Recipe: Raspberry, Lychee and Rose Cake (Ispahan) inspired by the film Burnt

This is my third time participating in Food ‘n’ Flix, and I’ve had so much fun! This month’s flick is Burnt, hosted over at Caroline Makes. Burnt is a film about a recovering addict chef attempting to get back into the game and win a third Michelin star.


I’ve spent quite a few years working in bakeries and restaurants, so I watch movies about chefs with a particular point of view. Burnt is relatively realistic about the work of a chef, but I nonetheless spent a lot of time scowling as I watched. There’s a simple reason: for much of the film Adam, the protagonist, is every chef I’ve ever known that felt poor treatment of his workers could be excused as long as his food was good. I have a lot I could say about this, because it’s a huge issue in professional kitchen culture. Here’s the short version of my opinion: in real life, being an ass doesn’t make your food taste any better. It just makes you an ass.

Despite this, the food porn was abundant and lovely. I came away craving more than a few things, most of them seafood.

My cake is taken directly from a scene that occurs after Adam refuses to give one of his workers, Helene, the day off for her daughter’s birthday. As a result, Helene brings in her child to be watched by the Owner/Maître d’ during service. Her daughter requests a birthday cake, and Adam makes her one after a healthy dose of protesting. There’s a brief snippet where Adam and Helene’s daughter eat together that’s pretty cute. They competitively lick icing from their fingers, and she calls him an ogre and says she’s tasted better cakes than his. Her ribbing of Adam made this kid the best character in Burnt, as far as I’m concerned.

The cake from the film.

It’s all meant to be very sweet, but as they have their icing-eating moment Helene is still in the kitchen working. Surely if Adam can stop his duties to try and get his ego stroked by a child, he could have just given her mother lunch off?

Oh well, at least the cake (like everything else in this film) looked utterly delicious. The flavor wasn’t explicitly stated, but it appeared to be a sponge cake filled and iced with a fruit cream. Judging by the color, I’d guess raspberry. While the cake in the movie was most likely a buttercream, I really wanted to make a mousse instead to give the cake a more high-end flavor. I decided to make the cake inspired by a real-life chef: Pierre Hermé. Hermé created Ispahan, a flavor profile that has become a modern classic. Ispahan is a combination of raspberry, lychee and rose elements. It was created by Hermé for the famous Ladurée, though it didn’t become a hit until he made it into a staple at his own shop.

My interpretation of Hermé’s flavor combination was a genoise sponge brushed with rose syrup and covered in clouds of lychee and raspberry mousse. Genoise is a dry cake by nature, which makes it perfect to absorb subtle flavors like rose in the form of a syrup.


Raspberry, Lychee and Rose Cake



3 large eggs
100g (1/2 cup) sugar
125g (1 cup + 1 tbsp) cake flour, sifted
1 vanilla bean, scraped OR 1 tbsp good vanilla
2 tbsp butter, melted

1. Preheat your oven to 175°C/350°F and grease a 6″ dome cake pan. If you have a flower nail, grease it and put it into the pan upside down to create a heating core. This will help the cake heat more evenly.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat your eggs on high speed for 10-15 minutes, gradually drizzling in the sugar. The eggs should be nearly white, more than doubled in volume and significantly thickened. If they aren’t at this stage after 10-15 minutes, continue beating them until they are.
3. Sift the flour over the egg mixture in 3 parts, carefully folding in between each addition. Take care not to deflate your egg foam. Pour the butter mixture over the batter and fold until barely combined. Pour into your dome pan and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the center springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
4. Using a large serrated knife, level off the top of cake. Ideally it will have a dome and you can use the rim of the pan as a guide. Invert the cake onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap it well. Allow to cool completely. Once cooled, split the cake into 3 layers.

Lychee Raspberry Mousse
1 cups (250ml) raspberry puree (I blended thawed frozen berries and strain out the seeds)
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
40ml (3 tbsp) ice water
3.5 tsp gelatin
1 15 oz. can lychee, drained and chopped into small bits

1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the ice water and allow to bloom for 5 minutes. In a saucepan mix the raspberry puree, lemon juice and sugar. Boil, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until the puree has reduced to about 2/3 cup in volume. Remove from the heat and stir in the bloomed gelatin until dissolved. Cool to room temperature, but do not allow to set up.
2. Whip your cream to medium peaks. Fold the cream into the berry mixture. Once well-combined, put about 1 cup of mousse into a smaller bowl and stir the lychee bits into it. Fill the rest into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (I recommend Wilton 1M or Ateco #842). Chill in the fridge for 2-4 hours to set.

Rose Simple Syrup
1 cup (200g) sugar
2/3 cup (150ml) boiling water
Rose water OR rose tea leaves

1.  If using rose tea: steep the tea in the boiling water for time suggested on your tea box, but double the amount of tea leaves suggested. Combine with the sugar and stir to dissove. If using rose water: combine the sugar and water and stir to dissolve. Add in rose water to taste.


1. Using a pastry brush, generously brush all 3 layers of cake with syrup to saturate them. Genoise is a dry cake and will absorb lots of syrup. Don’t try to use all of it; just make sure you get an even amount of saturation.
2. Place the first (largest) layer of cake on your cake plate and spread just over half of the lychee-studded mousse onto it. Place on the second-largest layer and spread the rest of the lychee mousse onto it. Add on the final layer. Pipe a little of the plain mousse on top and spread it to cover the cake, then freeze for 15 minutes to firm up.
3. Using your piping bag, pipe rosettes all over the cake to cover. Return to the fridge for 1-2 hours to set completely, then serve.


This. Cake. Is. So. Good. 

Okay, so I’m biased. Any long-time reader will know that fruit mousses are one of my favorite things on earth. However, even speaking objectively this cake is a delight. The raspberry mousse is tart and refreshing and the rose flavor is a subtle addition that adds depth without being perfume-y. This cake has a high-end bakery feel without being terribly difficult to replicate for home bakers.


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    • Katharina
      Katharina says:

      It’s crazy how Ispahan has taken off! A friend of mine that lives in Japan said she even saw Ispahan Yogurt there. It’s the birth of a new classic!

      As for Adam… this has gotta be because we’ve both worked in kitchens! Once you work with someone like that in real life it becomes abundantly clear how insufferable that attitude is.

  1. Kevin O'Lena says:

    You’ve done a remarkable job recreating the infamous birthday cake. I was instantly interested in reproducing the beautiful cake myself. I’ve never worked with lychee before and wanted to ask if it could be” food processed” reduced more to a Sauce characteristic instead of chopped and what effect would that have on the flavor aspect? Too, and please pardon my anal side, but the movie cake icing had a marbled look to it if you look carefully. Can you please explain to me how one would recreate this look? I imagined you could take roughly half of the icing before adding the coloring component and set to the side. When ready to begin the piping of the rosettes add the white icing to the pink colored icing and fold just a few times in a bowl before transferring into the piping bag? Now I’m just an amateur cook so please pardon my ignorance.

    • Katharina
      Katharina says:


      First of all, I’m sorry for the delay! I have been traveling and am a jet lagged mess. I’m only now catching up on my comments.

      You can absolutely puree lychee! For a totally smooth puree, run it through a sieve afterward. It won’t change the flavor, but simply the texture. In this case I chopped them because I just wanted chunks of fruit in the mousse to add texture. Using puree would, naturally, be much more liquidy and therefore make the mousse liquidy as well. If you wanted to incorporate the lychee into the mousse, you could replace a portion of the raspberry puree with lychee.

      I noticed the marbled effect as well and honestly couldn’t decide if it was intentional or if someone had simply not mixed in food coloring thoroughly! If you did this with a buttercream, that’d be a good way to get the look: just don’t mix the color in all the way before adding it to the piping bag. With this mousse I wouldn’t recommend it 100%, as the gelatin that gives the structure to the mousse is within the raspberry and the white streaks wouldn’t set the same way. A potential solution is melting the gelatin and mixing it into the whipped cream instead, then swirling in the puree.

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