This may be rather personal but I'm going to say it anyway. Here it goes...I've never used a garnish. There I said it. I plop food on a plate and then I eat it. At the very most, I may have cut my grilled cheese sandwich into triangles and leaned them against each other like a tent. Edible flowers for cakes take garnish to the next level.
Fancy and not-so-fancy cooks are using fresh flowers found at the grocery store or farmer's market when making everything from sweet to savory dishes. Most commonly used in decorating cakes, especially wedding cakes, edible flowers should still be used cautiously.
If you're the DIY type and go gathering flowers in the wild, make sure you are 100% positive about what you've picked before eating. Avoid wildflowers that may have been treated with a pesticide. Usually, only the petals are safe to eat. Wash the petals well and dry gently with paper towels. Make sure you remove the calyx, pistil, and stamen. Remember learning about the parts of a flower in school?
Edible flowers add a variety of colors, textures, and flavors when used for pastry and wedding cake decorating, main courses or appetizer presentation. Mixologists are using these gourmet sweet botanicals as a cocktail garnish or frozen in ice cubes!
Why use edible flowers?
Not only are they simply pretty, but edible flowers also create excitement. They can turn an ordinary cheese platter into Food Network coolness. They each have a unique flavor and edible flowers can have a medicinal impact on the lucky ingester. For example, antioxidant-rich hibiscus flowers make a delicious tea and calendula flower petals help digestion.
Where can I buy edible flowers?
You can find edible flowers in most grocery stores. You can also take a look at your local farmer's market or your local florist. An Amazon search online will give you options to have them delivered to your door without any foraging needed.
Here are just some of the edible flowers to try as your next cupcake or cake decoration. (Stick an orchid behind your ear as a snack for later)
Calendula has a tangy citrus flavor and works well with rich buttercream icing
Bright Nasturtium flowers are peppery making them perfect in salad or alongside a mild fish dish.
Borage aka starflowers have a cucumber taste in addition to their periwinkle blue color. Perfect to place alongside poached salmon or garnish a vodka martini.
Rose petals taste just like you'd expect-strong and perfumey. A few rose petals on a flourless chocolate cake is amazing.
Cornflowers have a sweet clove like taste. Colorful and rustic, I could see these on a barn setting wedding cake.
Violas are fresh and floral making them a natural garnish for iced tea, gin drinks, and any dessert
Pansies have a mild salt and pepper flavor and one of the most popular edible flowers used.
Chrysanthemums have a grassy flavor and can make a delicious tea with anti-viral properties.
Peonies, when cooked, give a sweetness to creamy desserts or teas.
Lilacs are mildly sweet with a beautiful perfume. Try them in a sweet cheese frosting for vanilla cupcakes
Fennel flowers have that distinctive licorice flavor. Use with yogurt based dips or with almond cake.
Marigold flowers and leaves have a peppery taste along with anti-inflammatory properties.