FLOWERS & WEDDING CAKES
Real flowers on wedding cakes is a trend that has become hugely popular in recent years particularly with growing concerns about sustainability and the shift towards eco weddings. I absolutely love the smell of fresh buttercream and fragrant flowers, those scents together can stop you in your tracks. There are many issues surrounding having real flowers on a cake, however. So if you are considering a fresh flower wedding cake I recomend having a good read of this page as well as heading over to our blog to read our edible flowers through the season's guide. We're just going to talk about other options as an alternative to real flowers so if you're not interested in those just skip to the next section below!
What are the other options?
When it comes to decorating a wedding cake there are several other options when it comes to flowers. The more traditional options are piped royal icing flowers and the more realistic sugar flowers. Since royal icing isn't very common these days I'll skip to fondant and sugar flowers. Handmade sugar flowers can be very simple or beautifully realistic and detailed depending on your budget and the style of your cake, many flowers, such as roses take time and patience to make, with each petal being individually made, veined and tinted. they really are a labour of love. Trust us we used to make them. If you're having a fondant wedding cake then they are a great option as you can have whatever you desire really, no matter the time of year. You can create a similar effect with wafer paper flowers. I personally prefer these, as they are a lot less brittle and when they are done well they look very realistic.
Handmade flowers can be expensive, as it takes quite a bit of time and skill to make a realistic flower as I'm sure you can imagine. Artificial flowers are a good alternative if you're on a budget or if you want a flower that is difficult to get hold of at a certain time of the year.
Now on to our specialities. Firstly, piped flowers. Piped buttercream flowers have had a bit of a reinvention over the past few years, as new styles have emerged, particularly out of parts of Asia. Thinner nozzles and new buttercream styles have allowed designers to create more intricate flower designs. We love working with piped flowers, from whole flower cascades to simple single piped petals on the side of a cake. Piped flowers work incredibly well when coupled with painted buttercream techniques to create beautiful impasto designs that are truly unique.
Now onto what this page is really all about, real flowers. Real
flowers and wedding cakes require a little bit more compromise
than the other options. Not all flowers are safe to go on a cake
sadly, and not all cake designers and florists know enough
about what is safe to use on your cake. So it's important that
you discuss this subject thoroughly with your cake designer to
make sure they do. Let's talk about the main issues around real
As I'm sure you are aware a good number of flowers are deadly
(or they will make you pretty ill at least) when even a small
amount of them is ingested and can cause a range of
symptoms from vomiting to blistering skin around the mouth
etc or worse if ingested. Flowers such as these are a big no-no
when it comes to well any food really. There is no way to make
them safe to go on a cake. Using flower picks, dipping the
stems in food-safe wax or pushing them into OASIS and placing
this on the cake does mean that the flowers themselves do not
go inside your cake, but the flowers themselves are still
touching the outside of your cake. Pollen, sap or the small hairs
of the plant will end up on your cake if nothing else and this
can leech into your cake. The other worry is if someone ingests
a larger part of one of the flowers, you could end up with some
very ill guests on your big day. Some examples of toxic flowers
are lilies (except daylilies, which isn't a lily really), hydrangea, lily
of the valley, irises, sweet peas, foxgloves, gypsophila,
hyacinths, daffodils, ivy the list goes on. One of the most
popular foliage options that I see on wedding cakes is
eucalyptus, however, unless your guests are all koalas, which
I'm guessing they are not, eucalyptus isn't a safe option as it
contains cyanide, you definitely don't want any of the kiddies popping that in their mouths. You can find more information on the RHS website, it's not a comprehensive list of toxic flowers but it's a good start. I'm afraid that Pinterest and Instagram just isn't really your friend when it comes to looking at wedding cake inspiration with real flowers as there are a lot of images out there that have unsafe flowers on them. It's a growing problem in the wedding cake industry.
Herbicides and Pesticides
One of the biggest issues with flowers grown for the floristry industry is chemical contamination. Flowers are one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and the laws and regulations surrounding what can be used on them are very different from those for food crops, coupled with the fact that the vast majority of flowers are imported from outside of the UK where these regulations may be even laxer, then you have yourself a problem when trying to use them in conjunction with food. This means that any flowers from the supermarket or from a local florist are not safe to go on your cake at all. Like toxic flowers, you cannot make these safe. Even varieties that could be considered edible if grown under the correct conditions are not safe if you purchase them from any of these places.
Food Hygiene & Environmental Health
The third and final major issue is hygiene. Floristry flowers are stored in vases and buckets with water which harbours bacteria, the last thing you want then is for these stems sealed or otherwise, poping inside your cake. The UK environmental health advises against garnishing your wedding cake with anything that is not an approved food product unless you can ensure that it is free from microbial, chemical or physical contamination. There are some great suppliers of food-safe alternatives in the UK, grown by flower growers who produce flowers exclusively for the food industry such as Maddocks Farm and Greens of Devon.
When thinking about real flowers for your wedding cake you have to remember your wedding cake designer is not a horticulturist, therefore you can't expect them to know exactly what is safe to go on your cake, likewise, your florist is not a chef or a baker and therefor is not food hygiene trained, and will not know proper hygiene procedures for any foods, they will not be registered your local council and the environmental health. This creates a huge problem in the wedding cake industry, as in most cases neither party is the best fit to decorate a cake with real flowers. However, if you do have your heart set on real flowers we recommend going through your wedding cake designer. They can source flowers from an edible source and will know how to store and handle them. There are luckily wedding cake designers such as us, who do specialise in edible flower cake design throughout the UK. If you decide not to go with us or if you are just getting married outside of Cornwall, talk to one of these edible flower wedding cake specialists. They really are the experts!!!
Here we are at last, what you've all been waiting for me to talk about - Seasonal Edible Flowers. Here at Red Robin Pantry we really are wedding cake florists. We grow some edible flowers in our garden for our wedding cakes, but we also collaborate with Lindsay from Cornish Country Garden Flowers, based just up the road in Bissoe, who grows edible flowers, without the use of pesticides or chemicals, for us in her garden, you can't get any more sustainable than that! Debbie (owner of Red Robin Pantry) spent much of her life torn between her life as a chef and baker and being an ecologist (that's animal and plant biology for those that don't know). A masters degree in conservation and biodiversity, as well as an ecology bachelors degree, means we really do know plants. This makes us well placed to advise you on anything to do with wedding cakes and real flowers. This really is our speciality.
There really is such a huge variety of edible flowers that are available or can be grown for your wedding cake. The only main drawback is that when dealing with edible and food-safe flowers you may need to compromise a little. Edible flowers are firstly seasonal. So if you are getting married in December, dried are your best option, in April don't expect roses and so on. We've got a great post on our blog on edible flowers through the seasons that is a great place to start if you want to work out what you can have and when.
Your wedding cake flowers will not match exactly those that you choose with your florist unless you go to your florist and request edible varieties that your cake designer can match. You can, however, choose flowers that will complement those that you have chosen with your florist, either in style or colour scheme. We're firm believers that seasonal and sustainable flowers that are grown locally are far better anyway. After all eco weddings are the future.
Don't let any of this put you off when choosing real edible flowers for your wedding cake. Edible varieties of flowers are far superior to other blooms, for a start the quality of edible flowers is often associated with smell. Edible flowers often just smell better, that coupled with the smell of a fresh Italian meringue buttercream is just out of this world. One of my favourite moments when setting up an edible flower wedding cake is when staff from the venue start chatting to me about what I'm doing. When I say that all of the flowers are edible, their jaws just drop. People are just so amazed by this, which makes a great conversation point. I promise you, your guests will love your edible flower showstopper.
If you want more information particularly about decoration styles for real flowers and wedding cakes head to our design and decoration page.
If you are getting married in the autumn and winter months then dried flowers make a great option. Some flowers are really easy to get hold of, for example, flowers are often dried for teas, so these make a great option for smaller cakes or if you just want a few small blooms for detail.
If you want larger blooms to make a statement or to cover a larger area of your cake then your cake designer will have to dry them for you. Unlike dried flower florists such as Cornish Flower Crowns, who we wholeheartedly recommend if you choose to have dried flowers for your wedding alongside a dried flower wedding cake from us, we can't dry our flowers
slowly by hanging them, we have to dry them quickly to comply with food safety laws set by environmental health. They are going on food after all, and we have to be very careful about bacterial growth on our dried flowers. All flowers are dried using a dehydrator and then stored in the correct environment until needed. Some flowers do dry better than others, roses work wonderfully, but do end up closed up rather than open, other flowers such as lisianthus don't work so well they tend to shrivel up. We can advise you on which flowers work well, and if you are planning a dried flower wedding, the flowers that don't work for us wouldn't work for your florist anyway.
We are passionate about the edible flower revolution in wedding cakes. I do hope that you feel a little more informed now. If you have more questions feel free to contact us and we'll be happy to chat with you. If you do choose to have real flowers on your cake and you choose to go with us, then great, whoop. If not please make sure your cake designer understands the importance of sourcing these flowers from a varified edible source.
We're working on our blog and will be adding more posts about edible flowers, particularly now that we are at the start of creating our brand new edible flower garden following our move earlier this year, so we'll be posting about our progress and the varieties that we are including, I've got to tell you I'm pretty excited.