With the current trend in decorating cakes with fresh flowers, particulatly naked and semi-naked wedding cakes, I am seeing a lot of brides wanting fresh flowers on their cakes. Whilst there is no mistaking that fresh flowers on a wedding cake, or any cake for that matter, can look absolutely stunning, if you wish to go down this road then there are a few basic rules that need to be considered.
First and foremost (and this is stating the blindingly obvious but is really, really, REALLY important) there are lots of plants and flowers that are poisonous and could do some serious damage if ingested, with symptoms ranging from vomiting to blistering skin around the mouth if eaten, or much, much worse! Furthermore, even if they are not eaten, some plants have fine hair irritants that can get onto your cake or the toxins in them can leach into the cake or icing, which will subsequently be eaten, and make people very ill. Here is a list of poisonous flowers on Wikipedia and here is another from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Flowers are not a general food product and should not be attached to anything edible unless they are sourced from a reputable supplier of organic edible flowers. Please don't be tempted to pick up flowers from a supermarket or florist as these flowers will not be edible, even if they are the same variety, as they will have been sprayed with insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, none of which are fit for human consumption and will not have been handled with food hygiene in mind. For the same reason, don't ask your wedding florist to bring along a few extra flowers for the wedding cake. Florists do not necessarily have experience with wedding cakes, so don’t assume they do. Your cake decorator, on the other hand, should know food handling requirements and work with a clean and hygienic work bench and equipment. Florists do not have the same standards because they are not in the food industry.
Finally, If you are going to use fresh flowers on your cake, make sure that your caterer does not push the stems of the flowers directly into the cake that you are going to eat as these will have recently been standing in buckets of water so, again, you will have food hygiene problems as the water will most likely contain heaps of bacteria and you don't want that getting into your cake. Also, the sap in the stems could leak into the cake. Flowers for cakes need to be prepared properly - stems washed and sanitized, dried, wrapped in floristry tape and inserted with the use of a cocktail stick, flower pick or straw.
Alternatively, if the flowers you want on your cake are in the poisonous category, or you cannot source organic edible flowers, then your cake decorator should be able to make them out of sugar for you. Sugar flowers are a great alternative to fresh flowers and take away any worries about food hygiene. You can see some examples of sugar flowers in my website gallery.
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