Have you ever been to a wedding or ceremonial event where the appetizers or dainty desserts or even the whole cake sparkled? You get closer and you can see that it looks like gold…is that REAL gold?
You’ll ask yourself, am I supposed to EAT THAT? Can I eat pure gold? Yes, yes, you can.
It seems indulgent and ridiculous in this day and age. But it’s so pretty.
It had almost disappeared from culinary preferences until 1981 when Chef Marchesi decked his saffron risotto with gold leaf, rekindling the world’s love of gilded excess.
Plus, it takes a paring knife, a razor blade, tweezers, a big cake decorating budget, and a steady hand to make that delicate mixture of gold worth elevating your event to “here, eat this precious metal to celebrate our love” status.
What is edible gold leaf?
Edible gold leaves are an edible luxury item used for food decoration made from pure, real gold (22 to 24 karats), pounded or gold-hammered, rolled over until it becomes about 1/8000-millimeter thick then formed into sheet transfer leaf format or edible gold flakes.
The edible gold leaves or flakes are mainly used to add a glimmer of real gold to your food item: culinary creations, from wedding cakes to alcoholic drinks to savory dishes.
Considering they’re made from pure gold leaf, expect that these gourmet edible gold sheets additions are worth a few dollars.
You can purchase gold loose leaf booklets at specialty stores in the United States or get them online with prices that vary widely.
The cost may vary based on the brand, quality of the product, and size of the sheet of gold leaf, or the small amount of edible gold flake in the jar.
Square sheets of edible gold leaf are delicate and you need to be extra careful when applying it to your entire cake.
Food enthusiast Ashlee Marie shares a nifty trick on how to add decadent gold leaf to a fondant-covered cake. The surface of your cake should have a fondant use:
She mentioned that you need to refrain or avoid touching the transfer sheets once you’re done covering the cake with the gold leaves.
“Your hands have natural oils on them that will destroy the leafing so once it’s done try to keep any touching whether it’s stacking it on the rest of the cake or adding [other] decorations to a minimum. Make sure your hands are clean and dry every time you touch it…,” she added.
Moreover, there are some edible gold leaves in the market that feature smaller carat value, meaning these cheaper versions may contain impurities and aren’t safe to eat.
So it’s better to pick those edible genuine gold leaves made from pure gold or those that contain 22 to 24-karat gold.
What does gold leaf taste like?
Eating small pieces of gold leaf is harmless in small quantities.
Gold, along with pure silver are regarded as “biologically inert,” so the element passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed.
If you’re wondering what’s the flavor of gold leaf, it actually doesn’t taste like anything, or it has no actual flavor profile.
When you add them into your recipes, it adds a touch of luxury and a dramatic effect.
You can also feel the texture of the gold leaves that’s fine, fragile and very delicate.
Is gold leaf real gold?
Yes, edible gold leaf sheets are made from the expensive mineral 23.5K gold and it’s used to add a fancy touch to desserts such as cakes, candies, and cupcakes or in savory dishes, even at fast-food restaurants like Popeye’s chicken wings.
Gold leaf and gold flecks featuring 22 to 24 carats are considered edible.
Read packaging carefully as those cheaper versions of the gold leaf may be gold-colored foil or they may contain impurities that may be harmful if consumed.
Edible gold leaf dust and the mix of edible metals in general are expensive because gold and silver are precious metals and highly processed.
Sometimes they may just have confusing packaging and are meant to be decoration only.
How to use gold leaf
Gold leaf is used for decorative applications, which can add a nice glossy finish to your dishes, including desserts and savory dishes.
If you don’t know how to utilize this shiny indulgence, here are some clever and great uses for gold leaf.
- Use gold leaf sheets to decorate your chocolate cake.
- Serve as a topping for cupcakes like these pink champagne cupcakes.
- To fancy up your classic French macaron.
- To adorn brownies and lemon vodka cocktails.
- To garnish poached pears along with a chocolate sauce.
- To embellish chocolate truffles and jello shots.
Tips on using gold leaf
As mentioned, gold leaf is very delicate and needs to be handled with care.
If you haven’t stumbled upon this product or it’s your first time using gold leaf for your cakes or any dish, be sure to take a peek at these essential tips so these shimmering decorations won’t go to waste.
- When covering your entire cake with gold leaf, it’s advisable to use a steamer as this can give your cake a smooth, even coat.
- If you don’t have a steamer, brush your cake lightly with water.
- Refrain or avoid touching once you finish covering your desserts with the gold leaves. This is to avoid messing up the coating.
- Make sure your hands are clean and dry every time you use gold leaf as the product is delicate and very thin. Moisture on your hands will pick up gold leaf easily, like a cellophane or a contact lens on a wet finger.
The bottom line
Edible gold leaf and edible gold dust are a luxurious indulgence—they are expensive ways to decorate foods. Especially if you are thinking of adding so much gold leaf to a large surface. That’ll set you back.
Why eat such a pricey, over-the-top decoration? It certainly makes an impression, but you may want to limit your use to a small amount of edible leaf for very special occasions. As a newcomer, I’d say I love the look but not on larger areas.
If you’re making a celebratory cake at home, even after all the ingredients are bought and you are delicately placing gold leaf and praying that a strong wind doesn’t blow through, it may still be less expensive than a baker-bought cake.
- 5 1/4 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet high-quality chocolate (we like Pacari, but Ghirardelli would do also)
- 1/2 c cold heavy cream
- 3 egg whites
- 1/4 c sugar
- 1 t vanilla
- Edible Gold Leaf Flakes or Dust
- Put the mixing bowl into the freezer or refrigerator a few minutes before using so the bowl is cold.
- Chop the chocolate then add to a double boiler at a low simmer. Stir chocolate with a heat-safe spoon until melted. Turn off the heat and let stand. Set aside.
- Beat the cream in the chilled bowl until it forms soft peaks. Set aside and hold at room temperature.
- With a mixer, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping until firm.
- Using a whisk, fold the egg whites into the chocolate. When fully incorporated, fold in the whipped cream.
- Cover the mousse and refrigerate until set, at least one hour.
- Wet the edges of the serving dishes and place gold flakes with tweezers, or gently place torn pieces of gold leaf in the center of each dish of mousse.
If using edible gold dust, tap dust into a shallow dish or saucer. Use a pastry brush or a finger to gently wet the rim of each empty serving dish with a 1:1 sugar water mixture. Turn each empty dish upside down into gold dust. Coat well by turning the rim. Add more gold dust to the shallow dish as needed.