming a nun after years of working as a governess. When she received holy orders, she took the name André as a tribute to a brother who died. She would perform decades of hospital work (via Catholic News Agency).

Sister André is best known for her longevity: When she passed away on January 17 of 2023, she was 118 years old. She had received birthday cards of congratulations from religious and civil leaders (including Pope Francis and French President Macron, per Detroit Catholic). While she went blind later in life, she continued to be in good health and even became the oldest person on record to recover from COVID (via The New York Times).

One thing that endeared Sister André to many was her attitude toward food. Her health didn't depend on a specialized diet, and she indulged in a little wine and chocolate regularly – which some have suggested might have been the secret to her long life. But there is another treat she loved especially, which "Zoë Bakes" star Zoë François helped prepare in her honor when the New York Times wrote up a piece about the famed nun (per Instagram).

The secret to bonne santé (good health)?

Sister André apparently reserved a sweet spot in her heart for baked Alaska. Really, is it surprising that anyone of any age would have a special fondness for this famous dessert? A baked Alaska is a true tour-de-force including a cake base, layered ice cream, and merengue which is torched as the final pièce de resistance. The history-making nun turned 117 just after overcoming Covid with almost no symptoms. The NY Times says she had even refused a vaccine because she wanted others to be treated. Her birthday meal reportedly included capon, Champagne, and peach- and raspberry-flavored baked Alaska. The version that Zoë François made for the NY Times tribute piece took things up a notch: François layered colors and flavors to look like a (very subtle) French flag: strawberry, vanilla, and blueberry.

The feature piece was even titled, "Is Baked Alaska the Secret to a Long Life?" and was written by Dorie Greenspan, who also hails from France. When learning of the nun's death, François set out to make another one and post it to her Instagram page in her honor. As François put it, "It's always a delight and I can't eat a baked Alaska without thinking of @doriegreenspan and Sister André! (per Instagram). Eat baked Alaska and live to be over 100? Now, there is a diet we can get behind.