No celebration is complete without a cake, and many of us enjoy making delicious cakes as centrepieces for events using organic ingredients. But if you choose to decorate your cake and get it looking as good as it tastes, how can you ensure that the decorations are as eco friendly as the ingredients?
For the environmental and health-conscious cake decorator, finding the right decorations and colourings can be difficult, and even more-so if following a vegan diet! Fortunately, there are still ways to make your cakes not only beautiful and attention-grabbing, but also eco friendly and healthy.
Pre-made ddible decorations are often the first choice of cake decoration when you don’t have time to make your own. These usually consist of solid icing, rice paper or moulded sugar. While these are often a popular and convenient choice, they can pose problems when eaten if they contain high levels of artificial colourings. If buying pre-made edible decorations, check the list of ingredients for artificial colourings which can have a number of affects on the health (read below for more information)
Take a look on your local high street and you’ll notice that cake decorations can be found everywhere, from supermarkets to cake boutiques to card shops. Shop-bought decorations can vary greatly in type, but are often made from plastic. While plastic is usually considered to be far-from eco friendly, you can offset some of the carbon emissions of producing such products by keeping them and reusing them on future cakes. This prevents having to buy more decorations in the future, and keeps your current ones from becoming waste and finding their way onto a landfill site.
Reusable decorations are great, but if you really want to decorate your cake the green way, try decorating it with reused materials from around the home. You can use almost anything pretty and decorative as long as it’s clean, including:
- scraps of material from old clothing
- coloured paper or card
- small wooden ornaments or christmas tree decorations
- flowers or leaves from the garden
Using food colouring
If you choose to use food colouring when decorating your cakes, there are a number of factors you should consider. Generally, bright colours will be generated by artificial colourings, many of which can have an impact on human health and behaviour. You might have heard stories of children becoming hyperactive after eating certain sweets- these are the colours responsible! Artificial colours such as FD&C Red no. 40 (allura red) FD&C Blue no. 2 (indigotine) and FD&C Yellow no. (tartrazine) are just 3 of the commonly found colours used in colouring foods, and are most commonly the basic colours found in everyday food colourings. These colours have been found to be responsible for triggering migraines, irritating the eyes, skin and lungs, disrupting hormones and causing changes in mood.
If looking for food colouring to use, read the ingredients carefully and do your research. Chemical nasties like these can even pop up in so-called “natural” colourings. If in doubt, it’s always best to focus on flavour over colour in your edible decorations- naturally coloured pastel shades created with ingredients found in your own fridge can work just as well, and create decorations which taste delicious.
Decorate your cake without artificial colours, using ingredients from the fridge:
Red- beetroot, cherry juice
Purple- blueberry or black current juice
Green- spinach juice (use sparingly)
Blue- boiled red cabbage
Brown- coffee or tea
Black- try substituting coloured icing or marzipan for dark chocolate or licorice
If you’re worried about these strange additions to your icing affecting the overall taste, don’t. Foods such as turmeric and red cabbage are well known for their potent colours, so only a small amount is needed to add delicate colour to your icing. So you’ll barely be able to detect any unwanted flavour.
Organic cake decorations to buy
If you’re still living in the hope that there are organic, eco friendly cake decorations out there to put the convenience back into decorating cakes (which is always useful with kids) then never fear! There are a small number of companies available who produce organic decorations to add a bit of glitz to your cakes. Steenbergs produce an organic range of the traditional cake decorations that we’re all used to seeing- chocolate strands, mini marshmallows, silver balls and jellies. You’ll even find all the organic ingredients you need for baking your cakes, as well as some exciting new ones to experiment with like orange blossom essence, lavender sugar and rose water.
Image sourced: Kitz000tagsartificial colourscake decorations