Spring Sweets: How to Candy Flowers

| April/May 1998

  • Exquisite crystallized flowers aren’t too pretty to eat. Here they add sweet appeal to bakery treats.
  • Paint the petals ...
  • ... shake on the sugar ...
  • .. dry them, store them, use them!

What goes better with a cup of tea than a tiny frosted cake topped with candied violets and mint leaves? The perky flower faces with their sugared whiskers are bound to put a smile on the day. I await the blooming of the first violets of the season not only for their color and fragrance, but also as a signal that I can start replenishing my stock of the candied flowers I enjoy all year.

Preserving flowers and leaves with sugar requires some patience and time, but it is quite simple to do. Nearly everything you need is probably in your house. I use powdered egg white that I purchase at a cake-decorating shop; not only is it convenient and easy to use, it carries no risk of salmonella poisoning. I buy extra-fine granulated sugar there as well.

Any flowers and leaves you use must be edible and free from pesticides or other harmful substances. Choose blooms that are newly opened, free of dew, and clean, but wait to cut them until you are ready to preserve them so they will be fresh and firm. Limp or wilted blossoms will turn into sodden, sticky lumps. Remove any stamens as the pollen on them may cause allergic reactions.

My favorite flowers for crystallizing include violas, pansies, miniature roses, bachelor’s-buttons, fuchsia hybrids, ca­lendula, lavender and lilacs. I use both the leaves and flowers of scented pelargoniums. Mint and lemon balm leaves both contribute a pleasing, sprightly taste and hold their color well.

Use candied flowers or leaves as you would sugar sprinkles to make a simple dish of ice cream or a brownie special. Dress up fruit cups, tarts and pies. A cascade of crystallized blossoms swirling down a wedding or birthday cake is a sight not soon forgotten.

How to Candy Flowers

The delicate beauty and color of flowers can be preserved for months if the flowers are properly crystallized and stored.

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