Ruby Harte (a.k.a Mags Riordan) has been a professional florist for over 12 years. Ruby runs a family owned nursery, Bumble Bee Farm in Castledonovan, Drimoleague and is deeply concerned about the protection and cultivation of nature and its habitats.
With the provenance of our food becoming a real issue I’m being asked more and more about using flowers on cakes especially wedding cakes. So with that in mind, I’m going to share a few tips with you this month with regard to choosing suitable flowers, including a few precautions, substitutions for popular flowers and a list of toxic ones to definitely avoid.
‘What is safe and what isn’t’ – the Internet is a wonderful resource but it also contains a myriad of misinformation and images of toxic flowers adorning cakes.
Peonies, for instance, I think we would all agree are one of the most beautiful flowers, but not for cakes. The only peony that is edible is the tree peony and even at that it has a very low edible rating, but there are many stunning ‘peony style edible roses’ which have a much longer flowering season and are a safe option provided they are grown using organic principles.
The style of cake could reflect your choice of flowers. For instance, if you are having a rustic naked cake, which are a type becoming increasingly popular, then earthy flowers like calendula, cornflower, viola, dianthus and some dahlia varieties work. Decorate either using the whole flowers and/or as petal confetti scattered over the cake. A very elegant cake cries out for romantic roses, sophisticated dahlias and freesias and a vintage style cake lends itself to roses, the frothiness of alchemilla, stock and phlox.
Unfortunately no commercially-grown flower from a high-street florist is suitable, these all contain chemicals and preservatives prohibited in food production. It is a different industry producing a product for visual use only. If you are using these flowers, then you can take some precautions by insuring there is no direct contact with the cake, which will help prevent any of the toxins leaching into the cake.
My advice is to source your flowers from a certified, registered food producer. Then you can be assured they are compliant with all the necessary regulations and that your flowers are indeed a safe food product.
Here is a list of some beautiful flowers that we grow here at Bumblebee Flower Farm which are suitable for wedding cakes: Roses, Phlox Paniculate, Alchemilla Mollis, Malva, Dianthus, Feverfew, Gypsophlia, Camelia Japonica, Dahlia, Mattiola, Amaranthus, Gladioli, Tulip and Antirrhinum.
Those suitable for crystallising are Viola, Primrose, some Dianthus, rose petals, and individual flowers of Phlox.
Rustic flowers include Calendula, Cornflowers, Nasturtiums, Marigold, and Zinnias
Herbs are also beautiful used fresh dried or crystallised.
Some flowers that should be avoided and not put anywhere near food, no matter how they have been grown, include Aconite (monkshood) Delphinium Larkspur and Ranunculus – these are all in the same family ranunculaceae – all Euphorbia’s including Poinsettia, Azalea’s and Rhododendron, Anthurium, Foxglove, Lily of the Valley and Calla Lily.
You are spending a lot of money on your wedding cake so make sure you finish it off with high quality produce that is certified safe.
Whatever you choose we hope you have a wonderful day filled with treasured memories.
Above: Cake by Aly’s Adventures in Bakerland, Bray, Co. Wicklow