Safely decorating cakes with fresh flowers

Safely Decorating Cakes with Fresh Flowers

Fresh flowers on a beautiful cake, what’s not to love?  It’s a classic.  Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, the truth is, there could be a lot wrong with that. Depending on how the cake decorator chose and prepared the flowers before decorating the cake.

Think about it, conventional flowers are probably one of the most heavily fertilized and heavily sprayed with pesticides than any other commercially grown product. Why? Well obviously to keep the pesky critters from chewing on them and to make them grow big and beautiful, but they can do this BECAUSE they are not meant for human consumption.  Sure you could vow to ONLY use organically grown flowers to decorate cakes, but that is un-realistic for many reasons and still doesn’t address the need to select flowers that are not toxic or poisonous.

Blue Celtic knot cake with fresh flowers
Blue Celtic knot cake with fresh flowers

Did you know that conventional flowers are sprayed daily with a cocktail of hazardous chemical fertilizers and pesticides which require the person to have a special license and be wearing a hazmat suit?
Do you want something that has those chemicals all over them touching something you will be eating? I’m guessing the answer is NO!  And what about the buckets of bacteria laden water those beautiful flowers sit in before purchase? Let’s not get that anywhere near your client’s cake please!

elegant buttercream cake with fresh flowers
Buttercream wedding cake with fresh flowers

How can we create these beautiful fresh floral cakes as safely as possible then?

Ok, so a bride has ordered a wedding cake from you and she wants you to decorate it with the same fresh flowers her florist is using in her bouquet and floral decorations. You get to the venue and the florist hands you a bucket full of various flowers to use on the cake. Now what do you do??

The first step is going to be determining what flowers are actually safe to put on the cake in the first place. You are probably aware that some flowers are are toxic and some are even so poisonous that they can cause death.  If you are like me, you don’t even know the names of many of those flowers let alone if they could kill a person or or make them violently ill.  It’s very important to be careful what flowers you use!

Do not count on the florist to know which flowers are toxic. They are also not trained in food safety so they are not necessarily going to be able to help you here.

When I first started decorating cakes with fresh flowers it was difficult, on the spot, to figure out which of the gorgeous flowers I was just given were actually safe to use. There are websites that list toxic and edible flowers but you have to actually know the names of each flower to be able to look them up. That is what prompted me to create this full color visual guide to help identify most popular wedding flowers and determine if they are safe to use.  It is a reference specifically for cake decorators.

Safely Decorating your Cake With Fresh Flowers. (Click link to purchase tutorial and identification guide).

Safely decorating cakes with fresh flowers

This guide categorizes the flowers in 3 groups – safe, mildly-toxic and poisonous.  It’s a 26 page, color coded, visual reference to help you identify common wedding flowers.  My tutorial can be downloaded to your phone so you have it on hand anywhere you go to help you safely choose your floral decorations. It also has a step by step tutorial of this cleaning and preparing process as well as a list of tools for a handy take-along tool kit.  It is extremely helpful if you are going to be decorating with fresh flowers.

Safely decorating cakes with fresh flowers

Here is an overview of the basics tools and materials you will need to clean and prepare the flowers:

Floral cutters, a bottle of bleach water solution (1 tsp bleach per quart of water), hand towel or paper towels, floral tape, Glad Press’n Seal, scissors, edible glaze spray, various sized straws.  In my tutorial there is a more extensive list for a super handy toolkit you can compile and have ready to grab and go when it’s time to head out on your wedding cake delivery. I have some links at the bottom of this post to some of the tools I have purchased for my kit.

So now that you have determined which of the flowers you can actually use, let’s get them cleaned and prepared so they can safely be used on your beautiful cake.

1-  cut the stems to about 2″ to 3″ long and remove any large stamens and pollen.  I always give them a little shake to dislodge any pollen, petals or leaves that might be loose

2- dip the stem into your bottle of bleach solution and lay on the towel. Let sit for one minute then wipe the stem dry.  This kills any bacteria that can be living on the stems.

3- Make small posies or bundles of the flowers in pleasing arrangements and wrap the stems with floral tape to hold them together.

4- wrap the stem bundle in a small piece of the Glade Press-n-Seal folding a flap over the base of the bundle.  This locks in any moisture that may leak out of the stems.

5- Now choose a straw that the bundle fits snugly into.  If you don’t have one just the right size you can wrap another piece of the Press-n-Seal around the bundle to bulk it up and fit snugly enough that it won’t easily pull out of the straw. Trim the straw to just slightly longer than the stem bundle.

Now this is where one of my awesome epiphanies comes in.  I used to use a piece of waxed paper on the top of the cake as a barrier between the flowers and the cake so the chemicals that are on the flowers didn’t get transferred to the cake.  But this creates a few problems.  Inevitably you are going to see parts of the waxed paper peeking through which isn’t so pleasing. Also it makes it difficult to insert the flowers into the cake through the waxed paper.  So I was brainstorming one day about this problem when I had the thought that it sure would be better to just have something coating the backs of the flowers instead.  And BINGO!  Edible Spray Glaze, of course!

6- Next, lay your bundle on the towel with the backs of the flowers facing up.  Spray the whole back side of the bundle generously with the edible spray glaze and let dry for about 5 minutes.  This will coat the backs of the flowers with a food safe surface and seal in any chemicals and pesticides that are on the flowers.  Now, where the backs of the flowers are touching the cake it is a food safe surface.  Sweet!!

7- Your floral bundles are ready to be inserted into your cake!  I like to use a pair of long needle nose pliers or hemostasts to easily hold the top of the straw at the base of the bundle.  This makes inserting them into the cake much easier.

~IMPORTANT~

Though you have made them safe to decorate the cake with, these flowers should NEVER be eaten, regardless if they are actually an edible variety. The ONLY time flowers should be consumed is if they have been grown at a certified organic facility specifically for being edible flowers. Commercial flowers are not grown in a food safe manner no matter how you clean and  prepare them.

Pro-Tips

~ Always find out who will be cutting and serving the cake and make sure to tell them to remove all the flowers before cutting the cake. Provide a detailed cutting guide for cutting the cake into the proper serving size with instructions to remove the flowers before cutting. 
~ During the consult with your client make sure they know that some of their chosen wedding flowers may be toxic, and if so you will not be able to put them on the cake. If there are some poisonous flowers they have chosen you can use them in a pretty floral wreath at the base of the cake pedestal or as table decor as long as they don’t touch the cake.

Here is a Facebook Live video I did walking you through my process

Now you can feel confident that the flowers you are decorating your cakes with are as safe as they can be.  Let me know in the comments if this was helpful to you, I’d love to hear from you! And be sure to share with your cake decorating friends, better safe than sorry I always say!  Happy Cake Decorating!!

Have A Sweet Day!

Safely decorating cakes with fresh flowers

54 Comments

  1. Love this Shania!!

  2. Wow! What an awesomely informative post. I’m a novice baker but I feel so empowered to add flowers to my cake decor. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience.

  3. Julie Banfield

    This safe flowers demo was wonderful! I learned so much valuable information in just a few minutes! Thank you so much!

  4. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been looking for a simple but safe way to do this and you did it perfectly!

  5. This article is just superb and very informative as well. Thank you for this article Shani as this will help many people who don’t know about the hazardous flowers that they shouldn’t be using to decorate the cakes and will be able to prepare the cake safely. Keep Sharing such posts.

  6. Thank you for this. Can I double check the sweet pea information? We’ve have been told by the Royal Horticultural Society that sweet peas are toxic, and that the seed pods are poisonous. Can you confirm? Thanks so much.

  7. shanissweetart

    Hi Christine, In all the research I have done I have only found that the seeds are mildly toxic and if ingested in quantities can cause stomach upset. These are two of the sources I have used. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_pea & http://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/Toxic_Plants_by_common_Name_659/
    Hope this helps! 🙂

  8. Calista Ruga

    That was a great article with lots of good sound tips. I have always like the look of fresh flowers for wedding cakes, specially. I’ve never really put then in the cake: used them in between pillar arrangements & at the base of the cakes. Makes them look so professional & beautiful & I’ve always gotten good comments about the look. Thanks!!

  9. hi shanis. I have watched your video ( fresh flower on the cake)for the first time, i never join any bloggers but then when i saw all your worked . i felt inspired by doing it specially planning to make a cake and put a fresh flowers. but i have some question. you mention about the bleach . is it a regular bleach ( clorox)? and how to make that bleach ,just by adding a water? thank you .

    • Hi Karen, I’m so glad I could inspire you to make a beautiful cake! Yes use regular Clorox bleach. 1 teaspoon in 1 quart of water. Good luck and happy caking!

  10. This was the very best article ever written on this subject. Clear and to-the-point language that we can all understand. I love how you point out the EXACT formulas, steps (clearly), and even the items that we need. Your cakes are stunning. THANK YOU!

  11. Is Baby’s Breath OK to use on cakes? I am hearing that they are toxic. But then others say it’s OK to use. Help.

    • Baby’s breath is mildly toxic and can cause serious skin rashes. It is not recommended to decorate cakes with it.

  12. Alexandra Tyral

    Wow this is exactly what I needed to read! I’ve purchased your tutorial and can’t wait to find out what flowers I can and can’t use! Thanks for putting this together!

  13. When do you soak your stems in bleach? The night before using? How long will the flowers last after the bleach water solution? Do you put the flowers back in water to keep them alive after bleach water? Thanks so
    Much! This article was so helpful!

    • Hi Samantha, I dip them just before I am ready to put them on the cake. They only need 30 seconds with the bleach water on them to kill the bacteria on the stems. I put the flowers on my cakes a few hours before delivery. How long they will last on the cake before wilting will depend on the temperature. If it’s hot at the venue they won’t last as long as if they are kept cool. Hope this helps! Happy caking!

  14. Absolutely HELPFUL! Great idea with the edible glaze….and beautiful cakes!!!

  15. Georgina Bell

    Can you use gyp on a cake

  16. Hi thank you for such an wonderfully informative post. I am not sure I can buy the sticky glad wrap here in England though but sure i can find an alternative. I have been concerned about the process to prepare fresh flowers and this helps a lot.

  17. Hi I’m wondering if I can use willow eucalyptus around the base of a wedding cake?

  18. Julie Gellner

    Lots of excellent info Shani – thanks for this – question: how long will the flowers stay perky before wilting?

    • It will depend on the climate where you are. If they don’t get too warm at any time they will last 6 to 8 hours. I like to add the flowers to the cake right before delivery.

  19. Shani, you are so generous with your time and your knowledge! Thank you so much for doing this tutorial and the others! I have enjoyed all of them and found the information to be spot on.

  20. Shirley Buckmaster

    Such a great article! Thank you. Question: I always run into brides who want to have their florist arrange the flowers on the cake. I always warn them about toxicity and fertilizer etc. and tell them to make sure their florist covers the stems and so forth. I’m starting to think it’s best to tell them I have to do the flowers myself. Any thoughts Shani? Also how much time do you typically allot to arrange at the venue? Thanks so much for any advice.

    • Hi Shirley, I’m happy you found the article helpful! Personally, I do not let the florists add flowers to my cake and I even have that as a clause in my contract. Most florists are not trained in food safety practices and may not even know what flowers would be poisonous and harmful (I have experienced this personally). The cake is your liability, if anyone gets sick it is still your responsibility. That’s why I do not let anyone else add anything to my cake. It depends on the style of the flower placement how much time I plan for. A full cascade of flowers I plan an hour. Smaller bunches or just flowers on top I plan half an hour. Happy caking!

      • Thanks for your feedback. This has been my gut instincts as well. I have a 5-tier wedding cake order coming up and they wanted their florist to do the flowers. Not sure what to do now! I’ll have to talk to the bride and her mom about the flowers and see if they will allow me to do them. I need to add it to my information/pricing sheet as well that I need to place the flowers on cakes. I bought the field guide so will go over it with them before the wedding as well. Thanks so much.

        • Glad to help Shirley! If they insist on their florist placing the flowers I would have them sign a release of liability stating that you will not be responsible for any issues including damage to the cake or anyone getting sick. And in the future have it in your contract that no one else is allowed to add anything to the cake. Good luck!

  21. I just paid for the tutorial , but after the payment process it turned back to this page. No instructions how can I get my tutorial. Please advise, thanks

    • Hello Esther, I just checked on your order. And it appears that it did not go through. There is no record of the transaction and there has not been a payment received. I’m not sure why the order did not complete. Can you check your bank account to make sure there was not a charge? If not, try the purchase again. If there has been a charge please email me the transaction details so I can manually process your order. I’ve never had this happen before so the only thing I can imagine happened is that the payment didn’t process properly. Thank you! I’ll do my best to help you work it out and get you the tutorial asap!

  22. Esther Keller

    I’m so glad I came across your video! Thank you for sharing your knowledge on the use of real flowers! Now, I feel confident about safely using them on my cakes.

  23. I keep trying to pay for your 26 page book download and it freezes and never lets me put my card information in …

    • Oh dear, thank you for letting me know. I just updated the website and it sounds like there is a glitch happening. I will check into it and see what is going on. In the mean time if you want to let me know your email address I can manually send a PayPal invoice and email you the PDF directly. So sorry for the hassle!

  24. Hello, I just purchased the Safely Decorating Cake with Fresh Flowers tutorial. I am unable to download the eBook. Please advise.

    Thanks
    Kim

    • Hello Kim, there are two ways to download. After purchase you should have been taken to a page with the download link. You will also get an email receipt and the download link is there as well. Don’t click on the link in the product column. Click on the link in the download column. If this is still not working for you let me know and I will email it to you directly. Thank you for your purchase! Happy caking!

  25. Great article! I have an unique question. I provide clients faux wedding cakes to rent. Unfortunately fresh flowers will damage the fondant coating. Does the edible glaze dry quickly on the fresh flowers and also does it seal in the moisture that causes the damage? Thanks in advance!!

  26. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge it was extremely helpful and greatly appreciated, I’m happy you decided to share. Much appreciated!

  27. I just viewed your demo on decorating safely with fresh flowers…truly excellent!
    As a floral student, I once assisted a florist with delivery/set-up of wedding flowers at the venue. It was a miserable, sweltering, humid day. The last thing I remember was watching her artfully place semi-wilted flower heads of gerbera daisies directly on the cake.
    I am so glad that you are providing pertinent information on how to safely decorate a cake with fresh flowers! Thank you so much!!!

  28. Hello! I purchased this guide as a novice baker and am so thankful, it’s wonderful! One question: where do we get edible glaze spray and what brand do you recommend? I’d never heard of it before now. Thanks a bunch.

  29. Hi Shani. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching your article this afternoon. It was very informative, relaxing to watch and very inspiring! Fresh edible flowers look very pretty on foods and their use seems to be very popular. Thank you.

  30. Are pine greens safe for wedding cakes?

    • Yes. But you still need to clean and prepare them properly

      • I assume I still wrap the end so not pitch may leak on cake? I had purchased molds just in case I needed to make out of fondant/gumpaste mixture. Thank you!!!

  31. What an amazing article! Very informative and in detail. I have one question though, can we wrap the stem with cling film an alternative to stuck and seal wrap?

    Thanks for sharing your expertise with everyone.

  32. Saskia Schatt

    Thank you so much for the great post! I was wondering if there is any other option to disinfect the flowers?

  33. I decorated my daughters cake with fresh flowers. It was beautiful, but within 2 hrs, the flowers had started pulling down that side of the cake. Any suggestions for preventing this?

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