Just because they are pretty does not mean they are safe

Elias Kordelakos Photography

Everyone loves a beautifully decorated cake, whether it is completely covered in a thick and creamy frosting or sporting one of the trendy, barely covered, naked looks. What makes any cake even more eye-catching is the addition of fresh flowers as garnishment. Before adding flowers to the top of your cake, make sure they are edible and safe for your guests.

Florist shops and downtown flower carts are spilling over with vibrantly colored and beautiful flowers, but not all of them are safe to use on cakes. Some flowers are naturally toxic for consumption, while others are harmful because of pesticide use. Hydrangeas, for example, will soon be in full bloom in gardens down South, but these beloved flowers and many others are actually toxic if ingested. Even if you don't eat the actual flower, contact between the flower and the frosting could prove dangerous. Flowers that are edible (if grown in a pesticide-free environment) include nasturtiums, hibiscus, violets, roses, gardenia, pansies, violets, dandelions, as well as many other favorites. Don't forget that sprigs of herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and chamomile, while completely safe to eat, are also stunning as dessert garnishes.

After you determine which flowers are edible, do your research and learn how they were grown. If the flowers come from your own organic garden and you are sure they did not come in contact with any pesticides, you should feel safe. The farmers' market or a local florist are good sources for edible flowers, but talk with the grower or shop owner and make sure you are purchasing safe flowers. Don't be afraid to ask if the farmer used pesticides or other chemicals – your health depends on it.

Once you have your flowers, wash and dry them before using to get rid of dirt and tiny bugs that might be lingering inside the petals. It is best to let the flowers air dry, as you don't want to bruise the petals when blotting any water droplets with a paper towel. Cut the stems to the appropriate length you want, strip off any unwanted leaves, and remove any thorns the flowers may have. For added safety, use a product such as Ingenious Edibles Safety Seal to make sure sap from the stem does not touch the cake.

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Keep the cake as cool as possible after arranging the flowers; if you put it in the refrigerator, be sure to cover it so the cake doesn't dry out. Remove the flowers when serving the cake and be sure and tell your guests that the flowers are edible, in case they get a petal or two with their slice.