It's October, which means buttercream cakes are back, and with them fresh flowers. If you didn't see my post about why I don't offer buttercream cakes in the summer, you can find it here, but today I want to talk about some flowers that are commonly associated with weddings that really should not go on cake.
When you book with me, you'll be sent my T&Cs. These include a clause about flowers whereby:
Fresh flowers must be provided by you or a florist. Not all flowers and foliage are food safe and Cakes in Bloom does not take responsibility for any adverse effects caused by these including irritation, rashes, or poisoning. We recommend checking with us whether your flowers are food safe.
Does this feel a bit silly? It's just flowers after all.
So let's start by breaking it down.
1. Where to get flowers
Before we even start thinking about what types of flowers can go on your cake, it's important to think about where you're going to source those flowers. Supermarket flowers are often grown with pesticides, insecticides, and other chemicals which make them unsafe to be near food. Even by washing the outside, the stem and petals will hold on to these, and potentially leak into your cake.
Ideally, the flowers you choose for your cake should be organically grown, which vastly reduced the amounts of chemicals that go into the farming practices. Understandably though, most florists source their flowers from abroad, Holland being a primary source. It therefore isn't always possible to ask your wedding florist how the flowers were grown.
In every case, we always prepare our flowers by sealing them in either wax, chocolate, or tape, to minimise contact between them and the cake itself. So provided we have no control over where the flowers come from, the next best thing is to make sure that the flowers you are choosing are safe to eat.
As a little caveat, if you have chosen pressed flowers for your cake, we source pansies and violas directly from an independent and organic flower farm. This blog is mostly for large decorative blooms and foliage.
2. What flowers to choose
So you love your wedding florist, and have decided on fresh flowers for your cake. The next thing to check which varieties are safe to be on food. We are happy to check with your florist directly. Please bear in mind that florists are florists, and are incredibly talented at their jobs. Their job is not to know what will cause you to come up in a rash on your wedding day. That's our job!
There are some well-known poisonous flowers like hemlock, foxglove and lilies. But there are a lots of other common flowers that are toxic and best not eaten. And just because you've seen a beautiful arrangement of lilies on a cake on Pinterest, does not make them safe to eat. Most cakes on Pinterest are either polystyrene, or made for photoshoots and not for consumption.
So here are 3 flowers that I see on cakes all the time, that are not food safe.
Eucalyptus is gorgeous, romantic, and available almost year-round. It contains eucalyptol, also called cineole, an organic compound that is toxic in high doses, and as such eucalyptus leaves are not safe for humans to eat.
Now, nobody is suggesting that you're going around eating the eucalyptus in handfuls off of your wedding cake. In fact, eucalyptus tea and essential oils have been shown to help with everything from moisturising skincare to minimising cold & flu symtpoms. However, eucalyptus side effects can be dangerous, even in small amounts. It can be a potential irritant for those with sensitive skin, and can cause rashes or allergic reactions. And if you did decide to eat it by the handful, side effects of eucalyptus range from seizures to organ failure.
Which is the last thing you want on your wedding day!
We all love the fluffy romance of Baby's Breath, and it's often used a filler in bouquets and arrangements. I know you've seen those cloud-like arrangements on instagram. It's beautiful, romantic, and really lovely.
But it should not go on cake.
The leaves are edible, but the flowers can cause upset stomach, vomiting, and even rashes. Gypsophila contains saponins that when ingested cause minor gastrointestinal upset. As well as this, the sap from gyp can cause contact dermatitis. Another rash.
Is it going to kill you? No.
Would I still recommend keeping it far away from food? Yes.
They also smell... a bit vile. Sorry, I know I know. But it's true! Go have a sniff and then come back and tell me I'm wrong.
I promise I don't just have it out for everyone's wedding flowers.
Although rarely fatal, hydrangeas can be poisonous. All parts of the plant are poisonous because they contain cyanogenic glycoside. Some of the side effects include diarrhoea and vomiting.
This also applies to dried hydrangea (and eucalyptus, thinking about it), which contain concentrated forms of amygdalin (the cyanogenic glycoside which turns into cyanide if eaten). Commercially preserved hydrangeas sometimes contain other chemicals as well, making them even more toxic if consumed.
So what would I put on cake?
As always my recommendation is sugar flowers. However, if your heart is set on fresh flowers, some safe options are: Roses, Dahlias, Sunflowers, Orchids, and Peonies, but also lisianthus, stocks, and waxflower (which looks a bit like gyp).
For a very extensive list, Love from Lila has a wonderful blog post, and when in doubt always check with your cake maker.
I know this can seem like a lot of information, but I really just want to help ensure that your special day isn't spoilt by something as silly as some rogue gyp. I realise that most people only ever order a single wedding cake in their life, and it's my job as a professionally-trained chef to make sure you have all the information you need to make the design process easy and delicious.
Have more questions about your cake design? Get in touch here, and I hope to work with you soon.