Here at King Arthur, we’re all about flours. Today, we’re going to be talking about the other kind of flowers: those gorgeous, colorful little rays of sunshine that pop out of the ground each spring. While flowers might already have a place in your garden, they deserve a place in your kitchen too. I love using edible flowers for cakes and other baking applications, whether as decoration, flavoring, or both. 

There are a few things to know before you start snipping flowers and throwing them into recipes. They’re delicate and require some special treatment, and it takes a bit of research to make sure you’re choosing the right ones. We're here to show you the way!

A chocolate cake decorated with edible flowers and berries
Classic Birthday Cake decorated with strawberries and daisies. (Photo by Tao Ameden)

Edible flowers: What to know

When it comes to flowering plants, there are hundreds of thousands of varieties, and surprisingly, most are edible! However, those that aren't edible really aren't edible. There are some options outlined below, but it's important to reference a guidebook, florist, or another professional resource if you're unsure of a flower's identity and you'd like to use it as an ingredient.

Bottom line: When in doubt, purchase flowers that are clearly identified as edible rather than looking for flowers in the wild.

OK, onto the fun stuff!

An edible pink rose with orange highlights
Most organically grown roses (petals, leaves, and hips) are edible!

Types of edible flowers

To get the inside scoop on edible flowers, I turned to a kitchen genius and local resource: Laura Braasch, manager of the Dartmouth Organic Farm. Aside from being a homesteader-in-the-making and organic farmer, she also has experience working on a flower farm.

I asked Laura about what draws her to growing flowers, and she spoke about the beauty and sense of celebration that flowers radiate: "Flowers are just so joyful. Even if they don't end up on someone's table, I grow flowers because they're inviting and make everyone who sees them happy."

Laura has an appreciation for flowers both in the garden and in the kitchen. She broke down her favorite kinds of edible flowers into three categories: vegetable, fruit, and herb flowers; mild-tasting flowers; and flavorful flowers.

Vegetable and herb flowers

A mix of potted edible herbs
A mix of fresh herbs including rosemary and lavender. (Photo by Laura Braasch) 

Since Laura's current farming focus is vegetables, she was eager to point out that most vegetables produce flowers at some point in their life cycle, usually near the end when they stop producing leaves, fruit, or vegetables. (This can happen prematurely if the plants get too hot, which is known as "bolting.")

The good news? These flowers often taste similar to the parent herb or vegetable, only milder. 

  • Common examples: The flowers of basil, sage, oregano, cilantro, chives, lemon balm, dill, or lavender.
  • Don't miss: Lemon balm, anise hyssop, fennel flowers, or the flowers from daikon radishes, all of which are distinctly flavorful and especially colorful; they make a gorgeous garnish on salads and vegetable-based dishes. 
  • Laura's tip: Squash blossoms are delicious when stuffed, dredged in a breadcrumb mixture, and fried. They have a mild squash flavor, are super seasonal, and look gorgeous on your plate. 

Pretty and neutral-flavored flowers

Blue borage flowers and the heads of calendula flowers being dried
Borage and the heads of calendula flowers being dried (Photo by Laura Braasch)

A handful of common flowers fall into this next category: beautiful and subtle in flavor. Laura explained that these flowers are the most versatile and can be used in many applications.

  • Common examples: Violets, pansies, daisies, lilacs, and bachelor buttons (also known as cornflower).
  • Don't miss: Borage, with its distinct purple/blue flowers and mild flavor, ideal for decorating desserts.
  • Laura's tip: Many of these flowers can be enjoyed fresh or pressed and dried, giving them a longer life and unique texture.

Stunning and boldly-flavored flowers

Side-by-side photos of marigolds and elderflower
Marigolds and elderflower (Photos by Laura Braasch)

Nothing is subtle about this next group of flowers — they have vibrant colors and bold flavors. They can add accents of fresh flavor to both sweet and savory dishes.

  • Common examples: Elderflowers, marigolds, roses, dandelions, chrysanthemums, chamomile, daylilies, and chicory blossoms.
  • Don't miss: Nasturtiums, which can be used to add a spicy/peppery note to infused vinegar; also calendulas, with their bright petals and resiny flavor, ideal for sprinkling on or around a centerpiece dish.
  • Laura's tip: Use fruit tree blossoms to complement recipes with fruit in them: peach, pear, strawberry, and apple blossoms are all fruit-flavored and quite pretty, too. 
A chocolate and strawberry cream puff cake decorated with strawberries and edible flowers
Strawberry flowers are edible and complement any dessert with berries in it, like this take on Windbeuteltorte, a chocolate and strawberry cream puff cake. (Photo by Raymond Prado)

Feeling inspired by all these beautiful and tasty flowers? Here are five fun ways to incorporate them into your baking.

1) Decorate a cake with flowers

One of the easiest ways to use edible flowers is to decorate a cake. If you’re not the biggest fan of intricate piping but you’re looking to make a stunning cake, consider using edible flowers as a garnish.

A lemon layer cake decorated with edible flowers
Lemon Cloud Cake decorated with calendula, borage, and marigold flowers.

To get the best results while using edible flowers for cake, keep the flowers attached to their stems as long as possible, stored in the fridge with their stems in water. Frost your cake as desired and then immediately remove the flowers from their stems, leaving just a tiny bit attached at the base. Don't let the frosting set, otherwise it'll be difficult for the flowers to adhere.

Stick the shortened stem into the frosting to help keep the flower in place without the petals touching the frosting. If the petals touch the frosting directly they tend to wilt faster.

A strawberry mousse cake topped with strawberries and daisies
Strawberry Mousse Cake decorated with strawberries, mint leaves, and daisies. (Photo by Kristin Teig)

If your schedule allows, wait to frost and decorate the cake until right before serving. The quicker you can serve your cake after decorating, the fresher it’ll look. Store flower-adorned cakes in the fridge if they can't be served immediately. 

2) Infuse liquids or sugar with floral flavor

Flowers can add flavor to your baking, in addition to visual appeal. Some taste like honey, while others have a hint of citrus or a spicy bite to them. To coax flavor from flowers, you have a few options.

Infuse the liquids in a recipe (milk, cream, etc.) with edible flowers by combining the liquid and flowers, heating the mixture gently, or simply letting it rest at room temperature to develop flavor over time. The infused liquid can be then used to add complexity to the flavor profile of a recipe. (Check out the baker's tip at the bottom of our Bee Keeper's Pain de Mie recipe for a flavorful example.) This method of steeping flowers in liquid works especially well with aromatic flowers like chamomile, elderflower, and roses. 

Lemon tarts topped with whipped cream and nastrium leaves
Lemon tarts infused with lemon balm flowers and topped with nasturtium petals

If you’re working with dried edible flowers (like lavender or rose petals), chop them finely or blitz them in a food processor to make flavor-infused sugar. (See our post about how to make flavor-infused sugar for more details.) Use the sugar in place of the regular sugar called for in your recipe to add a floral note.

A jar of sugar next to a pile of rose petals and lavendar, ready to be infused
Photo by Anne Mientka

Think of all the delicious possibilities: chamomile steeped in milk and added to milk bread dough, lilac petals blitzed into sugar and used to sweeten shortbread, or pastry cream flavored with strawberry blossoms and fresh mint. When you incorporate edible flowers into your baked goods, they both look and taste splendid.

3) Bake flowers directly into your recipes

Infusing the liquid is one way to inject floral flavor into your baking. If you choose the right varieties and recipes, you can also bake flowers right into your snacks, desserts, breads, and more.

Fresh flowers can be incorporated into dough that's rolled thinly, like crackers, sugar cookie dough, or even pasta. To do so, start by tearing the flowers into pieces or removing the petals from the heads of the flowers (save the petals; discard the rest) so the dough can be rolled out smoothly. Add the flower bits to the dough once it starts coming together. The result is a lovely, colorfully mottled appearance. 

Rolled out dough with herbs in the dough

If you want to preserve the look of whole flowers, press them between two pieces of parchment paper weighed down by something heavy and flat. (Pull out your favorite cookbooks!) Press them for just about 30 minutes, so the flower is flat but still looks fresh. 

If you're adding the pressed flowers to something like flatbread, wait until it's out of the oven (but still piping hot) to add the flowers. Gently place the flowers on the hot flatbread, using either your fingers or a small offset spatula to arrange them. The residual heat will allow the flowers to adhere. 

If you're baking something at a relatively low temperature, like meringues or shortbread, add the flowers before or midway through baking, using the same technique of carefully placing the flowers with your fingers or a smalll spatula.

Rolled out shortbread dough with edible flowers pressed into the tops
When adding flowers on top of raw dough, press firmly with the back of a measuring cup or offset spatula so they adhere. Try not to leave marks in the dough, but press firmly enough so the petals lay flat.

The ideal time to add the flowers depends on the type you're using, as well as the temperature of the oven, so experiment with a few test cookies, crackers, etc., if possible. If the flowers are scorching, either add them later on in the baking process or cover them with foil to keep their colors fresh.

Rosemary shortbread cookies with edible flowers pressed into the tops
Pressed pansies on top of shortbread cookies

And remember, if the recipe you're baking cooks at a high temperature, you can add the pressed flowers to the baked good immediately after it comes out of the oven, which ensures vibrant colors that will last for a few days.

4) Candy edible flowers

If you’re eager to embrace the beauty of edible flowers and want them to be a bit more sturdy than they are in their natural state, make candied flowers.

"Candying" is a basic technique that involves coating something edible in simple syrup and (usually) heating it to remove some moisture, then tossing it with more granulated sugar to create a sparkling appearance. You might have seen this technique used on orange peels or other citrus. It works on edible flowers too — only it's easier!

Since flowers are quite delicate and only have a bit of moisture in them, you can skip the heating step. Just brush them with (or dip them in) simple syrup and let them dry at room temperature overnight.

Pansies in the process of being candied
Pansies in the process of being candied

A few hours into the drying process, sprinkle the flowers with granulated sugar, then sprinkle them again when they feel mostly dry to the touch. Use them to garnish cakes, tarts, drinks, breads: anything you can imagine that could use a little color and shine.

A tart filled with basil-infused pastry cream and decorated with strawberries and edible flowers
A tart filled with herb-infused pastry cream and topped with fresh strawberries, candied lilacs, and mint leaves. (Photo by Anne Mientka)

Candied flowers are sweet, beautiful, and will make your baked goods turn heads!

5) Make ice cubes or floral tea

This last tip is a bonus for those of you who don't like to turn on your oven — use your edible flowers to make the prettiest ice cubes you've ever seen! Simply fill an ice cube tray with water (use distilled water if you want the cubes to be crystal clear upon freezing) and place a few petals or a full edible flower into each well, submerging them in the water.

Let them freeze and then pop into your next drink, bringing it to a whole new level of fancy.

A glass with ice cubes frozen with edible flowers

You can also go the hot route and steep fresh flowers (use only the petals for a milder flavor or the full heads for a more robust tea) in hot water.

Alternatively, submerge the flowers in water and place in a sunny spot for a few hours on a warm day. You'll end up with floral "sun tea," a uniquely flavored drink provided by nature!

Chamomile flowers steeping in water to make tea
Chamomile tea in the making (Photo by Laura Braasch)

Imagine serving up glasses of freshly made chamomile iced tea with a few of these gorgeous ice cubes on a summer day — your guests will be beside themselves.

Flowers beyond the garden

Now is the time! Unlock the flavors of edible flowers and tap into their natural beauty by using them in the kitchen. Whether you decorate a cake, infuse the liquid or sugar in your recipe, fold them into dough, candy them, or even put them in ice cubes, there's so much to explore beyond simply growing them in a garden.

A chocolate sheet cake decorated with edible flowers

Embrace the joy that comes from using edible flowers, and share your floral creations with us on Instagram or Facebook with #kingarthurbaking.

For more flavor-infused tips and inspiration, check out our blog post, Baking with tea. Photos by Kye Ameden unless otherwise noted; cover photo by Jenn Bakos.

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Kye Ameden
The Author

About Kye Ameden

Kye Ameden grew up in Fairlee, Vermont and has always loved food, farms, and family. She spent her teenage years working by her chef/uncle’s side in an industrial kitchen, cracking hundreds of eggs, slicing cheesecakes into 13 perfect slices, and developing her passion for precision and baking.After...
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