How to Candy Violets

Last spring I found myself short of sugar sprinkles to decorate a cake but I did have a big bouquet of violets from the garden. My grandmother, never at loss for ideas, flipped through her notebooks and found a simple recipe for making candied violets at home. “Brush each petal with egg white, sprinkle with sugar and leave on a rack to dry,” was the only instruction. So I followed it and ended up with pretty candied flowers. They not only lasted for a few months in a tightly covered tin, but also retained their bright color and delicate flavor.

Unlike commercial candied violets, homemade flowers don’t have an aggressive purple color nor the strong scent of synthetic ionone. If your violets are scented, you can taste the real violet flavor, which is a combination of raspberry and rose. It’s more subtle, but also more nuanced and complex.

The same method works well for other edible flowers like roses, lilacs, jasmine, pansies, elderflowers and leaves like violet, melissa, thyme and mint. Candied violet leaves, in particular, were a discovery for me because when fresh they taste of cucumber, and when candied they’re closer to mimosa. If you candy roses or other large flowers, I recommend separating them into petals.

And speaking of mimosa, it can be candied successfully too. In fact, you can set all of the seasons in sugar, winter’s camelias and autumn’s chrysanthemums included. Candied flowers can be used to decorate cakes, but I like them even more served with bitter green tea like Japanese matcha or strong Turkish coffee.

Candied Violets or Other Edible Flowers

Be sure that your flowers are unsprayed. If you need to wash them, dry them thoroughly before candying.

Lightly whip 1 egg white to make it thin and brush each side of the flower with egg white using a small brush. Sprinkle with sugar. (If you notice, I used coarse sugar, because that’s all my grandmother and I had on hand and it worked well enough. On the other hand, fine sugar makes for a more elegant coating that looks like a thin glaze.)

Make sure all the petals are coated evenly.

Set on a rack to dry completely, turning once in a while to make sure that all sides are dry. Store in an airtight container.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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35 Comments

  • Maria: Hi Victoria!!
    This is one of my favorite techniques for decorating cakes. I also love to make ice cubes with a small violet in the middle. They are wonderful with cocktails! April 20, 2018 at 9:42am Reply

    • Victoria: I love the idea of floral ice! Will have to try it next. April 20, 2018 at 6:14pm Reply

  • Celeste Church: They are beautiful, truly beautiful. I use lavender, lemon verbena and nasturtium in baking (the first two) and in savory dishes (nasturtium)….the verbena, though, you must use sparingly in sugar cookies or puddings because too much and it tastes like perfume.
    I wonder if you could candy lemon verbena? Or would it be too delicate, and too perfumey?
    Anyway, thanks so much for this recipe! April 20, 2018 at 9:57am Reply

    • Victoria: Lemon verbena would candy well. It shouldn’t be perfumey at all, but rather fresh and bright-tasting. April 20, 2018 at 6:14pm Reply

  • Jane Bentley: This technique is :-)so used for fruit so*yes it other. Its really good on individual grapes that are then put in the freezer. It )(s like a dusting of snow. April 20, 2018 at 10:43am Reply

    • Victoria: I can just imagine! You can make such beautiful cakes with sugared fruit and flowers. April 20, 2018 at 6:15pm Reply

  • Nick: Hello, Victoria and all. Dropping by to say hi!

    I did a similar thing, but the result was not nuanced. It was very musky and powdery that I felt as though I had accidentally spritzed some perfume in my mouth. I suppose it depends on the variety of fragrant violets since mine are deeper purple than the ones you have here. I am going to have to wait till next spring to try with the Toulouse variety. April 20, 2018 at 11:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Do you like store bought candied violets?

      Did your violets have a sweet perfume when fresh? April 20, 2018 at 6:16pm Reply

      • Nick: As a matter of fact, I had never tried candied violets before my own, so I could not really compare 🙂

        When fresh, they don’t smell exactly pleasantly sweet like Annick Goutal La Violette, but much headier, denser, musky, and even faecal? But, yes, their leaves are watery, green cucumber-like. April 20, 2018 at 6:59pm Reply

        • Victoria: The flowers have a slightly different scent, depending on the variety and where they grow. Some varieties are scentless, even if they have scented leaves. Interesting, no? April 22, 2018 at 1:09pm Reply

          • Nick: Very interesting. One might say, then, it is a violet grown in the Swiss terroir! April 23, 2018 at 3:55pm Reply

            • Victoria: Or grown near the stables. April 23, 2018 at 4:10pm Reply

              • Nick: Oh, yes! Musty stable is what the nuance of my violet feels like. April 23, 2018 at 4:23pm Reply

  • Emilie: Thank you for sharing another wonderful idea! My garden is full of violets so I will have to give this a try.

    I’ve never candied flowers before though I have set borage flowers into a cheesecake topping for effect (it DOES look very pretty!) It’s interesting that sugaring them changes the flavour. I think borage tastes like cucumber so will be interested to try coating these flowers too. April 20, 2018 at 2:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: I have never thought of candying borage, probably because I associate it with savory flavors–salads, ravioli, soups. I’d like to try it. It would definitely look beautiful. April 20, 2018 at 6:18pm Reply

      • Emilie: Yes, fresh borage is lovely in salads too!

        I don’t think they really added any worthy flavouring to the cheesecake but they were not too savoury to be unpleasant with this sweet dish. Actually I was originally going to use raspberries to decorate but ran short, so I added the flowers in between. On the white surface the pinky red and purpley blue did look rather special. I’m now thinking candied violets would look even better though and add an extra taste element… April 21, 2018 at 3:01am Reply

        • Victoria: I can just imagine how beautiful and delicate it looked. Your description makes me think of the Renaissance table sets–sugared fruit, flowers, puddings, all decorated with the silver-flecked rosemary branches. April 22, 2018 at 1:10pm Reply

          • Emilie: Ahh that sounds wonderfully decadent! I don’t think I’ve ever set a table quite that beautifully but I do like to have lots of visual ‘elements’. April 22, 2018 at 1:40pm Reply

            • Victoria: Neither do I, but a touch of color or an interesting shape always appeal to me. April 22, 2018 at 2:47pm Reply

              • Emilie: Absolutely 🙂 April 22, 2018 at 5:42pm Reply

  • Marie: My daughter is allergic to eggs. Is there a way to candy flowers using only sugar? April 23, 2018 at 8:19am Reply

    • Victoria: Someone else asked me this, and yes, you can. You have to make a thick sugar syrup. Cool it to room temperature. Dip flowers in it, brush off the excess syrup and then sprinkle them with fine sugar. April 23, 2018 at 3:50pm Reply

  • Tim: I tried it with small mint leaves. Do I keep them in the fridge or is any cool, dark place ok? April 23, 2018 at 12:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: I just store them in an air-tight jar. You don’t have to refrigerate them, since the moisture might ruin the coating. April 23, 2018 at 3:56pm Reply

  • Margot: When I was little, I used to do this with my mum. Always violets. Happy memories. April 24, 2018 at 5:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Violets or pansies are my favorites, because they preserve their color best. Jasmine candies well too, but it loses its white sheen. April 24, 2018 at 6:45am Reply

  • Aisha: Oh, I want to try this right now! Just need some violets… April 24, 2018 at 8:21pm Reply

  • Andy: I haven’t done the candied flowers in so long, but the violets are blooming here. Maybe I can just fit in a quick burst of candying before they’re through. April 25, 2018 at 9:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: I still remember your recipe for violet syrup. April 26, 2018 at 8:54am Reply

      • Andy: I would make it for the color alone, but it turns out it’s also the best way to capture the floral scent of the violets around here, which are far more subtly fragrant than the cultivated varieties. They need the steeping and subtle heat to help coax the aroma out. April 26, 2018 at 1:20pm Reply

        • Victoria: I tried it a couple of years ago, and it’s true, you can capture the scent so well. April 27, 2018 at 3:05pm Reply

  • Aurora: How wonderful that you improvised cake decoration with what you had at hand, your grandmother and you are so resourceful and thank you so much for the recipe so simple too, I had always imagined it was complicated, I will plant more herbs this year at the moment I only have a small rosemary tree on the balcony. April 26, 2018 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: A rosemary plant is one of the most useful for me, because I usually use very little. I might plant one this year. April 27, 2018 at 3:03pm Reply

  • Liliane: Thank you for to deal this, I love it❤ May 1, 2018 at 12:58pm Reply

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