A rose by any other name... (French Fridays with Dorie: Ispahan Loaf Cake)

My first house was a most ugly house.

1940’s built. Minimal personality.

I dubbed it the “house from hell” – that house had issues.

Lots and lots of issues (red velvet wallpaper, shag carpet, crumbling plaster, tile coming off the shower walls). It certainly gave me a crash course in home improvement.

But it was home. Love it or hate it, I was grateful to have a place to call my own.

It sat on a busy, busy road. As a result, I don’t think the previous owners did anything with the front of the house except to park their cars there – in a half-gravel/ half-grass turn around. Lined up along that very unaesthetic patch of land was a row of thorny shrubs. Oh, how I hated those shrubs.

Those shrubs didn’t last one summer after I moved into that house. I can remember being very pregnant and insisting that those dratted shrubs had to go. How could I possibly raise a child around those death traps? (Oh, the drama of youth… The Cher of today would probably take one look at them, grunt and find something else to do.)

Anyhoo, once those shrubs were out of there, I was left with a big ugly mass of dirt and roots and holes and what not. Since money was pretty much non-existent in those days, I can remember begging, borrowing and stealing plants to back-fill the space. Something – anything – to add a modicum of curb appeal.

Slowly, surely, over the course of a few years things slowly took shape.

Peonies came from a co-worker. Irises from a neighbor. Tulips from I don’t know where.

And then there were the roses.

Whenever I could scrimp and save enough money, I would pick up a rose plant for the front of the house.

My one neighbor was a prolific gardener and she would come over every few days to assess the health of my roses. She would teach me to cut the dead blooms just so and when to do it. She would give me hints on fertilization and soil. I think she was the “rose whisperer”.

Over the next few years, I spent a lot of time on those roses – babying each plant to the best of my ability. Rejoicing when they survived the winter. Saddened when the beetles decided to eat them for dinner. It was probably the “greenest” my thumb has ever been.

Eventually, life changed. Apartment living replaced house living and by the time I finally bought my next house, a older and wearier version of me decided that low maintenance plants and mulch were the order of the day. The roses at the old house have long since been run over by a lawnmower. The circle of life and all that, blah, blah, blah…

While there may no longer be roses in my garden, they have entered my life in different ways.

One should always take time to smell the roses, right?

Occasionally, The Dude will bring home a batch of roses (orange or yellow are my favorite - HINT).

Rose hips will be brewed into a cup of tea.

And then, there is cake.

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe was for an Ispahan loaf cake – an almond flour based cake flavored with rose syrup + extract and dotted with fresh raspberries. I have been excited to give this one a try for a long time – especially after seeing this beauty made by Candy.

I covered it with a simple glaze of Chambord and confectioners’ sugar in an effort to hide where I cracked the cake open while clumsily turning it out of the pan. It didn’t hide it very well, but it sure tasted good! I also served it up with raspberry coulis as a finishing touch and thought it rounded things out very nicely.

Surprisingly, this cake only lasted about a day in the house. Both the Fussy Eater and The Dude went back for seconds. I would love to give this a re-do using a lavender simple syrup and blackberries or pairing hibiscus with strawberry or cherries.

The possibilities seem endless.

Peace out.

This post participates in French Fridays with Dorie.


  1. John & I were talking about alternate flavors, too - how funny! I adore roses and need to plant more of them! I have left so many pretty ones behind...pink are my favorite followed by white.

    Have a lovely weekend!

  2. Awwwww, the memories. This is a delicious cake. Wish I'd purchased additional raspberries for the Raspberry Coulis which looks soooo good. I think your cake looks beautiful and with that sauce it must have been over the top!

  3. Thanks Cher for sharing with us your memory of your first house. Gardening eludes me and I have utmost respect for anyone who has the patience to garden. Roses can be so finicky! Coincidentally, so was this cake. I thought with all those rose syrup and extract at home I would make it again and again. Totally not the case.

    Love your idea to serve with raspberry coulis. Did you line your loaf pan with parchment? I hardly ever do the grease+flour routine anymore just so that I can lift the cake without tipping it sideways. It's especially handy for a moist delicate cake like this recipe.

    Hibiscus+cherry sound absolutely lovely. Dreaming of summer....

    1. I didn't line my pan with parchment (although, I love how easy it makes getting cakes out) - the cake came out okay, but I dropped the pan, hit the cake with my oven mitt and cracked it in half. It was totally my clumsiness.

  4. I almost destroyed my cake in the dismount, but managed to save it before any noticeable cracks appeared. I could have used some raspberry sauce for mine. it just needed...something. Extra zhuzh. I don't know how to spell that noise. haha.

  5. Your cake looks great Cher, I love the photos!
    I'm glad to hear it was eaten quickly at your place.
    It's Friday night here at the moment and my cake is baking as I type!
    I didn't have enough batter to cover the top layer of berries so I might need some creative drizzling myself!

  6. Love reading your memories Cher - really enjoy your posts every week :)
    And you cake? Awesome work! And I love that you covered this in that glaze. *IF* I make this again, I might just do that too. But that's a big "if".

  7. Yeah, I'm ALL about low maintenance these days, too! Glad your cake was a hit...mine was, too!

  8. I can relate to those complete changes through the years. White roses are my favorites. This cake seems to have been a great hit among men, interesting... That last pic is great, the coulis so red! You make me want to go out and buy chambord. It seems to go with everything, and I love liqueurs so much. Have a good weekend Cher!

  9. Oh my! As soon as I saw "Ispahan.." in your title I knew it's all about roses and rose petals! I have my favorite damask rose bush in a garden called "Ispahan Damask Rose" with a mindblowing aroma (can't wait for a long-due spring to come). I make rose jam of its petals. Ispahan cake has being on my culinary to do list for a while. You've beat me! Great job - your cake looks very good and I'm sure it smells even better.

  10. Such a pretty loaf! Love your glaze on top, too. :)

  11. Cher, terrific memories, wonderful looking cake - glad that you and your family really enjoyed this very intriguing French cake.

  12. Oh Cher, what a wonderful story about finding beauty in the most unexpected place. Roses have so much symbolism it is amazing. And to think we got to ingest them...Love the Chambord glaze idea.

  13. Your glaze and drizzle look like delicious additions!

  14. Your glaze looks beautiful on your cake and might be just the thing mine needs. I'm glad this one was a hit at your house, Cher, especially since I know you voted for this many times. :)

  15. Your cake looks lovely my friend :D
    Delicious too!


  16. I love your story about the rose bushes. Your cake looks superb, and I do like your alternative flavour suggestions.

  17. Wonderful story. This was an interesting recipe and since Tricia has so much left of
    the rose ingredients, I may borrow some more and do this one again with the fresh fruit.
    If not, we can try mixing drinks, that's always fun too. Your cake looks wonderful with
    the drizzle on top. Have a great weekend.

  18. Heartwarming post, as always, Cher! I'm glad that this one lived up to expectations after all that lobbying. I'm intrigued by your alternate flavor ideas, though I'm not sure I'm into the flowery flavors. Have to test it out. At least, I'll try Diane's cocktail recipe. That was one big bottle of syrup... Have a great weekend. No snow in the forecast here for the next 5 days. Hope it's the same where you are. THINK SPRING!

  19. Oh, I thought about hibiscus too! Everything's coming up roses, we just don't know how it will play out. Thanks for sharing that tidbit. Maybe your green thumb will come back again at some point.

  20. I was thinking about our large bottles of rose syrup and stumbled upon this link for a summer beverage, complete with cardamon pods! http://www.designsponge.com/2009/07/behind-the-bar-apothecary-cardamom-rose-cocktail.html

    Expecting more snow, not sure that we will see summer. At least your house enjoyed the loaf.

  21. I love the glaze and your idea for using other floral flavors!

  22. I love roses too Cher. Here in Oklahoma we have sort of a love/hate relationship. You're cake looks delicious and when I make it home again I will try this recipe one more time and use fresh berriesb

  23. I like both the glaze and raspberry coulis ideas -- so pretty and I bet they added good flavor. I'm glad you enjoyed the cake. I like your ideas for the re-do, especially the lavender and blackberry.

  24. Cracked cake tastes just as good as uncracked cake. That's my deep thought of the day.

  25. Great job with your cake Cher- I also broke mine when I took it out of the pan and mine was weirdly sunken in places on the top-overall an odd looking cake with a weird texture-not my finest baking hour! I think I'm ready for a low maintenance house and then I start working on my veggie garden-creating extra work for myself-sort of like baking a rose flavored cake with raspberries ;-)

  26. I loved this cake and look forward to making different versions as you suggested in this Post. Is it still a Ispahan or Isfahan Loag Cake if it does NOT have the rose-thing going for it? That's a great name for anything whether it be a city, a rose or a loaf cake. Your cake, all glazey, looks yummy. I never did roses very well. Love your stories.


Post a Comment

Hi - Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to hear from you!

Due to the high number of weirdo SPAM comments I have been receiving, I have turned comment moderation back on for the time being... Comments may show a slight delay.