Gold Leaf

Edible Gold Leaf – What Is It, How to Use It + Tutorial on How to Cover a Cake With It!

Edible gold leaf is probably one of the most expensive ways of decorating your cakes, cookies, cupcakes and other baked goods. Gold leaf also adds luxurious touch to cocktails, champagne and other drinks.

What is Edible Gold leaf Made Out Of?

As the name suggests edible gold leaf is made out of real gold – hence the hefty price tag. Luckily the sheets are so incredibly thin, that it is still fairly affordable to buy (unless you want to cover a whole 5 tier cake with it, in which case, it can become very expensive exercise).

edible gold flake champagne glass

Edible gold leaf has to be at least 21K of gold. Less than that, and it means that it has been mixed with other metals and it will become unsafe to eat.

Is Edible Gold Leaf Really Edible?

Pure edible gold leaf is indeed edible. Edible gold leaf won’t enter to your digestive system and will simply pass your body without being absorbed. 

When buying edible gold leaves, you do want to make sure that they are in fact marked as edible. There are large variety of non-edible gold leaves out there, that are only meant for crafting projects and not for culinary world.

How Does Edible Gold Leaf Taste?

While you might expect it to have a metallic flavour, edible gold leaf actually is tasteless, because none of it will dissolve in your mouth. It can be very slightly crunchy to start with, but that’s pretty much all you will feel or taste. 

Different Forms of Edible Gold Leaves

Two of the main forms of edible gold leaves are transfer leaves and loose leaves. And then there are also edible gold flakes, that are usually used to glam up your fancy cocktails and champagne glasses. You can use gold flakes to decorate your bakings as well, but if you’re planning to cover larger areas, like a whole cake, we do strongly recommend using whole gold leaves.

Loose Edible Gold Leaves vs Transfer Edible Gold Leaves

Gold leaves can be tricky to use, to start with. Knowing the difference between loose and transfer sheets, can save you some time, money and nerves. You do want to make sure, you will have the right product for the right project.

Both, loose gold leaves and transfer gold leaves come in sheets. The sheets will be nearly identical, a 2″ – 4″ squares, but their uses and the way you handle them is very different. 

Transfer gold sheets are stuck on the backing paper, until you apply it to another surface. Whereas loose gold leaves, are loosely placed between 2 sheets.

How to Use Edible Gold Transfer Sheets?

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. 

edible transfer gold leaves on a wedding cake

Transfer edible gold leaf on a wedding cake.

Created by @sugarlilycakes.com.au

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 flaky look, and makes your sheet of gold stretch further.

When to Use Edible Gold Transfer Sheets?

We personally find transfer sheets easier to use, than loose gold leaves. In saying that, as we mentioned above, you would want to use a right gold leaf option for a right project. Using transfer gold leaf, isn’t always advisable. So just because we prefer to use it over loose leaves, doesn’t necessarily mean that we use it all the time.

As we briefly mentioned before, transfer gold leaf, is stuck on its backing sheet, and will only move, when transferred to a new surface. Transfer gold leaves are great to use when you want to cover larger areas, like part of the cakes, or maybe even the whole cake. We will have a quick tutorial below, to show you, how exactly you would use transfer gold leaf, when covering the cake with it.

How to Handle Edible Gold Loose Sheets?

Loose edible gold leaves can be tricky as hell to master, and we really don’t recommend covering massive large areas with them, unless you feel super confident handling them. Loose gold leaves are perfect to use on smaller areas, when you want to add just a touch of luxury to your creations. 

The ultra-thin gold leaf will move, as soon as you lift the top sheet, that is covering the gold leaf. Whenever you work with loose gold leaves, you want to make sure, that all the windows are closed, the fans aren’t working, and better stop breathing as well. Even the slightest movement of air, will make that expensive sheet to fly and wrinkle, and it will more than likely get stuck on something that you did not want to cover with gold at all – like your fingers.

So, we’ve figured out that breeze is a big no no, when handling loose gold leaves. Since edible gold leaves stick to anything and everything, there are some other things to keep in mind as well.

peach coloured donuts with edible gold leaf made by blushandbutterscotch

Delicious donuts, featuring edible rose petals and gold leaf.
Made by @blushandbutterscotch

Loose edible gold leaves will have to be handled by using brushes or tweezers. Amazingly brushes are one of the few things that edible gold leaves won’t stick to. You can lift the gold leaf from the paper with the brush, and then move it to the area, you want to apply it to, gently tapping the leaf with the brush, to make sure it’s stuck to the surface.  

Tweezers are great, if you want to break some smaller pieces of edible gold leaf and only apply small amounts of it. It is also advisable, that you have cotton gloves on, while handling the gold leaves, as they won’t stick to the gloves either. 

Whatever you do, do NOT, use your fingers, to apply edible gold leaves. The oils in your skin cause it to tarnish and it will also stick to your fingers due to moisture.

Are There Different Colours of Gold Leaves?

Yes, there are. The colour difference comes from the karat value. 24k edible gold leaf is darker and more yellowish than the 21k gold leaf. There are also champagne edible gold leaves. These are a mixture of gold and silver leaves, and the result is lighter champagne coloured gold leaf. And yes, there are also edible silver leaves available.

edible pure silver leaf transfer 8cm x 8cm

Are There Also Edible Rose Gold Leaves?

This is probably the most popular question we get, in regards to the gold leaves, as anything rose gold, is so super popular at the moment. The answer unfortunately is no, there is no edible rose gold leaf available.

Yes, there are rose gold leaves available, but none of them are edible. Rose gold leaves are made out of copper, which isn’t safe to consume, and the leaves are supposed to be used only for crafting purposes, and not on edible items.

Do Edible Gold Leaves Expire?

No not really, as gold doesn’t expire. Gold leaves have a shelf life of years and years, and as long as they are stored correctly, they will be fine to sue for a long time.

How to Store Edible Gold Leaves?

Edible gold leaf is very delicate and needs to be handled with care. The booklets of the gold sheets should be laid flat and stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from any warm and damp conditions. The edible gold flakes should also be stored in a cool, dry place, in their original container they came in.

Where Can I Buy Edible Gold Leaf?

As we mentioned before, there are edible and non-edible gold leaves out there, so it is very important that you always check the packaging before buying edible gold leaf. 

The non-edible gold leaves are sometimes also called metallic leaves or foil leaves. Since they are imitation gold leaves, they are also much cheaper in price. These kind of gold leaves you can find in most of the craft stores. They can also come in large range of colours, including rose gold, but again, they are non-edible, and should not be used on consumable items.

edible gold leaf on a concrete look 3 tier cake

Grey marbled fondant with edible gold leaf.

Made by @sugarlilycakes.com.au

You want to buy your edible gold leaves from cake decorating supply store, to make sure that they are truly 100% edible. Even then you do want to be absolutely sure though that they are edible, as some of the cake supply stores, do also sell the cheaper nonedible versions.

Edible gold leaves can also be found in some of the larger well-equipped department stores. In Australia you can also find edible gold leaf in Spotlight stores, in their baking section.

But also, a side note. If you’re decorating dummy cake or have decorations that will be removed from the cake, and won’t be consumed, you can easily, opt for the less expensive imitation gold sheets. Just remember: Don’t use them on anything that’s going to be served.

Tutorial on How to Apply Edible Gold Leaf to a Cake

What you will need:

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

Prepare the Cake

We do recommend covering your cake with fondant at least few hours before you apply the gold leaf. That way fondant has time to set and won’t end up dented once you start applying the leaf.

Make sure that your fondant covered cake is free of powdered sugar or corn starch, before you begin applying the gold leaf. 

Wet the Cake Surface

You can use nice large brush, or just a piece of paper towel to brush a thin layer of water over the area where you will apply the gold leaf. You want to make the surface just slightly tacky, so the gold/silver leaf would stick to it.

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

Work small areas at the time, and don’t wet the whole cake at once. If you do wet the whole cake, you will find yourself rewetting it anyways later on, so it’s just a waste of time. So, just evenly dampen the area that is just slightly larger than the edible gold leaf, you’re going to apply.

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

If by accident, you apply too much water, just grab an extra piece of paper towel, and dab off any excess water.

Apply the Gold Leaf

Use edible transfer gold leaves, whenever you’re planning to cover the whole cake. It’ll make your life so much easier and covering process so much quicker. 

If you are planning to cover the whole cake, like we are in here, you may want to trim the backing paper of the transfer sheet before applying it to the cake. Since the edible gold leaf is set in the middle of the backing paper, it has space around it. This will make it very hard to apply the leaf nicely right to the edge of the cake, without cutting the backing paper first. 

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

Once you’ve cut the backing paper, line up the trimmed base line of the edible gold leaf to the base of the cake. Don’t apply it just yet, just basically position it where you want to stick it.

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

You will only get one go! Once it touches the cake, that’s it. It will stick to the cake and will come away from the backing paper. You need a steady hand and no distraction. 

Start from the corner of the gold leaf and attach it to the cake. Gently tap it with your fingers or a paint brush, to make sure it’s adhered properly. Rest of the gold leaf should follow the same direction and mould itself against the cake.

Smooth Down the Gold Leaf

Once your edible gold leaf is in place, you’ll need to smooth it down to completely attach it to the cake. You can use your fingertips, or if you’re scared that your fondant hasn’t had time to set, and you will leave the marks on it, you can use large soft brush. 

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

Don’t rub it too hard, be gentle, as you don’t need much pressure to attach it. Once you’ve gone over the whole backing sheet, and you’re confident that the whole gold leaf is adhered, gently pull away the backing sheet, starting from one corner.

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

When pulling the baking sheet away, and you will find small pieces of gold leaf are still attached to the backing sheet, just smooth the backing paper back onto the cake, and gently re rub over the spots that hadn’t stuck to the cake. Once you’ve done it, remove the sheet from the cake.

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

You should have fairly decent looking square gold leaf on your cake. Whatever you do, do not touch it with your fingers! Touching it with your fingers can cause it to rub off or peel away from the cake.

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

Now, take your paper towel and wet the next section of cake. Again, trim the backing paper, and this time you will also need to line it up two of the edible gold leaves, not just the bottom edge of the cake, so trim 2 sides of the gold leaf.

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

Aim the second edible gold leaf as close to the first one as you can. The more you can avoid gaps between sheets, the easier it is. You may even want to overlap them slightly, if that’s easier for you. Repeat the steps until you’ve covered the whole cake, or the area you needed.

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

Funny little gaps. Uneven edges. Spots missing gold leaf completely. Even when you’re really confident using edible gold leaf, all these little mistakes can and will happen.

Edible gold leaf is probably one of the most expensive ways of decorating your cakes, cookies, cupcakes and other baked goods. Gold leaf also adds luxurious touch to cocktails, champagne and other drinks.

Applying edible gold leaf is such a fiddly technique, and is so prone to mistakes. Sometimes the gold leaf sheet will touch the cake before you are ready to secure it, and you will find a slightly wonky gap going on.

All these mistakes are luckily fixable, and we will show you how.

To fix all these imperfections, simply cut small strips of gold leaf, a tiny bit bigger than the area you need to cover. If needed, very gently wet the area, and then apply the gold leaf patches to the cake.

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

Once you’ve covered and fixed all the areas and you’re happy with the end result, leave the cake to dry. Once the cake is dry and there are some loose gold flake bits and pieces around, you can use soft brush to remove the pieces.

tutorial cake covered with edible gold leaf

And there you go, how good does this look! And how simple was that….not 🙂

Gold leaf is hardly ever 100% smooth finish. You will always be able to see the lines where each sheet ends – no matter how well you apply it. So don’t be too hard on yourself, it is truly hard to master.

If you’re still not happy with the look, and have ran out the the gold leaf, you can always apply some decorations, over the imperfections, and the cake will still look absolutely stunning.

So give it a go, and let us know, how your amazing gold leaf creations, turned out.