I need this loaf cake to be healthier, because I want to eat it all the time. All the time. It breaks my heart that I have to limit myself to half a serving, because I just want to cut a big slab of this loaf and nom it for breakfast. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Okay. Deep breath.
First, what is Ispahan? First of all, it’s the name of a city and province in the country of Iran. (It’s also spelled as Isfahan, which will give you a hint as to how to pronounce it.) Its history stretches back thousands of years, and it was twice the capitol of Persia. But I’m not exactly eating a city, am I? No, today’s French Friday treat was inspired by one of the signature creations of the great French pastry-master Pierre Hermé. Most famous for his macarons, he has developed a number of what are now considered classic pastries, and that includes the flavor combination of rose-raspberry-lychee that are the essence of Ispahan. It’s actually named after the Ispahan rose, which is itself named after the city.
Customarily, Hermé’s Ispahan comes in the form of a macaron, but it’s a flavor that can be adapted to any kind of dessert: cakes, millefeuille, madeleines, panna cotta, sorbet, and even marshmallows. Oh, and of course, cupcakes. In fact, last year around this time, I unknowingly made an Ispahan-inspired cupcake, a rosewater-raspberry concoction that was a bit on the odd side. The rose in that one was over-powering, and though it was interesting, it wasn’t really a flavor combination I was eager to try again.
But, here we have Dorie Greenspan’s Ispahan interpretation in the form of a loaf cake, and is there any reason not to give this a try? No, of course not. Also, I felt it would make a wonderful dessert for our Spring Equinox dinner. As long as we liked it, of course.
(spoiler: I like it. I adore it.)
Ingredient lists for baked desserts can be a little long and windy sometimes. This one was a longer one. There’s a lot of stuff going on to develop the unique Ispahan flavor, and the making of this loaf cake definitely needed all of my attention. I mixed this up with the book right in front of me, which is something I don’t always do. I was a little concerned that I would mix things in the wrong order or – even worse – forget to even put something in.
I did not take any pictures of the mixing process. Mostly because I was too busy mixing. Also, it wasn’t that interesting. Also also, the pictures didn’t come out very well anyway.
The egg whites had to be beaten to stiff, glossy peaks. I love to eat treats with beaten egg whites, but I hate doing the beating. Especially when all I have is a cheap mixer that runs hot whenever it has to go longer than three minutes without an extended break. I’ve ruined hand-mixers before while trying to beat egg whites to stiff peaks. It’s not pretty. But it’s not as bad as doing it by hand. I’ve done that. I don’t want to do it ever again.
Beyond the beating of the egg whites, it’s all pretty quick and easy. Butter gets creamed with the almond flour and powdered sugar. The rest of the eggs are added, one by one. The rose-flavored milk goes in, along with a little rose extract – except, I actually used raspberry extract because I didn’t want the rose flavor to be over-powering. Finally, the flour gets folded in.
I did not have enough raspberries (especially since I wanted to reserve some for garnishing and snacking purposes), so instead of two layers of raspberry in the cake, I did one. Next time, I’ll buy more raspberries and do two layers. Not just because it would be yummier – the more raspberries the merrier – but because it would also be more attractive. But one layer was adequate and made me glad I’d put the raspberry extract in.
The loaf cake baked for a total of about 60 minutes, and it popped right out of the pan, no problems whatsoever. This made me very happy.
We split that plate, and then Geordie, who is not trying to lose weight and eat healthier, went back for another half. Lucky dog.
This loaf cake did, indeed, make a very nice Spring dessert. The rose flavor was present but not so much that the cake was floral. Nor was it too sweet; the raspberry gave it a nice tartness. The almond flour brought a subtle flavor and a lovely crumb – dense but soft, not too heavy, just enough moistness. It’s light but not airy. It smelled absolutely heavenly, and though it didn’t have the pink hue that Dorie said it would, it was still a very pretty piece of work.
We did think that it needed a sauce or a cream as garnish, just to add a little more moisture to the plate. The raspberries went beautifully, but I didn’t really want to use what little I had left to make a sauce or coulis. Whipped cream would have been better, I thought. And then Geordie mentioned that we still had plenty of ice cream in the freezer.
Yes. This was perfect. It was what I had for dessert last night, it is what I will have for dessert tonight. And probably tomorrow.
I thought about slicing it up and sending it to work with Geordie today, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. This is the first dessert I’ve made in a while that I find wonderfully irresistible. I do not generally like floral flavors in my desserts, but this rose-raspberry combination is something that could easily turn into a craving for me. And possibly a new spring tradition.
How did the other Doristas find this loaf cake? Well, there seem to be mixed results. I’m not sure it’s everybody’s thing (I certainly didn’t think it would be mine). To see what they thought (and baked!), check out the links at the French Friday site.