Edible flowers are on the rise thanks to the likes of Instagram and the upcoming royal wedding.
Blooms such as cornflowers, borage and nasturtium are becoming more popular as cake toppings, decorations and flavours. Traditional ones such as rose, lavender and elderflower are also seeing an upsurge in popularity as a taste or decorative addition to a bake.
But using edible flowers to decorate doughnuts, cakes and buns isn’t as simple as merely sticking them on top.
According to Maddocks Organics, an edible flower merchant based in Devon, it is crucial to know “the provenance of any flowers you plan to eat”.
Commercially available flowers from shops and suppliers are routinely sprayed with pesticides and fungicides, and can pick up unwanted residue from water or soil.
“Edible varieties must be used in all baking and decorating — certain varieties of flowers and plants are poisonous, so it’s best to use edible flowers provided by a certified organic grower in the UK, as they’ll really know their stuff,” explains Bee Berrie, from Bee’s Bakery, whose flower-crowned creations have been featured in the likes of Vogue and Good Housekeeping (see more tips and tricks from Bee’s Bakery below).
Essentially, unless the flowers are labelled “organic” and “edible” by a reputable supplier avoid putting it in a bake. Notably, supermarket Sainsbury’s unveiled a range of edible flowers (pictured above), suitable for use on cakes, last summer.
Pollen allergies can also affect customers. Only the petals should be used in baking, with pistils and stamens being discarded for safety, notes Maddocks. And, plenty of whole plants that are edible can have poisonous flowers too.
When applying flowers to cakes, professionals use flower picks - pins that that prevent the flower actually touching the sponge and contaminating it.
Q&A with Bee Berrie of Bee’s Bakery
British Baker caught up with Bee Berrie from East London’s Bee’s Bakery — flower decorated creation depicted above — to find out more about how to spruce up bakes inside and out with edible flowers.
What are some flower/flavour combinations that you’ve found work particularly well in bakes?
Citrus flavours work brilliantly with floral notes, so bakes like a lemon and lavender sponge is one of our most popular.
What are some flower decorative techniques you enjoy?
Mixing tiny edible flower petals into the buttercream icing before you decorate the cake is an easy way to incorporate flowers, and it gives a beautiful speckled finish too.
Which flowers are best for decorating?
Ideally, edible flowers with a long shelf life that won’t wilt in warmer temperatures - cornflowers are my favourites for this.
Are there any tips and tricks you’d like to share for bakers using edible flowers for the first time?
Add your petals at the last possible minute - to avoid them wilting if its a warm day. More is more. Don’t be afraid to use lots of petals for a really fun effect.
What inspired Bees Bakery to use edible flowers?
I was asked to make a cake with flower petals a few years ago, and inspired by some fantastic bright edible flower petals that I saw used in Australia.
What flowers do you think will be used for the royal wedding cake?
I am sure Harry and Meghan will choose something beautiful, and surprising in some way, they have real flair. I just hope that certified organic, UK-grown edible flowers are used, as often florist-grade flowers aren’t safe to eat. They may have been sprayed with chemicals, or contain poisonous parts.