Don’t you just love when you can achieve the fanciest of finishes to a dessert, using the simplest of techniques?
Candied flowers and leaves are one of these. They provide a huge “wow” factor to cakes, cookies, and more with just a few steps.
Spring and summer are my favorite times of year to whip them up. Flowers are in bloom and everywhere are celebrations, like bridal luncheons and baby showers, that cry out for floral themes.
Before I take you step-by-step through the process, here are two things you need to know:
- Only choose flowers and leaves that are non-toxic, and safe to consume. There are literally dozens to choose from but here are a few favorites (and those most easily sourced): lavender, nasturtium, pansy, violet, lilac, rose, calendula, mint, and sage. You can also use the flowers of some herbs and vegetables, such as thyme, squash, chives, basil, and cilantro.
- Never use flowers that have been grown with the use of pesticides or chemicals (either in the soil, or applied to the plant directly). Of course the best way to ensure this is to grow the plant yourself. If that’s not possible, seek growers and nurseries that know how their plants are cultivated and tended. You can also find many safe options in stores such as Whole Foods and Mrs. Green’s.
Now let’s get to the fun part!
Here’s what you’ll need:
flowers (leave a bit of the stem on and make sure the blooms are dry and unblemished)
superfine sugar (I run mine through the food processor for a minute to eliminate tiny clumps)
egg white mixture (1 egg white mixed with 1 teaspoon water OR 2 teaspoons powdered egg white mixed with 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon warm water)
supplies: paintbrush (you can use a finger too!), tweezers, small scissors
1. Working with one flower at a time, place the bloom face down on your work surface. Lightly brush egg white mixture over entire flower.
2. Holding the flower over a bowl, spoon sugar all over, shaking off the excess.
3. Now do the same to the other side. Turn flower so it’s face up (I placed the stem between my fingers). Brush with egg, and then sprinkle with sugar.
4. Place, face up, on the wire rack, and let dry for several hours or overnight.
5. Snip off the stems and use your flowers immediately. They can also be stored, airtight at room temperature, for many months.
So how do you use your beautiful candied flowers?
One of the prettiest ways is atop some simply iced cupcakes (try these you-won’t-believe-they’re-vegan cupcakes). They look lovely on frosted cakes, candies (like caramels), truffles, petit fours, sugar cookies, and even frozen in ice rings or cubes.
Homemade shortbread cookies also go nicely with the flowers. After baking, brush cookies with a little of the egg white mixture. Gently press in a flower and brush the top with additional egg white, flattening it down as you brush. Lightly sprinkle with sugar and bake for 5 minutes at 325 F. The low temperature prevents overcooking the cookies and protects the flowers.
Enjoy your beauties!