Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ispahan Cake - Homage To Pierre Herme

There are many chefs that I admire, but only two who I totally revere. One is Heston Blumenthal, and the other is Pierre Herme. I think they both revolutionised cooking in their own way. Heston has brought science and history into cooking, while Pierre has made pastries a thing of utmost beauty and turned the macaron into an art. His most famouos macaron is the Ispahan. The Ispahan is a rose flavoured macaron, raspberry and rose buttercream, with lychee gelee and fresh raspberries. I was fortunate to eat one in Paris and it was utterly divine, everything that it has been hyped up to be. In fact, all of the various pastries that I tried by Pierre Herme was super delicious, and lived up to my very high expectations. Below is a photo of the Ispahan macaron.

I don't really like rose flavoured things but this combination worked so well that I decided to adapt it for a cake. I'm not game enough to try and recreate the flavour combination in macaron form. Cake form, I could do.

So my Ispahan Cake consists of:
* Victoria sponge cake by Nigella Lawson
* Whipped cream flavoured with rose water and mashed raspberries
* Lychees cut into pieces
* Lychee syrup (either from canned lychees or juices of lychees)
* Whole raspberries

Here is the finished cake. I found the cake so delicious, especially after a day or so. The flavours really melted together the next day and was delicious. I'll be making this cake again, experimenting with slight changes each time until I think it's perfect.

Ispahan Cake


Two 8 inch cake tins


225g unsalted butter, very soft
225g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
200g self raising flour
25g cornflour
1 tsp baking powder (only if using food processor)
3-4 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.

When using the food processor, put all the ingredients except the milk and process until you've got a smooth batter. Then pulse, pouring the milk in gradually through the funnel until your cake mixture is a soft, dropping consistency. It doesn't matter if it's too runny or looks curdled, the end result is still very good.

If you want to make this the traditional way, cream the butter and sugar, add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour between each. Fold in the rest of the flour and the cornflour, adding no baking powder, and when all is incorporated, add a little milk as you need.

Pour and scrape the batter into the tins and bake for about 25 minutes, until the cakes are beginning to come away at the edges, are springy to touch on top and a cake-tester comes out clean. Leave the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool completely.


300ml thickened cream for whipping
100g raspberries
1 tsp rose water
1 tsp gelatin (if you want a firm consistency)

Whip the thickened cream until stiff peaks are formed.

Mash the raspberries using a food processor or just a fork. Fold the raspberries into the cream.

Fold the rose water into the cream.

If desired, you can make the cream a bit thicker by using gelatin like I did. Place one teaspoon of powdered gelatin into cold water. Let it bloom for 5 mins. Microwave the mixture for 10 seconds. Fold the gelatin water into the cream.

Cut both Victoria sponge cakes in half so you have four halves. Yes, my cake only has three layers because I messed up one layer of the cake.

Place the first layer on a plate. Spoon lychee syrup over the cake so that it is absored into the cake. Spread the cake with some of the rose and raspberry cream. Place pieces of chopped lychees and whole raspberries over the cream.

Repeat the process with another two more layers.

Finally, place the top sponge and spread some rose and raspberry cream over it.


  1. I want PH macarons. T_T

    *beats self*

  2. You're my hero! I, too, am not overly enamoured with the flavour of rose but adored Pierre Herme's Ispahan when I tried it in Paris (almost exactly a year ago - sob!). The idea of reworking it as a cake is genius, and so doable! Hurrah!

  3. So pretty! And so tasty, I don't doubt it. :-)

  4. Awesome..... you do love your cake very much :)

  5. Nice cake! I'm a bit sad I didn't try that beautiful macaron when I was in Tokyo now..

  6. Great adaptation of the Ispahan. So jealous you got to try his delicious treats in Paris!

  7. Michelle, there will be other opportunities.

    Hannah, thank you. Isn't that Ispahan just amazing. I remember it so vividly too from my trip last year.

    Cindy, tasty it is.

    Penny, cakes = happiness.

    Catherine, that is a shame. I'm pretty sure you would have loved it.

    Cindy, macaron love for the both of us.

    Emma, just wait till you get your hands on Pierre desserts. Nothing will taste the same again.

  8. Fantastic cake! You should definitely try it in macaron form - go on! :p

  9. Agnes, I might try the macaron form soon. I think it's doable, but must get the macaron shell right first.

  10. I'm a bit over the whole macaron thing now, but gosh that cake! Rose and lychee! I'm salivating. I must try this!