Go for Gold! How to Apply Edible Gold Leaf to Cakes

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Turn your next cake from part of the celebration to the star of the show with edible gold leaf! There's no cake that can’t benefit from adding a little golden shine.

This versatile medium allows you to add just a tiny shimmer or gild an entire tier. Prefer the look of silver? No problem — you can polish up any cake with silver leaf, too!

We'll teach you how to cover an entire tier in gold and then share with you some of the hottest ways to incorporate gold leaf into your decorating.

Your gold leaf buying guide

There are a lot of options for gold (or silver) leaf, so it's important to know what to buy.

First, make sure it's edible

Make sure any gold leaf you buy for a cake or other treat is edible! That said, if you're decorating dummy cake, opt for the less expensive imitation gold sheets. Just remember: Don't use them on anything that’s going to be served.

Choose between loose or transfer leaf

Edible gold leaf generally comes in two forms: loose leaf and transfer leaf. The sheets will be nearly identical, a 3" - 4" square, but their uses and the way you handle them differ.

Loose leaf comes as a booklet of unattached sheets. Handling it can be tricky, as you’ll need to hold the thin sheets by the corners and gently glide them onto the surface you’re working on. Loose leaf tears and wrinkles easily. It’s great for items that are round or have texture, such as a piece of molded fondant — where you’ll need the leaf to drop into any curves and crevices — or anytime you want a rustic, organic pop of gold.

Transfer leaf comes attached to tissue paper, making it much easier to handle, as you can hold onto the sturdy sides of the tissue paper. The leaf will lie flat until you rub it onto a surface. It can be cut to size because of the paper backing. It's great for large flat spaces, but it is difficult to get the leaf into tight areas.

How to use edible gold leaf for cake decorating

What you need:

  • Cake covered in fondant
  • Edible gold leaf (either transfer sheets or loose sheets)
  • Water
  • Paintbrush
  • Food-safe brush

Step 1: Prepare the cake

Make sure that your fondant-covered cake is free of any powdered sugar or cornstarch before you begin. Dust it with a clean, dry, food-safe paintbrush to remove any excess residue.

Step 2: Wet the surface

Brush a thin layer of water over the area where you will apply gold leaf using a food-safe paintbrush. The purpose of this step is to make the fondant slightly tacky so the gold leaf will stick to it. You can use edible glue if you wish, but the thicker glue can leave lumps underneath the gold leaf.

Step 3: Apply the gold leaf

If you’re using loose gold leaf, carefully lift it by the top corners and gently bring it to your cake. Lay it down on your tacky, water-painted surface. It will only stick to tacky fondant. Because loose leaf is so thin and delicate, expect a few wrinkles. It adds to the beautiful rustic texture.

If you’re using transfer sheets, simply pick up the sheet by the corner or anywhere on the border and lay it where you want it on your tacky cake.

Step 4: Smooth down the gold leaf

Once your gold leaf is in place, you'll need to smooth it down to attach it to the cake.

For loose leaf sheets, use a good quality makeup brush that's only used for cake decorating. With light pressure and soft strokes, brush your leaf onto the cake. Be gentle here — you can easily tear your gold leaf if you press too hard.

If you’re using transfer sheets, simply use your finger to apply light pressure to the back of the transfer sheet which will, in turn, smooth down the gold leaf and attach it to the tacky cake. Once attached, peel away the transfer sheet from the cake.

Repeat until you’ve covered the entire cake. You can simply overlap the gold leaf as you work your way around. If you end up with a small empty patch, cut your transfer sheet to fit or gently tear off a bit from your loose leaf and apply a patch to cover up the area.

If you just want to add a touch of gold leaf to a cake, cookie or another sweet treat, just simply brush on a touch of water to your dry finished surface and press on the gold leaf.

3 more gold leaf techniques we love

1. Avant-garde designs with gold leaf

For a modern look, don't worry so much about perfect! Asymmetrical pieces of gold or silver leaf in the center act as an ultra-modern yet sophisticated background. Because gold leaf will only stick to tacky fondant, you can simply wet the fondant with a painterly touch before applying the metallic leaf.

2. Die-cut geometric perfection

When adhered to wafer paper with a bit of piping gel, gold leaf is sturdy enough to be cut using paper punches, and then can be gently placed on a fondant-topped cake.

3. Blingy accents

Add just a touch of loose gold leaf to your favorite desserts to increase the decadence. Use loose leaf for a freestyle look — just be careful transferring the little bits of leaf! Toothpicks work wonders for this technique.

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Go for Gold! How to Apply Edible Gold Leaf to Cakes