Ispahan Loaf Cake by Pierre Herme

French Friday’s with Dorie

Ispahan Loaf Cake

Things have not always been so rosy between me and foods flavored with rose such as this Ispahan Loaf Cake. I couldn’t stand them. Rose flavored foods became unavoidable for me however after I married into a rather large Persian family that seems to have brought a lot of rosewater with them from Iran. My family has a legendary Persian cook in the form of my mother-in-law. You will know her by the menacing bottle of rose water she keeps in her household pantry. Rose became my destiny as I was called on to sample all manner of expertly prepared Persian dishes flavored deftly with rose; everything from rice, braised dishes, spiced nuts, creamy desserts and baked pastries — even ‘bastani” which is a favorite ice cream flavor.

As a Westerner I was amply familiar with rose oil, of course. The fragrant rose flower’s oil has been used as a luxury scent in perfumes and cosmetics by all cultures since it first production in ancient Persia a millennia or so years ago. The byproduct of creating this oil is rose water. When you make the oil by distilling fresh rose petals you necessarily create a ton of rose water as a byproduct.

I gather the ancient Persians had to find some sort of use for it seeing as it was so abundant, right? Todayit is the staple food ingredient nearly synonymous with Persian culture.

To my sensibilities, however, it reminded me of my grandmother’s powder room. Blech. I would sample it politely but never indulged it too much.

I wasn’t going to make this cake named for the most famous of the Persian roses when it came up in the French Friday’s with Dorie group rotation until I realized it would make a perfect dessert to take to one of my mother-in-laws storied feasts. If you can’t beat them, join them. Right?

But while making it something remarkable happened: I realized I didn’t hate it so much. I’m not saying I loved it, I just didn’t hate it so much.  OK. Maybe I even kind of liked it. It intrigues me now. And now that I have a menacing bottle of rose syrup of my very own (and extract and rose water) I will feel I should work at finding new uses for it to share with expanded family.  Cocktails anyone?

The power of love indeed!

Ispahan Loaf Cake

The recipe as written makes a cake that didn’t really impart much rose taste despite the inclusion of both rose extract and rose syrup. Even skeptical taste buds like my own ached over its noticeable absence. Instead of feeling relief I found I was willingly looking for ways to amp up the flavor. I doubled the extract called for and when even that wasn’t enough I adding a heavily flavored the glaze to get more flavoring on the cake.

This way, I figured, if you want a more subtle tasting morsel you could eat around the glaze but by including the glaze on your fork you could have a rosey mouthful to transport you back to Persia. The need for this leads me to believe that all rose flavorings are not created equal. When and if you make this please tread carefully and mix in the flavoring slowly until you get to your desired tolerance…I mean taste level. A small amount of rose will enhance the raspberries quite elegantly.

Too much extract and you will find yourself transported to my grandmother’s powder room. Blech.

Ispahan Loaf Cake

Ispahan Loaf Cake

adapted from Dorie Greenspan as she adapted it from Pierre Herme

This is what you will need:

  • 4 tablespoons rose syrup. I used 1883 brand which is a bar syrup. I would not buy this again as its just as easy to use rose water and simple syrup.
  • 2 tablespoons half and half
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar plus more if you wish to add the glaze
  • 3 eggs separated plus 1 whole egg
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon rose extract or to taste
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 pint raspberries

This is how you make it:

  1. Center a rack in an oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  3. Get the dry ingredients ready.
  4. Sift the almond flour with the confectioners sugar and a pinch of salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
  5. Mix the rose syrup into the half and half and set aside.
  6. Set up your stand mixer with the whisk attachment and a large bowl and whip the egg whites until they start to set.
  7. Add the 3 tablespoons sugar and continue to whip until they get gloss and hold firm. Don’t over beat!
  8. In the stand mixer start the batter. Put the dry ingredients and the butter in the bowl with the paddle attachment and turn on medium speed, scraping as needed, until well creamed.
  9. About 3 minutes. and the egg yolks one at a time and after the preceding yolk has been incorporated.
  10. Add the whole egg
  11. Add the rosey half and half and 1/2 the rose extract.
  12. Sample the batter to test. Do you taste rose? If not, add a tiny bit more extract and beat for another minute. And so on until you can taste a subtle rose note somewhere short of your grandmother’s powder room.
  13. When you are ready, scrape 1/3 of the egg whites into the bowl and stir to lighten the batter and then fold in the rest of the egg whites in three additions alternating with 1/3 of the flour.
  14. Use a rubber spatula until all is incorporated. Don’t over fold! Its better to under fold than over fold.
  15. To make the cake To make the cake:
  16. Put 1/3 of the batter into the pan and smooth out.
  17. Dot the bottom with one half of the raspberries.
  18. Cover them carefully with a heavy 1/3 of the remaining batter.
  19. Dot with the last of the raspberries and then cover with the last of the batter.
  20. Lower the oven temperature to 300 and slide the loaf pan in directly on the rack and bake for 60 minutes or until a knife can be inserted and removed cleanly without batter sticking to it.
  21. This cake bakes slowly so don’t worry if you need to bake longer. Make sure it is done and the top is a golden brown and gives a springy touch and pulls from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and let fully cool on a rack.
  22. To make the glaze:
  23. Put 1/2 cup confectioners or glazing sugar in a bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon of the rose extract and mix with a fork.
  24. Add up to 1/2 tablespoon of cold water until the glaze comes together and mixes smooth.


When the cake is fully cool set on a wire rack over a baking pan and drizzle with a spoon to cover. Let set. Enjoy!

It was all I could do not to throw rose petals around this photo shoot.

About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don’t know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]” means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small ‘boom’ in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a “food blog” or even myself a “food blogger”.

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  1. I am in complete agreement with you about the roses, but I don’t have a Persian mother-in-law so I think I’ll make this loaf without the rose! It was very sporting of you to give it a go! I do love roses, though, and don’t think I could have resisted throwing some petals around. You did good!

  2. Trevor, this is the best Post yet on the Ispahan Loaf Cake, in my opinion. I think, because you are personally connected now to the culture, it brought more meaning to the entire process from its beginning when we chose it as a FFWD recipe to your writing and photographing this Post. Your glaze topping, seems to me, to be the perfect touch. This Post was worth waiting for……thank you.

    • That is awfully kind Mary! Thank you. Yes, for me it was the glaze that made this cake. Without it, even after adding extra ‘stuff’ it still wasn’t rosy enough to make it worth it. I think next time I wold even puree some raspberries to mix in the batter. This should be full on red if you ask me.

  3. I’d write you a sonnet
    I’d even write two
    But I’m a bit hungover
    So this will have to do

    Your cake is lovely
    So pretty and neat
    And just like you
    I bet it’s perfectly sweet

    How clever of you
    To amp up the rose
    & make a flavorful friend
    From one of your culinary foes

  4. Hi Trevor,

    No doubt about it, if you are in a Persian family you’d best work a deal with rose. It seems you’ve done pretty well here. What a beautiful cake. I must compliment you on the nice glazing job. And I LOVE the exotic name. This dessert is fit for King Xerxes himself – or the mother-in-law. Take your choice.

    Have you ever tasted jasmine ice cream? It is another Persian delight. As always, thanks for an inspiring post. Buona domenica – have a great day.

  5. Not done the jasmine bastani yet but will look for it. I have to tread carefully with this floral jazz lest I wear out its welcome. Best I don’t get pushed too far. Right now I want to work on a cocktail that uses a hint of rose. Maybe cardamom too? Or rose and tea as flavorings?

  6. I’m with you. Rose as a flavor is not for me. But your cake is beautiful and reminds me of Mother’s day anyway. Perhaps I could add in lavender (another flavor that I’m not that fond of), but just a tad maybe. My mother’s name is Rose, maybe that’s it.

  7. very nice pic’s and story, definitely not blech (although my computer wants to auto-correct to belch)!

  8. Congratulations on your beautiful Isapahan loaf cake! I like the glaze on top and I’m glad you didn’t hate it so much;-)
    I made raspberry coulis (to serve with a flour less chocolate cake last night) I sweetened it with a little of my homemade rose water syrup-plus added a few fresh raspberries to the plate. The rose flavor was subtle and interesting but didn’t hit you over the head with ‘powder room’ floral notes!
    I’m not sure if I will make the Isaphan cake again…I’ve moved on to blueberries 😉

  9. Well? What did MIL say?? GREG

  10. Glad you came around to the roses or else this cake would never be made! And yeah, rose cocktail next?

  11. Trevor, Not only a gorgeous cake, but a wonderful post!! I am half Lebanese and rosewater is always in my pantry, as is orange blossom water. I love their exotic flavor!
    Btw…thanks for the link on the Ispahan Madeleines!

  12. Yours is one of the prettiest versions I’ve seen so far, Trevor. I think I may take your glaze design as inspiration when I finally get ’round to this one. How did it go over with the family?

  13. This is gorgeous! I’m not into rose-flavored foods either…reminds me of my husband’s grandma, or “The Bubs” as she was called.

  14. I cracked up at your grandmother’s powder room. The cake is beautiful and the m-i-l would have been so proud.

  15. hey Trevor…i thought rose was weird to, but now i’m fascinated with it. i made some rose cardamom plum jam a while back and some rose shortbread cookies that were delicious. i just found almond flour in the freezer, so this might have to be the next “rose” item to try.

  16. it looks great! I always struggle with a good glaze, so I’m impressed with that especially. Although I am on the same page as you about the rose flavor…. 🙁

  17. So beautiful Trevor! I didn’t try this one but you’re sort of convincing me to now…

  18. Yes, the glaze had to be done – perfect!
    And now that you have those big bottles of syrup and extract, round deux in the “battle of the roses” must surely be coming soon…

  19. Found your blog recently. Am really enjoying going through it!
    Quick question? Would you make the Ispahan cake again?

    • I’m glad you found us Radika! I certainly would make this again. Its the type of thing, however, that needs to be matched well with the occasion. An afternoon cake for lunch or tea? It is very feminine, no? I would also work to amp up the rose with it as the recipe still fell a bit short there and I say why not go for it?