Naturally Colored Decorating Sugar (Using Edible Flowers)
Lately, I’ve been working on a new ebook about some of my favorite edible flowers and fun ways to use them.
It’s a pretty time consuming project, so I’m still a ways from having it done, but this colored sugar idea has been so fun and so well received by family and friends – I couldn’t wait any longer to share it with you!
An experiment with flowers…
Last year, in my Things to Make with Mint article, I talked about how to make mint sugar.
This year, while looking at my lovely dianthus flowers growing in my garden, I had a sudden inspiration to see what would happen if I made dianthus sugar instead.
So, I put 1/4 cup of cane sugar in my trusty mini-food processor along with the petals from about ten dark red dianthus flowers….
….. blended it together and ended up with this:
I was smitten with the color and used up half a bag of sugar experimenting with other flowers growing in my garden!
Some worked and some didn’t.
For instance, I was convinced that bachelor buttons (cornflower) and borage would give me beautiful shades of blue. However, bachelor buttons needed a bit of water to blend and then made a streaky purplish shade.
Sadly, I used up a ton of my precious borage flowers only to discover that they made an unattractive gray instead of the sky blue I hoped for. Ah well – you never know until you try something though!
A floral sugar rainbow
(*UPDATE: See below for information on turning these into colored powdered sugar and/or a glaze.)
This photo below shows the type of flower (or veggie in the case of spinach) used and what the resulting color was:
Naturally Colored Decorating Sugar
Exact amounts for colors shown. If you can’t have sugar, try unsweetened coconut flakes instead:
- Pink = 1/4 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon torn rose petals
- Orange = 1/4 cup sugar + petals of one calendula blossom
- Yellow = 1/4 cup sugar + 4 or 5 dandelions (petals only)
- Green = 1/4 cup sugar + 3 spinach leaves
- Blue-Violet = 1/4 cup sugar + 1/2 to 1 tablespoon violet petals (I used frozen ones)
- Purple = 1/4 cup sugar + the petals from 10 dark red/magenta dianthus flowers
**Be sure to research each type of flower that you experiment with and make sure that it is indeed edible. Also, some flowers may be contraindicated for certain health conditions or for those who are pregnant or nursing.**
There are two ways to preserve the sugar:
- After blending, put in small containers and freeze for several months. (Some of the sugars shown in these photos had already been frozen for three months, with no loss in color.)
- Method 1: Spread the sugar in a thin layer on a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Allow to air dry in a safe spot overnight.
- Method 2: Turn your oven on to the lowest heat setting it has. Let it preheat about ten minutes while you spread the colored sugar out on a sheet of parchment paper. Pop the pan in the oven and turn off the heat. Let it sit in the slowly cooling oven overnight or for several hours. The sugar will have hardened and you’ll need to reprocess it again to make it smooth once more.
- Store in glass jars, out of direct sunlight and heat for several months. Freeze for longest shelf life.
A sugar free option:
You can use the naturally colored sugar to sprinkle on cookies and cupcakes or in teas and other recipes instead of regular sugar. Most of the flowers don’t carry over any taste to speak of, though two taste testers thought they could detect a mild spinach flavor in the green sugar.
Are you sugar free? I can relate, since our family was too for several years. If you can’t have sugar, try this technique with unsweetened coconut flakes. I think you’ll like the results! Below, left to right, coconut flakes colored with dianthus, calendula, and spinach.
Making Naturally Colored Powdered Sugar
Update: I’ve had several people ask if you can turn this into powdered sugar and/or a glaze.
The answer is yes!
However, the powdered sugar will be lighter colored and the glaze might be speckled. Also, the glaze won’t hold the color for a long, long time. (i.e. This purple one eventually soaked in the cupcake and turned blue.)
Here’s a photo showing regular dianthus sugar, then powdered dianthus sugar, then powdered dianthus sugar mixed with a little bit of water to make a glaze. (You could use milk or a milk substitute as well.)
I make my own powdered sugar, by grinding cane sugar to a fine powder in a coffee grinder, but you could use store-bought as well.
oh wow what an awesome idea-thanks much
Hi Kathy, I’m glad you like the idea!
These are soooooo pretty!!
I just love the idea of coloring sugar with flowers, no nasty food coloring instead, the beauty and delight of flowers.
Now I think I must go bake something so I can decorate it!
Hi Angela, Thanks and happy baking! :)
This is pure genius! Thanks so much for sharing.
Hi Patti, I’m happy you like it!
Just in time for my wedding rose cupcakes…….thank you!!!
Ooooh those sound lovely! :)
That is genius!! Have you tried powdering the sugar after you color it to make powdered sugar for frosting? I’m pinning this to my natural dye board! Can’t wait for the book to come out – I’ll share it all around!
Hi Tessa! I sure have! I had a few people email me asking the same. I was going to write a separate post eventually, but since I’m so poky about that stuff, just modified this post to include a quick snapshot of what the powdered sugar looks like and then how it looks like as a glaze. I don’t have a large enough stock of any one color to try a good sized batch of icing yet, but I imagine it should hold a true color. One possible kink I can think of – I only use real butter so that will affect final shade. Here’s the photo: https://thenerdyfarmwife.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Naturally-Colored-Sugar-made-into-powdered-sugar-and-a-glaze.jpg Thanks for sharing and pinning – I really appreciate that! :)
PS The picture coming up on Pinterest is your mint one. Maybe the featured image isn’t set to the dye pict? Just an fyi. :)
Hmmm… I have the top photo set as the featured image. I’m not sure why my social sharing plugin does that. Most of the time it show the first image I put in a post, so I have to remember to put the image I want for pinning first. Then sometimes… it bugs out on me and shows something totally off. I probably need a better plugin! (OR more techy smarts!) :)
This is so cool! I can’t wait to try it! Thank you so much for the inspiration!
Hi Vickie, I’m so glad that you like the idea!
I LOVE this!!! I’m so glad for the work you have done on this and that you shared it. Thank you. :)
Hi Gentle Joy, Thank you! I’m happy that you love the idea! :)
what about using stevia leaves and flowers?
Hi Catherine! That’s something I haven’t tried – if you do, I’d love to hear how it works out!
You are so clever! I LOVE this idea and will def try it!
Glad you like the idea Michele! :)
I can’t wait to show my granddaughters. We homeschool so I can see this turning into an experiment that tastes good.
They will have a great time experimenting! There are many flowers that I didn’t try (like sunflower! and kudzu! and snapdragons! and daylilies, hibiscus, hollyhocks and more!), so they will truly be making new discoveries! :)
Love the idea and going to try it but my concern is isn’t borage toxic? I see your not putting it in the list of most successful. I know long term use can cause liver damage and it should be avoided while pregnant or nursing. Makes an awesome flea powder to.
Hi Allison! From my understanding, borage leaves have similar compounds as comfrey (pyrrolizidine alkaloids, or PA for short) that can build up in your liver if taken over a long time. A healthy person should have no trouble consuming small amounts periodically, but you are correct that long term use can be a problem plus borage is contraindicated for pregnant or nursing ladies. That’s a great note that I need to add to the post – that people should thoroughly research each flower & its potential side effects before consuming. Thanks for the reminder! (and the tip about borage for fleas too!)
Do you think that it would work with a natural stevia granulated sweetner like the Truvia brand? We have this in the UK I don’t know if it’s avaliable in the USA? I’ve been experimenting alot with edible flowers this summer from my garden. Just a few days ago I made a Rose,Geranium & Raspberry cake for the ladies at my sons nursery school. I wish I had read your article before and would have made the rose glaze instead of using regular icing sugar. I love reading about your ideas. x
Your cake sounds so lovely!! In theory, I think this idea would work with Truvia, but I would just test a small amount out first and see how the color holds up for you.
This is absolutely genius! It would be neat if the sugars would hold the flavors of the flowers, especially with the rose and mint for teas.
Hi Genesis, The sugar does hold the mint flavor nicely, but it’s a lot milder with rose. That could vary depending on your type of rose though; some heavily scented old fashioned ones would probably have a lot more flavor!
I was wondering if you can tell me where I can buy edible flowers. THANKS!
Hi Layah! I would check with my local farmer’s market (in season) and also maybe the produce section (or manager) of stores like whole foods or fresh market and the such. A florist *might* be able to help, but you want to make very sure that the flowers are organic.
Love this idea. I’m going to give it a go with dried hibiscus flowers I have in my cupboard and sprinkle on a fresh lemon layer cake
Hi Ruth! I’d love to hear how it turns out with dried hibiscus! It sounds like a lovely combination! :)
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