The Prettiest Cake I’ve Made – Ispahan

Mention lychees, rose and raspberries in the same sentence, and the first person you think of is Pierre Hermé, the one pastry chef I truly revere, and the one man I might actually kiss, other than my husband (shhhh, it’s our secret). If you’ve followed this blog since I started, you would have seen how I’ve progressed in the kitchen and how I became increasingly obsessed with macarons and other pastries. Pierre Hermé is the source of my inspiration; his dexterity with pastries is something that I can only dream of, not here but in a parallel dimension. Yes, he is that good.

I love his creativity and his works of art so much that every other friend of mine seems to think I’m a nutcase for his sweets now, and I was very generously gifted one of his cookbooks for my birthday last year. I have yet to actually use any of his recipes, for fear of getting them totalled in an ugly accident that (trust me) will be reality in my incompetent hands; but one day, when I’m good enough, I will plough through each and every of his recipes (they are in French though…) and hopefully, delight my friends with the creations. For now, Pierre Hermé remains a dream that seems too good to be true, and I only aspire to be inspired.

I have managed to tackle the tricky business of macarons, and now, I yearn for more. Iconic and truly delightful, the beautiful combination of lychee, rose and raspberry was first created by Pierre Hermé and it seemed like the perfect way to get started. Yes, my dears, I’m working my way into the heart of Monsieur Hermé.

To you, the Ispahan cake I’ve made here probably isn’t a product of inspiration; the truth is you could probably find it in any pâtisserieBut to me, this cake is a bit of a big deal. I’m used to making slapdash easy-peasy cupcakes, brownies, cakes, cookies and macarons, but an entremet? That’s a tall order. Entremets are refined, very pretty layered and textured mousse cakes that don’t do very well when poked by stubby, careless fingers like mine. Getting them to look perfect is a real challenge for me, and I was terrified of making my first entremet, but I guess, I have to start somewhere if I want to be more prolific in pastry-making. So I hope you’ll see why this Ispahan cake represents a more accessible way in, to that Pierre Hermé cookbook that has been sitting on my shelf for more than half a year, and also to more good things that will hopefully turn up in my culinary adventures.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present my first entremet to you, possibly not the prettiest cake you’ve seen but definitely the prettiest cake I’ve ever made. It is not perfect, but I hope to make it so one day. For now, the flavours tease and delight, as they should and as they did when I first had an Ispahan years ago. The sweetness of lychees, tartness of raspberries and lingering aroma of rose bring a sensual touch to this cake. It’s hard not to be drawn in, even M loved it. For me, I was extremely pleased to see it come together (as opposed to it falling apart…). Here’s the recipe that I tweaked from Okashi to include the signature Hermé flavours of lychees, rose and raspberries, and I hope you enjoy making it as much as I did!

Ispahan Cake

Makes two 4.5cm (diameter) cakes and one 15cm cake
(adapted from Okashi by Keiko Ishida)

Special Biscuit Sponge

15g corn flour
15g plain flour
17g unsalted butter, melted
45g egg whites
40g egg yolks
40g caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line 15cm by 25cm tray with baking parchment.
2. Sift flours together, twice, and set aside.
3. Beat egg whites in a bowl until foamy. Add 1/4 of the sugar and beat briefly, before adding in the remaining sugar. Continue to beat until stiff and glossy peaks are formed.
4. Lightly beat the egg yolks, add them to the meringue made in step 3 and gently mix till combined. Do not overmix.
5. Sift the flours again, into the batter from step 4 and fold the flours in gently till batter is glossy. Pour the melted butter into this mixture and fold gently to combine.
6. Pour batter into the lined tray, and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.
7. Once baked, remove sponge from the tray and cover it with a clean tea towel. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Flavour for the sponge

35g water
12g caster sugar
1 tablespoon canned lychee juice
1 tablespoon lychee liquer
1 tablespoon essence of rosewater

1. In a saucepan, heat up water and sugar to make a sugar syrup. Remove from heat and add lychee juice, liquer and rosewater essence. Stir to combine. Set aside and let cool.
2. When sponge is fully cooled, cut out (diameter) 4.5cm and 15.5cm round pieces with the mold rings.
3. Brush sugar syrup from step 1 over the sponge cut-outs.

Crème Mousseline

235g whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
3 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
20g plain flour
5g corn flour
135g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canned lychee juice
1 tablespoon lychee liquer
1 tablespoon essence of rosewater

1. Bring milk and vanilla to boil in a saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
2. Whisk egg yolks and sugar till mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add flours to this and mix well.
3. Pour the hot milk from step 1 to the egg mixture, and fold to mix thoroughly. Return this to the saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat. Stir continuously. This forms the pastry cream. Beat the pastry cream, whilst in the saucepan, until smooth, thick and glossy. It should resemble the gloopy filling you see in cream puffs. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and transfer the pastry cream to a clean tray. Cover the tray with cling film and let cool in the freezer. Do not allow it to freeze.
4. In a clean bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add the cooled pastry cream and beat until combined. At this point, beat in the lychee juice, liquer and essence of rosewater. This is your crème mousseline.

To assemble

100g raspberries, halved
7 lychees (I used canned ones), drained thoroughly and quartered

1. Place the flavoured sponge cut-outs into the respective mold rings.
2. Pipe a thin layer of crème mousseline onto the sponge. Spread this evenly (you want uniform layers so the entremet looks pretty).
3. Arrange the halved raspberries, cut-side facing out, against the inner surface of the mold ring. Arrange lychee quarters and remaining raspberries in concentric circles as you move inwards from the outer edges. Note that for the smaller mold ring, you won’t be able to put in extra raspberries in the middle, there will only be enough space for lychees.
4. Pipe another layer of crème mousseline on top of the raspberries and lychees and make sure you level this layer of crème (remember entremets need to be pretty and neat when you unmould them!). Place the cake in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Next, prepare the Ispahan jelly.

Ispahan Jelly

70g water
1 tablespoon canned lychee juice
1 tablespoon essence of rosewater
5g sugar
3-4 raspberries, washed
2g gelatine sheet, soaked in ice water to soften
1/4 teaspoon red food colouring

1. Bring water, lychee juice, essence of rosewater, sugar and raspberries to boil, remove from heat and then add softened gelatin sheet.
2. Run mixture through a sieve to remove any debris. Let cool slightly before using (but do not allow it to set).
3. Remove the cake from the freezer and gently pour the sieved liquid on top of the crème mousseline. Leave to set overnight in the fridge (mine took only a few hours, but best to do it overnight).
4. To unmould, warm sides of the mold ring with a warm towel. You will need to do this a few times before you even attempt to unmould it. Unmoulding the cake prematurely will only create mess, so make sure you do this after you’ve warmed the mold ring sufficiently!

If you love lychees, check out my lychee chiffon cake or my lychee mascarpone & Emperor’s Seven Treasures macarons here!

*Updated: This post was featured on Freshly Pressed on! Check out my other Freshly Pressed post hereThis post has also been featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.


221 thoughts on “The Prettiest Cake I’ve Made – Ispahan

  1. The Daily Palette

    How gorgeous is that! This dessert is EXCEEDINGLY SEXY!

    I don’t trust myself around raspberries. They will be gone, none left for cooking. With lychees: I AM JUST CRIMINAL. I may not even offer anyone, LOL.

  2. Pingback: Lychee Mascarpone & Emperor’s Seven Treasures Macarons « The Pleasure Monger

  3. bookjunkie

    O my!!! too pretty to eat.

    You really are a baking goddess 🙂 I just feel like doing this…. *bowing down to you* & clapping wildly and shouting bravo!

    Any mention of rose gets me weak…

  4. bookjunkie

    How do you and your hubby stay so trim? boggles my mind. I would be eating myself silly if I had food & cakes coming out of your kitchen. Heck the diet.

  5. Pingback: The Pink Monster Is Here. Again. « The Pleasure Monger

  6. Dee

    I think it’s beautiful! I just recently helped my besty Val bake 70 cupcakes. I didn’t have to help her decorate because the event wasn’t until the saturday – luckily – because i’m not a baker. She definitely made me a believer, and gave me the confidence to try baking on my own? MAYBE? What you have made looks delectable.

  7. Pingback: San Sebastián – The Land of Promiscuous Eating « The Pleasure Monger

  8. be awake

    congrats for being FP, great imagination in cooking and fabulously looking dessert 🙂 it’s perfectly in time! i’m going to buy some raspberries…

  9. Cultural Life

    OMG this looks so good! Wish I had one of these (or the ingredients to make them) in the house right now. Thanks for sharing the recipe and congratulations for being on Freshly Pressed.

  10. aka gringita

    Beautiful! So glad Freshly Pressed showcased this… (now if only I had any idea of how to convert any of this to measures I actually have in my home… or — bigger dilemma — any talent to accomplish such a feat)

  11. Kit

    3 of my favorite flavors! This looks delicious. Is it heavy on the rose, or is it more of an aroma? I love rose tea, where the flavor comes through mainly as a scent you can taste (does that make sense?), but once had rose ice cream, which was way too overpowering. Rose frozen yogurt on the other hand, was divine—and, I topped it with raspberries!

  12. Leah

    That’s an amazing looking cake! I’m so impressed and I love anything with raspberries. Yum! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  13. mollie

    Just found your blog. LOVE THIS! I will be reading more!
    Also, your cake is lovely, unless you’re just a crazy-awesome photographer who makes bad cakes look good with the click of a button. If so, please teach me your ways.

    1. The Pleasure Monger Post author

      kschoy: I’m using NIkon D5000 and an F1.4 lens. Sometimes I use the 18mm-105mm too. Thank you for the compliment, yes a lot of work went into this one…but completely worth it!

  14. Eva McCane

    ok. so it looks a little time intensive, but so tasty that i’m going to have to attempt it. if my motivation isn’t there, i’ll try to con my mom into making it and i’ll just be the taste-tester.

  15. James

    Oh my goodness… if only I could reach into my computer screen and eat that!

    I just stumbled on your San Sebastián post and it brought back a lot of great memories – I was there less than 2 weeks ago and I had THE most amazing txangurro and foie with applesauce! Did you manage to try the Basque Idiazábal cheese? It’s hard, rich and very nutty… a new favourite in my books!

    1. The Pleasure Monger Post author

      James: San Sebastian is just WONDERFUL, isn’t it?!! I wish I could drop by for a visit again. I didn’t manage to try the cheese, but I absolutely love nutty, hard cheeses, I will look out for it! My current favourite is Manchego.

  16. jessiethought

    I really like that! I could eat it all myself–but it’s too pretty to eat! (And, well, yeah, there’s also the fact that the cake is on the computer, not the table.)

  17. mybakingempire

    Very pretty cake, indeed! That combination does sound delightful… of course, instead of baking, it just makes me want frozen yogurt with razz and lychee 😉 Blame it on the heat!

  18. Julee Celeste

    It’s truly lovely. I can’t imagine tackling making anything that complicated. It’s truly a work of art and that it tastes good as well is amazing! You did a great job.

  19. saradorka

    The dessert looks utterly scrumptious, but what strikes me is how elegantly sophisticated the aesthetics are, how everything is just royally set up.
    As amazing as the cake itself looks, the entire arrangement itself looks, to me, as far too beautiful to mess with. I would be afraid to eat it, for fear of damaging the cake, the spoon, the entire beauty of it all!

    1. The Pleasure Monger Post author

      saradorka: Thank you! That’s the feeling I get everything I manage to get something nice out of my kitchen. I wish i could immortalise them and have a museum of my own! I guess the photos will suffice for now..

  20. fran

    Unless I overlooked it, I did not see a pan size listed to make the sponge. And since you are posting in the US, why would you put the measurements in metric?

    1. W

      if i would ever do it (which I do wish, someday) I would do it without the liquer…but your assembling is spectacular…the little raspberry bridges caught my eye!

  21. faith

    Babe.. this is such a gorgeous cake… can you please please please make it for me (can it be shipped to singapore ?) .. i am feeling so hungry now and it is 12 midnite in singapore… love love this cake!

  22. Helly's Belly

    This looks amazing! Big fan of Pierre Hermé too – I lived in Paris last year and went to his macaron shop an embarrassing number of times! x

  23. Pingback: My 7 Links « The Pleasure Monger

    1. The Pleasure Monger Post author

      pinchofglamor: Thank you! Yes you can, just follow the instructions on the box, and tweak it for the desired consistency (some like the jelly layer harder, some like it softer).

  24. germaineli

    Hi your ispahan cake looks magnificent. I will try to make that for a friend’s birthday. I’m wondering if I can use raspberry flavored jello powder (add lychee juice) for the jelly instead of making it from scratch ?? Thanks


  25. Jayd

    hi, this cake looks amazing and id like to try and make it, but your recipe measurements leaves me puzzled – 15 g of flour wont get me very far! is there a multiplication for me to do?

    1. Jayd

      wow. thank you so much, i guess im used to making heavy cakes etc. and not such delicate desserts such as this. thank you

  26. Mai

    Hello, this cake looks so delicious~ What do you mean by corn flour? because some people actually say corn flour, but mean corn starch, so i just want to be sure. 🙂 i’m sorry for my bad english…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s