Friday, March 22, 2013

FFwD: Ispahan Loaf Cake

2009. Matt was deployed, and I was five months pregnant. To give myself something to look forward to, and to keep myself from going stir-crazy, my friend, Hilary, and I planned a trip to Paris. In retrospect, perhaps not the greatest destination for a woman who is medically prohibited from eating soft or unpasteurized cheese or drinking wine. As such, my focus turned to chocolates and sweets. I'd literally mapped out where the closest treat was to any given attraction, and dragged us into neighborhoods that we had no other interest in, just to buy chocolate. Even Hil, a sweet-tooth in her own right, was losing patience with the fervor of my mission by the end of our trip.
Favorite chocolatier: Patrick Rogers.
Favorite hot chocolate: Laduree.
Favorite non-chocolate dessert: This thing, from Pierre Herme:
I didn't know that I loved it and needed to photograph it until I'd already shoved my face in it, thus the reason it looks like it was eaten by rats. Dorie's description of this dessert sounds much more appetizing than my picture: "two disks of rose-colored almond-meringue cookies sandwiching a rose-flavored cream studded with lychees and raspberries."

I don't remember lychees, but they might have been in there. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure this is the dessert she's talking about.

In a long line of amazing sweets, this thing blew my pregnant mind.

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe of Ispahan Loaf was inspired by the very same dessert that I loved so much in Paris, and without a second thought, I spent the $50 to buy and ship the multi-sourced ingredients to Italy (rose extract, rose syrup, and almond flour, which, it turns out, the Commissary does carry, but I'd already ordered it by the time I spotted it).

When I saw the enormous bottle of rose syrup that arrived, all I could think was that this better be one amazing loaf cake, because I am never going to make a dent in these ingredients in the 2.5 years that I have left to me before I have to move again.
Doesn't look like a $50 cake.
 The cake came together without too much trouble, and looked plain and unassuming when complete. I expected the rows of raspberries to melt together more, but instead, they seemed to disappear while baking. They're pretty spread out in the end product. Weird. I could have used more raspberry, and a bit more rose flavor. Perhaps my expectations were too high, based off of the level of pleasure I derived from that macaron thang in Paris. I like this cake, but it just doesn't hit the same level, or even come close.

That said, Matt burst into the bathroom while I was brushing Charlie's teeth and said, "WHAT is this cake you baked??" I hadn't expected him to like it, and thought he was horrified. I said, "Oh, that's just the Dorie recipe this week." He said, "I don't know what it is, but you've done good!"


I said, "I thought you were going to ask why your cake tastes like flowers." He said, "Flowers? No. I don't taste flowers. I taste raspberry awesomeness."

Well okay, then. He took a chunk to work, and emailed me this morning to tell me that it went "perfecto" with his cappuccino. Who knew? He's a fan of the Ispahan Loaf. Don't get me wrong, I liked it. It just doesn't live up to my memory of what the flavor combo could be.

For dinner last night, I made last week's recipe of Orange-Scented Lentil Soup. I'd made this once before, and didn't really like it. This time, I used my red lentils (instead of brown, which was all I could find the first time), and had to substitute lemon zest for orange. Two weeks ago, there were still tangerines on the trees in the grove at my house. I foolishly assumed they were still there. Nope. Bummer. Had to pick a lemon, instead. It's a hard life.
Look at the sunset, not the hideous brown soup.
Personally, I prefer the lemon. I like oranges, but am not crazy about orange-flavored stuff. I don't know if it was the lemon or the use of red lentils, but this time, I thought the soup was quite delicious. Hooray!


  1. Your pregnant Paris story was good for an early morning chuckle. I can totally picture the scene. Bless you for wanting to travel at that stage. I just remember being a miserable human being...

    The Dude liked the cake too and demolished a good share of it - I was expecting the "what the heck is in here" reaction too. Who knew?????

    I think a chunk of my syrup is destined for cocktail making.

  2. Yeah, I thought my hubby would say the same thing...but he liked it, too! I love that you have eaten a real Ispahan macaron...very cool!

  3. I wish I´d had the ispahan macaron experience to compare this to. I think guys like P Herme use such good ingredients that it´s impossible to duplicate at home. Apparently these flavors are a hit with men...! Now you have an excuse to use the syrup again!

  4. I am so glad that you know that you will be making a dent in the syrup.

  5. Love your post. I read it with a smile. Nice!

    And wonderful cake you've there! =)

  6. I was surprised my husband liked the cake too! Wonder why all the guys really liked this cake!?! I loved your Paris story! Guess we all have a lot of rose syrup and extract to work with :-)

  7. These ingredients were quite expensive weren't they? Glad your hubs liked it so much! That is always a fun surprise. :) Maybe he didn't have the same expectations after the lovely Paris dessert. Now, to find more recipes to make with rose syrup!

  8. Wow...great on all accounts! So satisfying when our hubby's enjoy our efforts and let us know more than once meaning they really like something. And, I think your cake does look like 50 bucks! I just saw a $95 cake at our local was very pretty, but plain, and I'm sure did not taste as good. Enjoyed your Paris story. Have a great week.

  9. I had never heard of Ispahan before reading this recipe, and now every time I see a picture of one of Herme's desserts (even a half-eaten one), I want to get on a plane to Paris immediately so I can try one. Even if it means this loaf cake won't taste quite as good to me anymore. I'm with your husband on this one - I taste way more raspberry goodness than rose, which is what makes this work so well for me. Nice work, though!

  10. Love the account of your trip to Paris. To be honest, I sounds a lot like my own trips to Paris, and I don't even have a pregnancy to blame:-)

    And I've also got that massive bottle of rose syrup, though luckily I was able to find it in the grocery store and did not have to pay for shipping. But really, what the heck am I supposed to do with the rest of it! Even if I loved this cake, a few tablespoons is not going to help me polish off that bottle.

  11. try using rose syrup in gin cocktails, with any sort of fresh citrus juice. If too sweet add a couple drops of bitters to the drink. Also try with club or sparkling soda and lemon. Middle eastern folks spike their lemonade with it.

    1. Stacy... I made a cocktail with vodka. I will have to try your suggestions. I really like the syrup more as a drink enhancer than a cake ingredient.

  12. Love your pregnant paris story. Sounds like the name of a book: Pregnant in Paris. So glad your husband like it. Mine was put off by the rose flavor, but so was I.

  13. Love this post. So glad the hubs loved your cake... mine won't touch it with a six-foot pole. :)

  14. I'm jealous that you tasted the "original". It sounds much better than I found the cake to be. I'm cracking up at all the husbands that adored this cake. I had trouble opening the bottle of syrup, so my husband pried it open with pliers. He got one whiff of the syrup and say "you owe me". I'll tell him he's the oddball husband this week.

  15. Doesn't it make it all so worthwhile when someone just loves the end product! And I am so impressed you have tried the real thing! It sounds amazing.
    Love the sunset photo!

  16. What a nice story and what a pretty cake - it is wonderful that your husband was so taken by this cake. I am sure that you will be making this cake again soon using some more of that rose syrup and extract that you bought especially for making this recipe - but there are a numer of other intriguing recipes out there that list rose syrup as one of the ingredients - I am curious to try some of them myself, we will see.
    Have a great weekend!
    P.S.: Love that sunset!

  17. I love your story and Paris tips on where to go for sweets. That macaron looks magical.

  18. Isn't it just the best when people love what you make? Thanks for sharing your Paris favorites!

  19. Pregnant or not, that a great way to "do" Paris. Tricia and I are leaving in about three weeks and I think I
    will try that. Laduree is fantastic, looking forward to revisiting. Your cake looks great, we enjoyed this one too.

  20. I'm leaving for Spain later this week and have chocolate routes mapped out in both Madrid and Barcelona! Traipsing through Paris from patisserie to patisserie is most definitely on my bucket list.

    Your cake looks lovely!

  21. Let me set my scene, Ei. It's Wednesday, 5 AM, in Henderson, Nevada. I have no furniture left in the house. The moving van is already headed to Colorado. (No complaints - I have been sleeping on a very comfortable Serta mattress-Murphy Bed the past week.) I'm looking at a paper plate of oatmeal (vacuumed-packed and defrosted in the microwave) topped with bananas for breakfast and decided to make some long-overdue comments as I ate it. I pulled up your very amusing Post and reading it has set me up for a busy day of Last-Minutes. Thinking of you, sorta lumpy looking. hightailing it all over Paris in pursuit of chocolate is, well, hysterical. I just love that story and I hope you will share it with Charlie over and over again. I also had to order Rose Extract (arrived safely) and Rose Syrup (never arrived) but eventually had to make my own Rose Syrup using rose water from Whole Foods. My mail-order ingredients cost $17.50 each and I've never received one, Wish I'd saved all the extra syrup for Diane's vodka cocktail. Since you move frequently and internationally, you know that a drink is always good during moving week. Your cake looks delicious and I think our taste-testers enjoyed it more that we did - our expectations from Dorie's write-up were very high. I am going to Paris in May and, because of your Post, I am hunting down Pierre's shop and cookie. Your lentil soup, highlighted by that sunset, looks lovely. Really it does. Keep enjoying your adventure. I love your attitude.

  22. I really like your caption. I actually liked the flavor of this cake, but felt like for the cost it really needed to look more impressive...Great story about being pregnant in Paris. I also mapped out a ridiculous number of chocolate shops and bakeries when I was in Paris, and I didn't have the excuse of being pregnant!