Cupcakes (and cake pops of course) are my nemeses. Before these I’d never made truly fluffy cupcakes but knew I’d eventually whisk into battle again. And tada! These cupcakes are light, moist and topped with yummy swirls of swiss buttercream. With the magic Ispahan raspberry, rose and lychee trio of flavours invented and made famous by Pierre Hermé, master pâtissier also renowned for his macarons. The light-textured Ispahan coconut oil sponge cupcakes are filled with zingy raspberry purée then topped with raspberry-rose water buttercream and a fresh raspberry. Ispahan yumminess!
Playing with the recipe
You can play around with the recipe. If you’d like to add less raspberry purée to the buttercream it will be smoother and lighter like the first time I made them, though not as tasty.
I love the extra raspberry in the buttercream and also added powdered freeze-dried raspberries this time, though these are optional as the main zing comes from the newly-introduced little pocket of raspberry purée. Delightful. So you have that amazing sharply sweet raspberry acidity making sure the sweetness and creaminess don’t hog all the attention. And there’s still the hint of chopped lychee pieces and juice lurking in the background amidst the sponge. You can of course omit the lychee. Or replace the rose water with vanilla. You’ll be sabotaging the magic Ispahan flavours but will still have lovely cupcakes with light fine-textured coconut oil sponge.
This recipe’s inspired by Hermé’s flavour combination and based on a mishmash of various recipes, prior knowledge and experimentation changing quantities, substituting wet ingredients for other wet ingredients and incorporating fresh raspberry purée.
Rose and lychee sponge (makes 18 to 20 cupcakes)
- 175g/1 and 1/4 cups cake flour (T45) or all-purpose/plain flour
- 1 and a quarter teaspoons baking powder
- half a teaspoon baking soda
- a quarter teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons ground freeze-dried or dehydrated raspberries (optional)
- 2 medium-large eggs (110-120g)
- 148g/three quarters of a cup caster/superfine sugar
- 108g/half a cup coconut oil or canola oil or light cold pressed olive oil (4%)
- 120g/half a cup milk (mixed with half teaspoon lemon juice 10 minutes before starting)
- half a teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon lychee water from the tin
- 1 tablespoon rosewater
- 100g/half a cup lychees (around 7 lychees), which becomes 65g/a quarter cup of finely chopped lychees once the extra liquid is drained off. Dry then toss them in a tablespoon of the flour to prevent the pieces sinking to the bottom.
Preparation: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (static oven) or 160°C/320°F (fan oven) and line a cupcake or muffin mould with cases/liners. Or place doubled free-standing cupcake cases on a baking tray. Mix the milk with the lemon juice in a small bowl and allow to develop 10 minutes or more.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
- In a separate large bowl whisk the eggs a few minutes till fluffier.
- Add the sugar and whisk another few minutes till it thickens slightly.
- Add vanilla and oil and whisk another few minutes. It should be thicker now.
- Whisk in the lychee juice and rosewater.
- Gently and slowly whisk in half of the flour mixture then half of the milk/lemon. Then slowly whisk in the rest of the flour mix and milk until just combined. The batter should be relatively thin. Check there are no flour specks but don’t overwork the batter.
- Finally, gently and quickly whisk in the chopped lychees.
- Pour the batter into the cupcake cases, filling to about half- to three-quarters full. Be careful to distribute the lychee pieces as equally as possible. Important: do steps 6-8 as fast as possible so you can get the cupcakes in the oven while the rising agents are still at their most active interacting with the wet ingredients.
- Bake for 12 -14 minutes in the middle of the oven. They should be golden brown and spring back when you touch them lightly with a finger. A skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean. Try to catch them while they’re nice and soft, before the top gets too crusty.
- Once out let your little cupcakes cool in the pan for a couple minutes then place on a wire rack to cool completely before topping with buttercream. And maybe test one, just to check. 🙂
Raspberry swiss buttercream
The quantity given below is enough for 12 tall buttercream swirls and 6 smaller ones, like the swirl in the photo below (or 18-20 medium swirls). The cupcakes taste really nice with smaller swirls too.
- 3 medium to large fresh egg whites (110-120g)
- 115g/scant two thirds of a cup caster sugar
- 170g/three quarters of a cup butter (softened and consistency of hair cream: beurre pommade)
- quarter teaspoon rose water, to taste
- 175g/2/3 cup (or less.. 150g to 100g/1/3 cup plus 1-2 tablespoons) raspberry purée with a teaspoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- Use your very clean standmixer bowl or large bowl. Add egg whites and sugar, and place on a bain marie (simmering, not boiling) whisking constantly but gently until the temperature reaches 70°C/160°F (the benefit of this method is you’re cooking the egg white to a ‘safe’ temperature). It could take around 10 minutes or so and your mixture will look whiter at the end. Alternatively follow Martha Stewart’s method (link below) where you just whisk to warm the mixture and dissolve the sugar before placing on the standmixer.
- Whisk on your standmixer or by hand, starting on low then going up to low-medium speed, until the meringue is thick and glossy but not stiff and the bottom of the bowl has cooled to room temperature. This can take up to 10 minutes or so (by hand around 20 minutes).
- Meanwhile make sure your butter is beurre pommade consistency (like hair cream) and also at room temperature (if necessary soften by beating briefly over a bain marie).
- Whisk the beurre pommade in little by little (tablespoon by tablespoon) on low-medium speed. Scrape down the mixture with a spatula and whisk on low for another 2 minutes.
- Whisk in the rose water, pinch of salt then raspberry purée in two goes, on low for 1 or 2 minutes till just combined. You can see my buttercream had a few issues (I think the raspberry purée was too cold) and I had to whisk it over heat to bring it back, but it was still delicious. Next time I might also try sieving the raspberry purée, which should help the buttercream be smoother and more homogeneous.
- Taste to check if extra flavouring is needed.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up if necessary, before piping. Don’t leave much longer or it becomes too stiff.
Notes: if buttercream separates it’s partly because the various ingredients are at different temperatures. This is why you add the butter little by little. You can ‘rescue’ your buttercream by whisking it briefly over heat to bring everything to the same temperature. It takes 3 to 8 minutes of whisking but will become smoother.
You could also make your own favourite buttercream instead, flavoured with raspberry purée and rose water. And here’s a link to Martha Stewart’s swiss meringue buttercream video for very clear instructions on her method.
- 100g/1/3 cup plus 1-2 tablespoons raspberry purée (to taste) made by blending fresh raspberries with the lemon and honey (in your blender or with your bamix)
- half a teaspoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- half a tablespoon runny honey
- ground freeze-dried/dehydrated raspberries to sprinkle on top (optional)
Dig out little holes in the centre of each cupcake with a teaspoon (a piping nozzle can also help) and fill with the raspberry purée. You could use jam but the zing of fresh raspberries is amazing.Pipe the raspberry buttercream on the cupcakes and decorate with a raspberry. You can add little pieces of lychee. I sprinkled them with some ground freeze-dried raspberries.
Store your cupcakes up to 4 or 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Take them out at least half an hour before eating so everything softens up again.
Am I a new cupcake fan?
Well I’m not a cupcake person but I must be warming to them because in the supermarket today a couple of packs of cupcake liners ‘fell’ into my trolley. Green and lilac coloured. 🙂 Now that I have my ‘go to cupcake sponge’ I’ll play around with flavours and work on my swiss buttercream.
I should probably go out and buy some nice cupcakes for research purposes. Tee hee. What to make next? Can you recommend any flavours or buttercreams? I’m visualising some with salted caramel… Though I’ll definitely make these again. Love the textures, flavours and natural pretty pink colours!
Hope you’ve enjoyed this outing to ‘cupcake pâtisserie’ land sweet reader! Thanks for dropping by and I wish you a lovely week with nice little treats and some happy baking and eating! 🙂 x