Edible Flowers

Decorating cakes with flowers: Which flowers are edible?

Flowers have always been the mainstay of any garden or mantlepiece, and can liven up a space with ease. In recent years, flowers have also found a new home - on cakes.

Using edible flowers as a cake decoration is nothing new, but demand for them has increased recently as more people take up baking thanks to the COVID lockdowns and TV shows such as The Great British Bake Off. They are fantastic for adding colour and flavours to any cake, and are much cheaper and easier to source than alternatives like flowers created from fondant.

However, some flowers are dangerous and can cause serious harm when eaten. For this reason, it is important that anyone using edible flowers as a cake decoration understands which of them are safe to eat and which of them should be avoided.

In this article, we will look at some common flowers that can be safely used as cake decoration, and some others that should be avoided. This advice is useful for people who regularly bake at home, including those that run home baking businesses.

Decorating cakes: Which flowers can you eat?

There are a wide range of flowers that taste and look great on cakes, and can be eaten safely. The list of edible flowers include:

  • Alpine pinks (Dianthus)
  • Bergamot (Monarda didyma)
  • Daisy (Bellis perennis)
  • Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
  • Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
  • Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia)
  • Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
  • Rose (Rosa)
  • Scented geraniums (Pelagonium)
  • Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
  • Sweet violet (Viola odorata)

When using edible flowers, it is important to research and identify which parts of it are safe to eat, and whether it can be eaten raw. Often, the flower petals will be edible, but the base and stem of the plant will have a bitter taste or be indigestible.

It is also essential that flowers that have been treated with pesticides or other chemicals are avoided, as well as plants that look faded, old or discoloured. If there are any doubts about whether a plant is edible, it should be avoided.

Decorating cakes: Which herbs can you eat?

Alongside flowers, there are several herbs that work well on cakes, such as:

  • Borage (Borago offincinalis)
  • Clover (Trifolium pratense)
  • Mint (Mentha)
  • Rosemary (Salvia officinalis)

As with flowers, any herbs that do not look edible should be avoided. Care should also be taken when using herbs on a cake because they can wilt and look unappealing very quickly.

Decorating cakes: Which flowers are dangerous?

Several common flowers are not safe to eat and can cause harm to people. This is often because they cannot be digested correctly, or because they contain toxins that can cause illness.

Some common toxic flowers and poisonous plants include:

  • Daffodil (Narcissus)
  • Poppy (Papaver)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis)
  • Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)
  • Oleander (Nerium oleander)
  • Hydrangea
  • Clematis
  • Rhododendron
  • Larkspur (Delphinium)
  • Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)

Be aware that this list is not exhaustive, and that additional research must be done before an unknown flower is used as a cake decoration. If a flower is dangerous to humans, it must not be used for any purpose, including as a decoration that is removed before consumption, because even small amounts of some plants can cause serious harm.

This article is not designed to discourage a person from eating flowers or using them on a cake. It is simply highlighting the importance of confirming that any flowers used as a cake decoration are safe to eat. Failing to do so can cause harm to consumers and serious damage to a business's reputation, especially a small home baking business.

For more information on how to produce safe food and protect customers from harm, consider taking one of our Level 2 Food Safety courses shown below:


Further Reading