How To Make Fresh Flowers Safe For Cakes

There’s something about working with fresh flowers in the cake decorating process that gets me so excited! The thrill always starts at the flower shop, because I really get to nerd out on different combinations of blooms. With a color palette in mind, I love to play around with different textures and varieties of flowers. But deciding on a good floral palette involves more than just what will look best – the flowers have to actually be safe for cakes.

using fresh flowers in cake decorating

In addition to making sure the blooms you’re purchasing for your cake are organic and haven’t been sprayed with pesticides, it’s important to know ahead of time which flowers to avoid. I’ve found that in some cases, the florist won’t even know! So before I teach you how to incorporate fresh florals into your cake designs, make them last, and keep them from leaking their stem juices into your precious cake, I wanted to share a list of flowers that are safe for your cakes (and in some cases, even completely edible!) and which ones to avoid completely:

Flowers That Are Safe: Pansies, Lavender, Violas, Violets, Roses, Marigold, Cornflower, Carnations, Chrysanthemums, Day Lily, Hibiscus, Peony, Chamomile, Freesia, Gerber Daisy, Lisianthus, Queen Anne’s Lace, Primrose, Sunflowers. Here’s a longer list (and what parts of each flower are actually edible!).

Flowers To Avoid: Lily Of The Valley, Daffodil, Poinsettia, Azaleas, Calla Lily, Hyacinth, Oleander, Wisteria, Rhododendron, Hydrangea, Mistletoe, Holly, Sweet Pea. Here’s the long list.

Now that you know which flowers work best for keeping your cake tasty and non-toxic, here’s my method for decorating cakes with fresh florals:

You Will Need:

  • Fresh florals (organic, pesticide-free, and from the safe list)
  • Floral scissors or pruning tool
  • A frosted cake
  • Floral tape
  • Scissors

Step 1: Wash And Trim The Flowers

Under a sink with cold water running, gently wash your flowers to make sure there aren’t any bugs or dirt lingering in the petals. Locate where you’d like to trim the stem (I usually keep it 2-3 inches long) and place it under the water. Snip the stem at an angle and keep the trimmed portion under the water for another few seconds. I consider that the flower’s final drink.

how to prepare fresh flowers cake decorating

Pat the flowers and stems dry with a paper towel carefully.

Step 2: Wrap The Stems

Cut a piece of floral tape that’s about 2-3 inches long. Wrap the tape around the stem, focusing on covering the majority of the stem and where it’s been pruned. The goal here is to create a barrier between the cake and the stem, especially the bottom of the stem, and prevent it from leaking flower secretion (ok yes that’s gross sounding but also a good band name!) into the cake layer.

how to make flowers food safe for cakes

Wrapping the stem in this way also keeps the flowers fresh for longer, because it helps hold the moisture and nourishment within the stem.

Step 3: Decorate The Cake

Now that you’ve created a good barrier between the cake and your floral stems, plus you’ve set your mind at ease by choosing flowers from the safe list, it’s time to arrange them on your cake – my favorite part! I usually take some time to loosely plan where to place the flowers (off the cake) before committing to an arrangement. Once you’re happy with a plan, stick the covered stems into the cake one by one. Simple as that!

which flowers can you use on cakes

For larger flower bouquets, a great trick for keeping those stems from contaminating your cake is to create a small (1-2 inch) fondant ball and stick your stems into that before placing the whole thing on top of your cake. I’ve definitely used that trick for fuller floral arrangements and it works like a charm. You’ll still need to wrap your stems with floral tape before sticking them into the fondant holder to keep the moisture contained.

how to arrange fresh flowers on a cake

And if you’re really wanting to keep those flowers fresh, you can always try using one of those plastic tubes you get from the florist. You can fill them with a little water and stick your flowers into it like a vase before submerging it into the cake. I’ve never tried that method, but I hear it works great.

Storage And Timing

Keep in mind that each flower will have a specific lifespan once you wrap the stem, so the best way to be sure how long it will remain fresh is to ask your florist beforehand. In my experience, I’ve had really good luck storing cakes with fresh florals in the refrigerator. Typically, fresh flowers will last around eight hours in the refrigerator and remain fresh for a few hours outside of the fridge environment. Even though I’ve had good luck with the fridge, I always like to prepare and place the flowers at the very last second possible (sometimes even on-site at the event) to ensure the freshest blooms. Because after all that prep work and stressing over a cake, the last thing you want to happen is wilting. 

Have you tried any of these methods before? Know any tips that aren’t on my list? I’d love to know your secrets for working with fresh florals too! Let me know in the comments.

35 Comments

  1. Pingback: Watercolor Ombrè Buttercream Tutorial - Sugar & Sparrow

  2. Shanon Rohan

    I recently got cupcakes with Daisy’s, they were very dry, could it have been the flowers?

    • Hi Shannon! If the cupcakes were dry, it was most likely the cupcake recipe that produced a dry cake. Using daisies as decoration will not affect the consistency of the cake.

      • Hi Whitney, what about dried Hydrangea flowers, can use as cake decor if i wrap the stemp.

        • Hi Leah! Since Hydrangea flowers are pretty high up on the toxicity list I wouldn’t recommend using them even if you wrap the stems. In the past I have opted for making gumpaste hydrangeas or buttercream piped hydrangeas in place of fresh flowers.

  3. Thank you for the list of safe and not safe flowers to use on cakes! I have been reluctant to use them because I really don’t want to poison people!!

  4. I planned on decorating with just baby’s breath but I read on the internet that it’s poisonous. I didn’t see it on your toxic list.

    Does anyone know if baby’s breath is truly poisonous?

    I think the cake will look gorgeous with these flowers!

    • Hi, Dawn! I wasn’t aware that baby’s breath was toxic, but after doing some research it sounds like it is mildly toxic. I would either try making a gumpaste version or figure out a different floral arrangement.

  5. Cara Matimong

    Thank you for such a wonderful article! Bakery has made my sons wedding cake and I have home grown lavender, pansies and cornflowers that I’m going to decorate the cake with as well as some white beading. I’m hoping it will look beautiful for the 10th July 2019! Fingers crossed. Brilliant article by the way. Thank you.

    • Would love to see a picture! How did it turn out? I am making my nieces cake for this weekend and plan on decorating with peonies. I hope the humidity that’s predicted doesn’t affect the frosting too much!

  6. Barbara Stephenson

    Alstoemeria are pictured here , but not mentioned in your list of plants that are safe for cake decoraration..Neither are they in your list of plants to avoid…
    I would love them for my wedding cake decoration, please ca n you advise me whether they would be safe.
    Your cke designs are beautiful!

    Many Thanks

    • Hi Barbara! So when I created this cake I asked the florist if the Alstoemeria were food safe because I couldn’t find much info on the internet about their toxicity. I was assured that they were safe for cakes, but after doing another round of research, it sounds like they do have a low grade toxicity. I’d say if you wrap the stems well and don’t use a ton of them I think you’ll be fine, but if you’re worried about it and only want to use 100% food grade flowers I would stick to the list of edible flowers.

    • Hi Louise! Floral tape protects the stems from leaking into the cake, and the tape itself is non-toxic, but I have yet to find a floral tape that is marked as food-safe. Wrapping fresh stems with floral tape is a common technique that has been used for decades in the cake world. If you want to make the technique more food safe, you can always insert a boba tea straw into the cake before placing the wrapped stems inside of it.

  7. Deb M Nevsimal

    How do you know if they are organic and pesticide free? dont most flower shops use pesticides?

    • Hi Deb! You just have to ask the shop. There are a lot of options for organic/pesticide-free florals in Portland, but the availability will depend based on where you live

  8. Thank you for your article, from your experience how long will fresh roses last on a 3 tiered cake.

    • Hi Maj! In my experience, fresh roses will last about 12 hours on a cake, sometimes longer if the environment is nice and cool (aka the fridge). They’re one of the longest lasting flowers for cakes!

  9. Patricia Cramer

    I would also recommend using clear plastic straws or ‘ flower picks’ cut at the ends, burnt with a flame and pinched together to seal. Place your wrapped flowers or posy stems into the plastic straws and it’s now even safer to put into the cake.

  10. I have been told that you can stand fresh blooms such as Gerberas and roses in a mix of water and glycerin to extend their freshness on a cake? Is this a good idea??

    • Hi Karen! I have also heard that before but have never tried it! It seems like a good idea, but I would try it on some fresh stems as part of a trial run before committing to the method. I just don’t know for sure how well it works.

  11. So happy to have come across your page. Thank you for sharing such awesome information. If I was to use the water vials to keep flowers from wilting , would I still need to wrap the stems in tape? Or are they fine to go straight into the water as the vial would protect the stem from touching the cake?

    • Hi Kasey! If you’re using water vials, there’s no need to wrap the stems. Just stick the stems into the vial and you’re good to go!

    • Hi Thomas! Eucalyptus is mildly toxic, so I can’t advise sticking it into the cake even with a wrapped stem. I have heard of cake decorators making eucalyptus from gumpaste or using faux eucalyptus though!

  12. wow. thank you for such a beautiful post. can i use cling wrap to cover the stems if i don’t have the tape?

    • Hi Connie! I have never heard of using cling wrap as a substitute for floral tape but after a quick Google search it seems to be a popular solution. I’d say give it a try!

  13. Thank you so much for your wonderful post. Very helpful indeed!! I have tape, scissors, etc…I’m at the ready! Wondering….have you seen this from Chelsweets? I thought it was clever. For the top of a cake, she takes a cake board, the same size as the cake below it, and covers it in buttercream. Uses a lot of buttercream, but she creates mounds of it and pops the cut flowers directly into the buttercream. The board can then be removed from the cake below, flowers and all, never touching the cake!! Neat!! I find you very inspirational. Thanks so much!!

    • Hi Paula! I haven’t seen that technique before but it’s genius!! Gonna have to give that a try next time I work with fresh flowers.

  14. Hey Witney, I have bluejay blueberry flowers at home. Are they toxic? I didn’t see them on your list of toxic plants, but their not on your list of edible flowers either.

    • Hi Shannon! Are Bluejay Blueberry flowers the little white flowers that appear before they turn into blueberries? If so, from a quick Google search it appears they are edible and safe to use. My list only really covers the most common flowers that can be used for cakes or should be avoided. If the flower you’re referring to is something different than what my Google results were, be sure to do some more in depth research before adding them to your cake.

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