Should you use fresh flowers on a cake?

Should you use fresh flowers on a cake?

With the recent trend for rustic “naked” cakes and the announcement of the royal wedding cake, the use of fresh flowers on wedding cakes has become increasingly prevalent and is likely to continue.  It is undoubtedly the cheaper option, as sugar flowers are very time-consuming to create and can therefore be more expensive.  So why do I refuse to use fresh flowers on wedding cakes?  As a responsible food producer, food safety is obviously one of my primary concerns and the use of fresh flowers has significant food safety implications which should not be considered lightly.  If you are thinking of applying your own fresh flowers, please consider the following.

 

Some fresh flowers are poisonous!

Many popular wedding flowers e.g. lily of the valley, tulips, and certain types of chrysanthemum and lily feature on a list of “potentially harmful” plants as produced by the Royal Horticultural Society and may pose a hazard when touched or ingested.  Some plants look remarkably alike and, to the untrained eye, it would be very easy to get these plants mistaken.  After all, it is very unlikely that your cake maker is a trained horticulturalist (I know my roses and peonies but may struggle with Euphorbia which is highly toxic!).  There is also a lot of contradictory information over whether particular flowers are indeed poisonous e.g. gypsophila.  If in doubt, do not use!!!

 

Use of pesticides

With commercially-grown decorative flowers, to obtain the most perfect blooms the plant is often subjected to the use of various insecticides and fungicides etc.  The use of such pesticides is closely regulated within the EU but more exotic flowers may have been imported from further afield, where pesticide use is less rigorously regulated.  There is therefore the risk that such pesticides may come into contact with the cake, either via the petals or via a cut stem in the form of sap.

 

How fresh flowers are stored

Although florists are scrupulous in cleaning their buckets (often with bleach), their cut blooms will still be stored in water.  Standing water can be a significant breeding ground for bacteria and this, along with allergens, is the primary reason for the banning of flowers on hospital wards in recent years.   You’ll agree that water-borne bacteria is not welcome anywhere near a cake.

Another problem with fresh flowers is that when cut, the blooms will have a limited shelf-life.  Unlike sugar flowers that will look good forever provided they are stored correctly (out of prolonged direct sunlight and away from moisture sources), fresh flowers will wilt, some more quickly than others.

 

Poor application and practice

As cake makers, food safety should be our primary concern and the use of materials and/or substances on food which could be injurious to health is in direct contravention of Food Safety Law (The General Food Law Regulation 178/2002).  Every precaution should be made to avoid food contact when applying such items and therefore appropriate equipment such as food-safe posy picks and other barriers should be used.   Under no circumstances should bare flower stems be placed directly into cake.

 

But is there another way …….?

All is not lost.  If you are absolutely adamant that you wish to have fresh flowers on your cake, there are companies who specialise in producing organic, pesticide-free flowers which are safe for human consumption (Maddocks Farm Organics and Greens of Devon are just two such companies).

Another alternative is to use silk flowers.  Gone are the days when artificial flowers looked, well, artificial!  There are now some fabulous examples and it is often difficult to tell them apart from the real thing.  Precautions on application should obviously still be taken as they are not food-safe i.e. use of posy picks, Safety Seal etc, but you can rest a lot easier.

So now you know why I choose not to use fresh flowers.  Lots of other wonderful people do and as long as they are adhering to food-safe best practice, that is their perogative.   From my own standpoint, I just prefer to avoid any undue risk when there are such wonderful alternatives.  I am not being a obstinate cow, I just don’t want to make anyone poorly!!!!

If you would like more information or just to have a chat, you are very welcome to contact me on info@debbiegillespiecakedesign.co.uk.  You can also find out more about me and how the business started by checking out this blog

 

Sugar bouquet cake - when sugar flowers look this good, who needs fresh!!