Celebrations require cakes and (in my opinion), cakes require decorations. Using fresh flowers to decorate a cake is one of my favourite forms of cake decorating. There are just so many different looks you can achieve by adding flowers, greenery, or dried petals. It’s easy to match your cake decorations to your event theme and bridal bouquets, or create a unique masterpiece that stands out on its own.
When picking a cake, many people start by using a professional and engage their local florist for the flowers. But if you want to brave it on your own, you need to understand which flowers, floral accessories and techniques are safe for decorating cakes with fresh flowers especially when it comes to food safety.
What flowers are safe for cake decorating?
When working with floral products and fresh food like cakes you need to know from the outset that many fresh flowers are not edible and are actually poisonous. You also need to keep in mind that commercially grown flowers may be sprayed with chemicals such as pesticides. Now, don’t let that scare you off from your dream cake design, there are lots of safe options available.
There are growers that specialise in edible and organically grown flowers that may be a better choice. Select flowers which have been grown specifically for consumption and look online for local growers in your area that are certified. Remember that not every part of the flower is edible and in every scenario, you must check if fresh flowers have any pesticides before using them.
List Of Flowers For Cake Decorating
- Flowers that are beautiful as well as edible: roses, calendulas, nasturtiums, hibiscus, violets, and sunflowers as well as herbs like rosemary, thyme, and chamomile to name a few.
- Flowers that are not edible but would be safe for flower decorating: Carnations, Queen Anne’s Lace, Primrose, Sunflowers, Chrysanthemums, Day Lily, Hibiscus, Peony, Chamomile, Freesia, Gerber Daisy, Lavender, Violets, Roses, Marigold, Cornflower.
- Flowers to avoid (not a complete list): Mistletoe, Poinsettia, Holly, Sweet Pea, Lily Of The Valley, Daffodil, , Azaleas, Calla Lily, Hyacinth to name a few. Flowers like hydrangeas and baby’s breath, while stunningly popular are actually toxic flowers.
Be mindful, just as people are allergic to certain foods, they may also be allergic to flowers. Make sure to consult with your florist ahead of time for special orders. If you are still not sure, you may wish to use artificial flowers to achieve a similar effect.
Techniques For Decorating Cakes With Fresh Flowers
There are many different techniques for decorating cakes with fresh flowers. The goal of these techniques is to create a food safe barrier between the flowers and the cake.
- Make a small bundle of flowers and wrap stems in Parafilm (give it a little stretch to activate it) or tape and then cover the tape in aluminium foil.
- Wrap flowers as above using Parafilm, but on the end of the stems use a ball of fondant to help reduce contamination and keep moisture contained.
- Place stems in water vials and insert vials into the cake.
- Dip stems (or florist wire) into a food safe wax and insert into the cake.
- Tape flower stems and insert them into straws. Cut straw down to an appropriate length and push straws into the cake.
There are pros and cons to each method. It comes down to the look you’re going for, the type of cake, and size of the flowers.
If using fragile flowers, then water vials may be the best option to extend their life. If inserting large single stems or bunches then fondant or Parafilm may be a better option, and a food safe wax is a great all rounder to use with artificial and fresh flowers. Check out the video below to see how it works.
Prepare Fresh Flowers For The Cake
When preparing the flowers for decorating, make sure you:
- Clean them to remove any residual dirt or insects.
- Strip away any excess foliage.
- Cut the stems short (about 5 cm).
- Remove the pistil, stamens and calyx of larger flowers e.g. (roses, hibiscus).
- Then leave flowers in water so they can get a final drink before you decorate.
- Arrange flowers on your bench and be happy with the final “look” before starting to insert flowers into the cake.
- Decorate the cake with flowers as close to the event time as possible to keep the flowers looking their best.
- Group smaller flowers together with larger flowers to fill gaps and create a full look.
- Fresh flowers on a cake should last at least 1 day without refrigeration.
- Be wary of putting cakes with fresh flowers into a fridge. When they come out of the fridge, the flowers and cake may sweat.