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Sugaring Flowers

If you’re insane enough to make your own wedding cake, you might also be crazy enough to candy fresh flowers. It’s actually quite simple—brush petals with egg whites, sprinkle with granulated sugar—but like with most things things, especially in the kitchen, the devil’s in the details.

You can stop at a dozen blossoms rather than a few hundred. Once finished, they keep perfectly for days, even weeks, layered between paper in an airtight container.

Arranged on top of cupcakes, custard tarts or wedding cake tiers, the sparkling sugared flowers are gorgeous and delicious.

Some important points to keep in mind:

  1. Purchase edible flowers from produce vendors or organic florists to avoid pesticides. (Here are some photos of edible flowers.)

  2. Thin petals and delicate blossoms work best. Thick, fleshy buds may not dry well.
  3. The calyx of some flowers may taste bitter, but it’s important for keeping the petals together and adds green color.

  4. Select only the freshest blossoms free of all bruises, mold or creases.
    Separate your eggs carefully to prevent any yolk from contaminating the whites. (Cold eggs straight from the fridge separate more cleanly than room temp eggs.) Or use egg white-only products that you can find near the eggs in your supermarket or in  baking supply stores.

  5. Let the sugared flowers dry completely. Depending on the climate where you live, this might mean a few hours or up to two days. Once dry, they should be stored in an airtight container.

Whip the egg whites until foamy.  Using fine, soft brushes, like the ones that come with watercolor sets, paint the petals with the thinnest possible coating of egg white.  Draping the flowers over your fingers assures adequate support for the petals, which become even more delicate when wet.

Using a fine-mesh tea strainer, sprinkle each flower with an even layer of granulated sugar.  Working over a wide, shallow bowl lets you catch and reuse excess sugar. Be sure to sift out dried blobs of egg white, though, so as not to mar your finished flowers.

For shaping some of the flowers into a realistic, three-dimensional shape, invert them onto toothpicks or cut drinking straws to let the petals fall away from the stem and calyx. Once dry, they can be turned upright into perfect formed blossom. Raw rice holds the toothpicks in place.

Flat flowers will be easier to press into the sides of frosted cake tiers. For these, use a nonstick rack for drying. Once they are completely dry, transfer them to an airtight container. Arrange them in single layers between paper towels or parchment. Sprinkle lightly with additional sugar and store in a dark, cool place.

October 2003