Add a Little Charm with Candied Flowers

What’s sweeter than candy and more thoughtful than flowers? Combine the two and you’ll get a delicate delicacy that stays perfect for months. Whether you’re looking to add a few candied violets to a plate of tea cookies, or you want to cover your entire wedding cake with sugared rose petals, candied flowers are relatively simple to make at home and add an undeniable charm to any dessert.

Perfectly Preserved

Candied flowers are about more than aesthetics. As beautiful as they may be, they’re also a practical way to keep flowers looking gorgeous year-round. When the candying process coats the flower petals with egg white, it seals the flowers away from the air. This stops the petals from browning and withering. The flowers are further protected by the sugar, which acts as a natural preservative. (That’s why sugar-rich jams and jellies last so much longer than fresh fruit alone.) 

Candied flowers can last up to a year if they’re properly stored. This means that you can pick and candy any blossoms you like, even if they’re not blooming on your wedding day.

Choosing the Right Flowers

You can candy any flower as long as it’s edible. Small, white-and-yellow chamomile flowers taste faintly like apples and make lovely garnishes next to a cup of chamomile tea. Yellow fennel flowers make dramatic, fireworks-shaped centerpieces and taste of sweet licorice. Versatile impatiens grow in nearly every color and add no taste of their own, making them the perfect accompaniment to any dish.

Other commonly-found, edible flowers include: jasmine, lilacs, violets, hibiscus, Johnny-Jump-Ups, marigolds, pansies, peonies, and roses (darker colored roses are generally more flavorful). As a general rule, edible plants produce edible flowers, but if you’re not certain, do your research first!

Many “salad plants” also produce flowers that taste faintly of the leaf’s flavor. Basil flowers are small, delicate, and light purple, adding a light, exotic note to desserts. Arugula produces fragile white flowers that add a peppery tone. Large, vibrant, orange-and-yellow nasturtium blossoms give a spicy-sweet taste reminiscent of watercress. If you have a kitchen herb garden, you can snip off the flowers as they grow.

Be sure that the flowers you choose have been grown organically–no one wants to eat pesticide. If you buy flowers from your local farmers’ market or grocery store, you can ask and be sure that they are safe to eat.

How to Candy Your Own Flowers

Once you’ve chosen your flowers, rinse them carefully and lay them on a plate to dry. Pick off the leaves and any blemished petals. You may choose to break up large bunches of flowers (such as lilacs) into individual blossoms for an easier time. Smaller, more delicate blooms generally look better than large floral clumps when candied and added to a cake or tea platter. 

The candying process is fairly simple in theory, but you’ll want to practice it a few times to perfect your technique. The key is in unhurried precision. It’s important to coat every bit of every blossom with egg white without bruising or folding the petals. If you find you don’t have the time to candy perfect flowers yourself, you can purchase candied flowers from many bakeries and specialty stores.

First, separate an egg. Put the egg white in a bowl with a few drops of water. Mix it thoroughly with a whisk or fork; it’s important to break up the albumen so that it covers each flower without clumping. 

Second, ready a plate of super-fine sugar. You can buy confectioners’ sugar at the grocery store, or you can blend regular sugar until it’s powdery and will cover the flowers with an even dust. You may want to blend the sugar with a drop or two of food coloring to match the hue of the petals you’ll be covering.

Third comes the most time-consuming step: coating the flowers with egg white and dusting them with sugar. A paintbrush works well (though not one that’s been used with paint!) to make sure you’ve gotten a thin layer of egg white into every nook and cranny. Dip the coated flowers into the powdered sugar, turning and sprinkling each one until it’s completely dusted on all sides. 

Lay the flowers on a dry, nonstick surface (wax paper or a wire drying rack works well) until they’re completely dry. This could take a week or two, so leave plenty of time. Your candied flowers will keep their color and flavor best if stored in a dark, dry, airtight container like a closed jar in a cupboard. Be gentle with the finished product, as candied flowers are fragile.

Decorating with Candied Flowers

Candied flowers make colorful additions to wedding cakes, cupcakes, tarts, and ice creams. They also add a sweet touch to table settings, when placed on a napkin ring or by a name card. If you candy a large number of flowers, they can cover a cake in lieu of decorative icing. Candied flowers also look beautiful around the edges of a dessert platter. Whether you choose to candy your own blossoms, or to save time and buy candied flowers already made, you’ll be sure to gather a bouquet of compliments as your guests notice the charming touch.