Sunday, October 17, 2010

Birthday Cake Part II: Ispahan Charlotte

I know sometimes I seem schizophrenic, but really, I just like variety. In college, I went from singing Brahms in choir to playing guitar in a rock band, sometimes in the same day, even. (In hindsight, I totally should have rocked out in my choir outfit. Nothing says "stick it to the man" like a high-waisted, floor-length skirt.) The second birthday cake was a complete opposite from the tiramisu cake. Whereas the tiramisu cake had bold, popular flavors, the charlotte was delicate and floral and complex, with a name that only pastry buffs would recognize.

So what is Ispahan?

Ispahan is one of the signature flavors of celebrity pastry chef Pierre Hermé. It consists of raspberry, lychee, and rosewater. I've actually never had any of the Ispahan desserts, but the name is so evocative of Arabian Nights (it'd make a great cocktail too, I need to remember that next time I go out). I was going to make a pear charlotte, but then I remembered that I had all the ingredients for Ispahan on hand. I do love my pantry.

The charlotte was a breeze to make, especially as I had a friend helping out in the kitchen. I think I really like giving orders teaching. The shell is pipped out from a simple ladyfinger batter and soaked in almond syrup. The filling was a simple mousse flavored with raspberry puree, rosewater, and lychee pieces. I used agar agar as a stabilizer to make it vegetarian-friendly. The mousse was delicious, especially with the pieces of lychee for textural contrast.

I was originally going to decorate the top with powdered sugar, but I didn't realize I had run out until it was too late. I made a last minute substitution with toasted sesame seeds. I quite like the look, actually. If I had more time, I would have done a smooth top with lychee flavored glaze marbled with raspberry puree, and with a handful fresh raspberries and rose petals scattered on top. Who wants cake for Valentine's Day?

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