Making crystallized flowers is easier than you may think. Read on to find out how to make those stunning edible garnishes.
Many of you have probably eaten edible flowers without even realizing it. There are many edible flowers that can be included in your cooking or used to garnish or decorate. The most popular would probably be globe artichokes, which are an edible flower bud in the thistle family. Or zucchini (courgette) flowers. Other edible buds include cloves, the spice used to scent desserts and curries, and rosella, an Australian native hibiscus commonly seen in syrups which can be added to a glass of Champagne to turn the bubbles into an even greater celebration. For salads, try popping in some nasturtium flowers or English marigold (Calendula officinalis), which should not be confused with French marigold (Tagetes patula) which is poisonous. Chive flowers also make a pretty addition. For cakes and sweets such as this, borage flowers, violets, roses, pineapple sage, rosemary, lavender, and dianthus are all suitable for decorating and even flavoring. [Editor’s Note: Can’t you just imagine these little lovelies strewn across a coconut layer cake?!]–Meredith Kirton and Mandy Sinclair
Can I make crystallized flowers ahead of time?
Fresh flowers are best eaten or crystallized immediately after being picked from your garden or taken home from the farmers market. Although you can store the flowers in a single layer in an airtight container for up to several months if kept in a cool, dry location.
- A small, clean, new paintbrush
- 1 large egg white
- 1/4 teaspoon cold water
- Edible flowers (such as borage flowers, chive flowers, violets [not African violets], roses, pineapple sage, nasturtiums, rosemary, lavender, and dianthus)
- Superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery) for dusting
- Line a wire rack with parchment paper.
- In a bowl, whisk together the egg white and water until just foamy. Holding a flower by the stem or stem end in one hand and the new, small, clean paintbrush in the other hand, gently brush the flower all over with the egg white mixture. (Be certain to lightly coat each speck of each flower or the uncoated part of the bloom will wilt and wither and turn brown.)
- Carefully sprinkle the sugar evenly over both sides of the flower. Place on the paper-lined rack and repeat with the remaining flowers.
- Set the flowers aside at cool, dry room temperature for 12 to 36 hours, or until dried. Strew the crystallized flowers over cakes and other desserts and get ready for some oohs and aahs. (You can store the flowers in a single layer in an airtight container for up to several months if kept in a cool, dry climate.)
Candied raisins variationOne of our recipe testers discovered something brilliant when she had a little egg white mixture left over after painting flowers. Loath to waste food, she decided to try to recreate the beloved sugared raisins found in Kellogg’s Raisin Bran following the instructions above exactly but using raisins in place of flowers. It worked spectacularly well.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I think there are two kinds of cooks—the sort who will make candied flowers and then use them to decorate beautiful cakes, and the type who won’t. I’m firmly in the second camp. I’ve never shied away from involved preparations, but I’m just not the kind of person with the patience to carefully paint egg white on a flower petal.
That said, this recipe works perfectly, and it really does preserve the flowers for some time.
I used nasturtium leaves, and I’ll admit I only did a few because this is not my thing. There simply is no quick way to brush egg on a flower. But I painted, dried, and stored them, and I’ve been checking on them over the past 2 weeks, and they are holding up beautifully. This is a great thing to do if you buy more edible flowers than you need or if you want to preserve some flowers from your garden for holiday baking in the winter. They are beautiful and taste a lot better than the sugary decorations you might buy at a store. If you’re a calm, patient sort of person and want the prettiest cakes and cupcakes imaginable, this recipe is for you.
My husband’s birthday was coming up and he’d requested the Tres Leches (“Three Milks Cake”) on this site. The cake tastes amazing, but isn’t anything special to look at, so I was so excited when these flowers came out great. They made a very white dessert lovely and colorful.
I decided to make the flowers before we left on vacation, so they would be ready when we returned. The process took a lot more time than I expected. I do have a bit of a perfectionist personality and was trying to do a really nice job, but 30 minutes into the process I had completely only 5 flowers. I decided to move much more quickly on the rest of the flowers and not worry about getting every little area covered with egg white. This turned out to be a huge mistake. The flowers were dry the next day, but when we returned at the end of the week, the areas that weren’t coated and crystallized had turned brown but the ones that I took the time to make sure I evenly coated with egg white were still perfect. So make sure you coat and sugar the blossoms everywhere.
I doubled the egg white mixture because I wasn’t sure how many flowers I could make, and even after brushing 24 flowers, I had a lot left. I thought about throwing it away but decided to try to recreate something I love—the raisins in Raisin Bran cereal. I coated a handful of raisins with the egg white mixture—not painting them but instead just tossing them in the egg white. I let them drain a little in a mesh strainer and then tossed them with some superfine sugar mixed with a little cinnamon. When they dried, they were amazing. I will definitely make both the crystallized flowers and the raisins again.
Originally published March 28, 2015