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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pierre Hermé's Ispahan Cupcakes

Ever since I anointed Pierre Hermé as my pastry god, I've been wanting to try out this particular flavor combination, but didn't because raspberries were always so expensive and I didn't want to splurge on them. Well, I'm glad I did because raspberries were on sale and boy oh boy, was my cake ispahan delicious! I really have to thank heavens for the day Pierre Hermé dreamed up of this flavor combination, because just having rose and raspberry in the cupcake was enough to make me beam from ear to ear, so I cannot imagine what I'd be like with the addition of lychees :]

I like how the sunken raspberry looks vaguely like a heart.

I've always wanted to make an Ispahan-inspired cake, one chockfull of raspberries and roses and lychees, and I wanted an authentic recipe from the god himself. There are many ispahan-inspired desserts online, and some of my favorite (bookmarked) ones are from Swee San and Rachel, who used the interesting flavor combination to make their own versions of Ispahan petit fours. For those not in the know, well, Ispahan is both a name of a city in Turkey Iran (Isfahan) (I know it's in Iran but don't know why I wrote Turkey hmm) as well as the name of a damask-colored rose. I've read bits and pieces that Pierre Hermé was inspired by the rose to include it into his macarons, and it was at Laduree where he first combined raspberries, rose and lychees and named it the Ispahan. And he never looked back of course. The Ispahan is now synonymous with the name Pierre Hermé and I do think that in decades to come, this combination will become as commonplace as the cakes like black forest, tiramisu, opera, etc.

This was also the first recipe I tried from my newly bought Pierre Hermé book, Le livre des fours secs et moelleux de Pierre Hermé, which loosely translates to the book of petit fours and treats of Pierre Hermé. Interestingly, this book is not available in English or French, but only in Japanese and Chinese. It was of course originally in Japanese to cater to the Japanese market where Pierre Hermé has the second greatest number of stores (after France/Paris) and the Chinese being Chinese, translated it into this Chinese version I have. It's perhaps one of my cheapest Pierre Hermé's books, costing me NT$300, which amounts to around S$15/US$10. And besides this recipe, I've also tried his madeleine recipes (which can be found in his other books as well), which of course taste delicious as well. There is also a recipe for madeleine ispahan, but I need freeze-dried raspberries for that, so that's currently shelved at the moment. When CNY rolls about the corner, I'll definitely be spamming this book quite a lot for all the cookie recipes for my CNY cookie fix.

As you can see, I couldn't resist modifying the recipe into making cupcakes instead of a normal cake. The tiny bits of white you see in the picture above are actually bits of almond, which I've explained below that I left intentionally coarse for textural purposes.  

Now, having finally tried my hand at the infamous ispahan combination (and having tasted the original before), I've to say that I've got lots more work to do! Perhaps a pricier (and more exotic) rose essence (a la Yumeiro Patisserie) is in order! ;p

Pierre Hermé's Ispahan Cupcakes
Adapted from Le livre des fours secs et moelleux de Pierre Hermé
Makes a 16x5cm (6-inch) round cake or 6-8 cupcakes


85g     unsalted butter
60g     icing sugar
85g     almond meal/flour/powder
35g     egg yolk (about 1.5 egg)
20g     whole egg
15g     milk
3g       rose essence
45g     cake flour

45g     egg white (about 1.5 egg)
20g     castor sugar

25g     raspberries 


  1. Cream butter until fluffy. Add the icing sugar and ground almonds together, mixing until well combined. 
  2. Add in the egg yolk, followed by the whole egg. 
  3. Add the rose essence into the milk, and add red coloring if desired. Add this milk mixture into the butter mixture above, combining well. 
  4. In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the castor sugar and continue beating the egg whites until stiff peaks are achieved. 
  5. Add a third of the stiff egg whites into the milk-butter mixture to lighten. Then, fold in the remaining egg white until no white streaks are left. 
  6. Pour the batter into your prepared pans. Pour until the pan is half full, before adding the raspberries in the centre and filling the pan to about 80% full. 
  7. Place the rack at the middle tier and bake in a preheated oven at 160°C for about 45 minutes for the cake or 20 minutes for cupcakes. When the top turns a light golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, the cake is done. 

Janine's jots: 
  • Taste: Unlike other Ispahan desserts created by Pierre Hermé, this doesn't have the litchi (lychee) that we're so familiar with, and I reckon that an additional of lychee in the centre together with the raspberry would definitely complicate the flavor profile, in a totally awesome way of course. For those hoping for a stronger rose taste, you might want to increase the rose essence by a gram or so, because it's rather subtle in this cake. I like it that way though, and if you want a stronger whiff of rose, consume the cake the next day. The rose flavor is more prominent then. 
  • Texture: My almonds were ground at home and not store-bought, and I intentionally left a portion of it more coarsely ground, so this could be tasted in the cake. It tastes almost like not as dense financier. 
  • Serving size: Makes a 6-inch cake or 6-8 cupcakes, depending on how many raspberries you fill the inside with and how large your cupcakes are. I prefer the cupcakes because they're easier to consume and cuter of course. 
  • Modifications: As usual, I reduced the icing sugar from an original of 85g to 60g and I still found the cupcakes quite sweet, but note that if you have tart raspberries or you are intending to use more than 2-3 raspberries in the cupcake, you might want to increase the sugar to counteract the tartness. 
  • Storage: I wouldn't advise storing the cake at room temperature for more than a day because the raspberry inside will turn soft and gross. It stores well in the refrigerator for 3 days or more. Do warm it up before consuming to get the best flavor out of it. 
  • Would I make this again?: Yup definitely, it beats having the usual chocolate and vanilla cupcakes. But I am definitely trying out the lychee idea as well. 
  • Other comments: The original recipe calls for a fondant glacage to be poured over the top, but as I was intending this to be a un-fancy teacake, I skipped it. 

Check out the delicious innards. 
I probably shouldn't have sliced the cupcake while it was still hot because it appears rather wet and dense. Truth is, it actually is not as dense as in the first picture after letting it cool. In fact, it tastes better the next day! 
The ones with more raspberries definitely tasted better. 

One last lingering look at my beloved ispahan cupcake.


Cook.Snap.Eat.Love said...

Interesting! The Ispahan is an inspiration to many people it seems. The flavor combination really is rather sexy!

Anncoo said...

Very beautiful! The recipe sounds so interesting. Will definitely add this in my to do list. :)

Cuisine Paradise said...

Rose and Lychee are heavenly match!!!!! I love its' sweet fragrance :) Lovely cupcake you have there.

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more said...

Definitely looks good!
I've been hoping to make an ispahan layered cake tooo.... but never came about cos the rasps were out of stock everywhere

MyFudo™ said...

Now to grab my cup of tea and have a bite at your cupcake... looks delicious. Love the post

Michelle said...

ooo ispahan combo is great isnt it? were raspberries on sale? where did u get yours from! i always see the ones that are expensive! lol.

CaThY said...

Looks really good! ;)

bethany jane. said...

Yum! I love rose water! (Isfahan is in Iran though, not turkey!)

Ah Tze said...

Lovely baked! it looks delicious!

pink lemonade said...

Isfahan is actually the name of a very beautiful and famous city in Iran, not Turkey. The Ispahan dessert probably draws inspiration from the rose water that is commonly used in some Persian/Iranian desserts.

Janine said...

@pink lemonade: yup i realized i typed the wrong country - thanks for letting me know though!

@ah tze: thanks!

@bethany: yup my bad :p

@cathy: thanks!

@michelle: oh this was baked almost a month ago! giant had them on sale - a punnet was like $6?

@myfudo: thanks!

@ellena and jacob: the combination really is heavenly!

@anncoo: can't wait to see your take on it ;p

Jeannie said...

Wow! What lovely cupcakes...I love the color and the flavors sounds heavenly!

lena said...

i always see you and alan talking about PH, so tempted to try his recipes. This looks like not too difficult for me, i need to bookmark first!

Zoe said...

This is beautiful. Love the addition of rose essence in this cake.

Swee San said...

Thanks for mentioning me. :) yes, rose essence ala Yumeiro Patisserie.. I bought a small bottle of rose essence from Seoul months ago, still have yet to use yet. Maybe I should use it for the Ispahan Macaron next.. :P

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

actually today i only get to know this famous recipe, i have seen few bloggers talking about this recipe, immediate bookmarked, going to try out soon. Yours look so yummy!

Viv said...

sooo pretty cupcakes!

i just realised i have this cookbook as well in chinese - always struggled to understand though because im not that literate in chinese :P i rem this cake from the book...was gonna make it but didnt hv all the ingredients (like most of the recipes in the book ><).

the almond tuiles from the book is nice tho!

Janine said...

@jeannie: thanks :D

@lena: do try it! i really do like PH hehe

@zoe: try it - it's really good!

@swee san: no problem - ooh ispahan macaron sounds super duper good!

@sonia: do try it out! i don't think many bloggers have tried this recipe out yet!

@viv: ooh now i know what recipe to try next!

To Food With Love said...

You have such a beautiful blog! And these cupcakes look soooo pretty! I will try this next time, although my kitchen scale doesn't weigh down to the gram though...:p

Russell at Chasing Delicious said...

Yum! These cupcakes look soo good!

ngmui said...

These are so pretty! they look really yummy and I don't even really like cupcakes.

Sweet Sarah french macarons and more

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