Edible gold leaf has been used to add a luxe touch to food and drinks for centuries. Used to adorn fruit and dessert, or stirred into drinks, edible gold was the sign of wealth and indulgence.
Thankfully today edible gold leaf is much more affordable and can be used to decorate cakes, cookies, and cocktails.
It’s completely food-safe and vegan, and can quickly transform even the most simple of cakes into something glamorous. Whether you are using just a touch of gold, or completely covering a cake here, is everything you need to know about working with edible gold leaf.
Yes it is. In fact edible gold is quite pure gold and will always be at least 21 karats as anything with a smaller karat value will have impurities that aren’t as safe to eat. Gold is considered biologically inert which means it will pass through you without being absorbed, if only fat and sugar were the same!
The most common forms you will see edible gold leaf in is either in sheets or flakes. Flakes are great for adding small crinkled pieces of gold to top of macarons, cupcakes, even cocktails.
If you need to cover a larger area in gold, like a cake, then gold leaf sheets are your best bet. Sheets come in two styles, loose leaf and transfer leaf.
Both loose leaf and transfer leaf come in sheets, the difference is that a loose leaf sheet of gold sits loosely between the sheets of the book, whereas transfer leaf will stay on the paper until you go to apply it to another surface.
It depends on what you are using it for. Loose leaf has to be handled using brushes or tweezers and is great if you want to be able to tear off smaller pieces or you feel confident picking the whole sheet up and applying it where you would like.
Transfer leaf stays on its sheet of wax paper and will transfer onto another surface when you place it face down and apply slight pressure.
Even though it sounds pretty straight forward, working with edible gold leaf can take a bit of practice. It’s a delicate product that is tricky to handle and doesn’t allow much room for error. But just a little bit can utterly transform a cake so it’s worth the effort! The best thing to remember is even slightly messy gold leaf looks stunning.
To apply small pieces of gold leaf as a garnish or small detail use loose leaf gold. Using a brush or tweezers carefully pick up the piece of gold and lightly place it where you would like it to go.
To cover large areas, like a cake, we recommend using transfer gold leaf. If your cake is covered in fondant use may need to use a damp paper towel to ever so slightly moisten the surface of your cake, then carefully place your transfer gold leaf sheet face down on the surface of your cake, apply light pressure and gently pull the sheet away.
You can either apply the whole sheet at once, which is what you would do if you were covering the entire cake in gold leaf, or you can apply small sections of the sheet at a time which gives an attractive flakey look, and makes your sheet of gold stretch further.
Gold has a shelf life of years and will stay shiny and dazzling so long as it’s kept in a cool, dry spot.