Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Inspired By Ispahan (Raspberry Rose Lychee Cupcakes)

Ispahan Cupcakes

My friend Mar's birthday and the deadline for Cupcake Hero's raspberry challenge were just days apart this month. And she even gave me free reign over what treat to make her. Call me silly, but I took this a sign from the baking powers that be. It was finally my time to try the trio of flavors (raspberry, rose, and lychee) made famous by Pierre Herme's Ispahan macaron cookie. Not too innovative on my part. But one could do worse than to trust the signature of one of the greatest pastry chefs alive =p. After perusing my favorite blogs for their renditions, I combined a few elements from each and added some touches of my own.

The birthday girl, some friends and I were actually heading up to NYC to celebrate. Baking was left until departure day for the sake of freshness, but what a tight schedule it turned out to be! I ended up packing the cupcakes with one hand while slinging my bags over the other shoulder then running to my friend's car. As soon as we arrived in New York, we went on an insane but fun food/bar-hop until 5 am.

Needless to say, we didn't get to the cupcakes that night. But they're sturdier than their delicate appearance suggests. Even over a day later, they remained quite delicious. At first bite, my brain was pretty confused to be tasting something it's more used to smelling. But once we got over that small hurdle, I understood the popularity of this combination. Juicy lychees and tart raspberries act as a delectable foil to the fragrant rose flavor. While the cool custard tames the sweetness. If you have extra filling, please try spooning it over the cakes as you eat them. Take my word for it, you won't regret it.

Lychee Rose Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Tartelette, Une-deux Senses, and The Baker's Dozen Cookbook
Makes 12 cupcakes

XIAOLU'S NOTES: The raspberry custard filling can be made up to 1 week in advance and refrigerated covered until ready for use. The recipe below makes extra, which would be delicious to serve alongside the cupcakes, use in a parfait, or use to fill some other baked good. Alternately, you can halve the recipe.

3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp ground almonds
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
6 Tbsp milk
1 1/2 Tbsp rosewater
12 whole lychees or 24 halves if big (canned is fine)

Raspberry Custard Filling (Recipe below)
Buttercream Frosting (Recipe below)
Fresh raspberries, to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin pan with 12 baking liners. In a small bowl, combine the flours and set aside.

In a large bowl, on medium speed using an electric mixer, cream butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and rose water. Do not overbeat. Using a flexible spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.

Carefully spoon half the batter into the liners, place one lychee in the center of each and top with the remaining batter, leaving a 1/2-inch space to the top for the cupcake to rise. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely.

Once cool, cut a cone in each cupcake and spoon in 2-3 teaspoons of the raspberry custard filling. Replace the cone and spread or pipe on buttercream frosting. Kick back and enjoy!

Raspberry Custard Filling
Makes about 1 3/4 cups

1 1/4 cups milk
3 large egg yolks [save whites for the frosting]
4 to 6 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh raspberries, mashed

In a non-reactive medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium just until bubbles form around the edges but it's not yet boiling.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks (or whole egg and yolk) and sugar until pale yellow. Beat in the flour. On low speed, gradually add in half of the hot milk, beating constantly. Pour the mixture into the saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the pastry cream comes to a full boil, making sure it doesn't scorch. Remove from heat.

Strain the pastry cream through a wire sieve into a medium bowl (to get rid of any egg or flour lumps). Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and poke a few holes in the plastic for steam to escape. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Fold the mashed raspberries through the pastry cream just before filling the cupcakes.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
3 large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
14 Tbsp unsalted butter, cool room temperature and cut into 10 pieces
1- 2 drops of food coloring (optional)

Combine the sugar and egg whites in the stainless steel bowl of an electric mixer. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water making sure the bottom does not actually touch the water. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (I just whisked by hand and cooked it until the sugar was completely dissolved and the top became foamy). Be careful not to curdle the egg whites, remove from heat if this starts happening.

Remove the bowl to your stand mixer and beat on high speed with the whisk attachment for at least 3 minutes, until the mixture holds glossy, marshmallow-esque peaks and the bowl is completely cool (Very important - the frosting's consistency will be off otherwise).

With mixer on medium-low, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition (about 10 seconds between each addition). Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, at least 3 minutes. (You'll hear a distinct slapping sound and visibly see the buttercream go from soupy to a cohesive, pipeable consistency.) Reduce speed to low, add the vanilla and food coloring (if using), and continue beating 1 minute to incorporate the additions and reduce air bubbles.


  1. Wow, so gorgeous! These have got to be the prettiest cupcakes ever! I especially love the sound of that raspberry custard filling.

  2. Oooooh my gosh, ive died and gone to heaven. Lychees are my my favorite! Bookmarked! Drooooll!

  3. A heavenly combo! Can I have one of those babies, please? ;-P



  4. A fantastic combination! I would love to have one right now. So pretty!

  5. yummmmmmm you're raspberry filling sounds awesome! i have to try these again one day, yours look so gooooood

  6. I love your idea to turn this famous cookie into a cupcake! Next time you're in NYC for more than a day, let me know! We should totally hang out.

    These look fantastic. Your friend is super lucky to have you!

  7. Good luck on Cupcake Hero! Your take on Herme's famous macaron looks and sounds perfect. I'll definitely be trying these out soon when someone gives me the free reign to make something so gourmet! Love it!

  8. I bet this flavour combo tastes even better in cupcake form :)

  9. What a pretty cupcake you have there and what a pretty photograph! I'm drooling over both :-)
    I always try to take shot from the top at that exact angel but it never comes out great. need to take some tips from you.

  10. Wonderful recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Lychee and rose - I am smelling the velvety sweet fragrance already. :)

  12. I'm blown away!

    I totally heart custard and all other surprises in cuppies! Your cuppies look absolutely gorgeous!! Can i have some please?

  13. What a combination of flvours. Im sure it just bursts in your mouth.... Great post!

  14. You are the cupcake queen! These look and sound wonderful!

  15. How gorgeous! I had one of the macarons in Paris and it was truly sensational - it opened up a whole new world of flavours and baking. Bet these are great too.

  16. what a dainty, delicate, and delicious batch of cupcakes! super impressive, xiaolu. :)

  17. Just like Herme's macarons - this seems like a long involved process but hey - that's why it tastes so good right?

  18. How lovely. I love the filling. They look wonderful!

  19. Beautiful as always!
    Loved the combination of rose and lychee... very Indian flavours too!

  20. Yes, the Ispahan macaron is one of mankind's greatest inventions. ;) And you're brilliant for playing around those flavours and concocting your own creation. They. Are. GORGEOUS!!!

  21. I'm super glad you made the Cupcake Hero deadline this time! Good Luck! (These look amazing!)

  22. Yum! Lovely cupcakes and the colours are gorgeous!

  23. OMG.. what a heavenly combination. these look gorgeous... you did an amazing job... what tip did you use for the frosting?

  24. This looks fabulous! Love the photos!

  25. I felt like I don't want to eat it. Too pretty!!!

  26. What a beautiful cupcake! I made Ispahan cupcakes a while back but they were very different :)

  27. Hmm not sure if my comment went through.. anyway your friend is really lucky to get these! :) I've never tried the ispahan flavour combination. And I'm like you, I would've waited until the last minute to make them so they'd be as fresh as possible!

  28. The prettiest I've ever seen for sure. Would love to have a taste :)

  29. Wow! These sound fantastic! I'd love to try these.

  30. Those three flavors together sound like a fantastic combo! Good luck with the contest :)

  31. A super combination of flavours. You are such a gifted baker!

  32. These are creative. Don't underestimate your interpretation. I would be very happy to eat one of these. Or two ....

  33. They are so pretty in pink and red! and I love the feminine flavours too

  34. I love the combination of flavours! The cupcakes look amazing!Very pretty!

  35. Gorgeous colors! So girly :) Love how elaborate these are. You did amazing. Inspired by the best, after all!

  36. Wow, thanks everyone for your sweet comments! Glad you like this combination as much as I was hoping you would (=.

  37. i love it when someone uses lychee in anything because I am not that good in coming up with awesome combinations so thank you for this lychee recipe:)

  38. This is a real inspiration!

    Sawadee from bangkok,

  39. Hello,

    I would like to propose a link-exchange. If you are interested please send me an email at ursul3tz@gmail.com for details. Have a nice day.

  40. Soo pretty! i can't wait to try the recipes myself :)

  41. We have made these twice now and absolutely love them. I personally like a little bit stronger floral flavor than my rose water provided, but I can't seem to find rose essence/extract anywhere locally in FL. My custard never turns out as beautifully smooth as yours (what's the secret?), so I like to pipe it into the cupcakes to avoid leaving the ugly lumpiness visible.

  42. Aislinn -- I'm glad these have worked well for you =D. Sorry you haven't been able to find extract. Amazon sells it here: http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Rose-Extract-FL-Pack/dp/B001PB18ZE I know it's not cheap but maybe you can find some people to split it with? As for the custard, I have a fine sieve that I strained it through -- perhaps it's that? If not, you might want to try a different method: instead of adding hot milk where it says to, add cold milk instead and heat everything up together over medium heat, stirring CONSTANTLY. That's basically like a pudding method instead of pastry cream. I find I like that better than tempering the eggs sometimes.

  43. I made these again yesterday, so I saw your suggestions when I came back to check the recipe. I tried the pudding method. I think it did work better for me than the other. I still have a bit of a problem after the custard is cooled and I mix in the raspberries; the lumps were not as bad this time, but still a bit lumpy. I solved that by giving it all a quick blend with my hand mixer. I still haven't found rose extract, but I give the cupcakes a bit more of a rose flavor by replacing the vanilla in the frosting with some more rose water. Thanks for a delicious recipe! My mom asks for these for her birthday every year.

  44. Glad you are still enjoying them! Glad to help and the blender idea is a good solution ;).


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