There’s nothing like a little golden shimmer to make things extra special, so here is your guide to using edible gold leaf, with plenty of showstopping recipes to inspire you too.
Sometimes you want your food to be extra festive—during the holidays, say, when everything else is all glistening and sparkly (the ornaments on the tree, the lights lining the homes outside, the party outfits); or when the Oscars are coming up (the epitome of glitz and glam); or when you want to pull out all the stops for Valentine’s Day—times when you think: Why shouldn’t what’s coming out of my kitchen be equally blinged out? Good question. And your go-to tool for this task is clear: edible gold.
For the uninitiated, let’s go through the FAQs real quick.
Is Edible Gold Leaf Really Gold? Is It Really Safe to Eat?
Yes, edible gold is actually made out of real gold, and yes, you can really eat it. (Gold is a non-digestible metal, so it simply passes through our digestive system when consumed.) That being said, seeing as you’re going to literally be putting it into your body, this is not time to mess with the cheap, low-karat stuff that still contains some impurities. Quality leaf in the 20- to 24-karat range is what you’re looking for, and can easily be found in specialty cooking and baking shops (as well as online, obviously, like just about anything else you could possibly want).
24-Karat Edible Gold Leaf, 10 sheets for $18 on Etsy
Bring a little bling to your plate.
How Do You Use Edible Gold Leaf?
As far as form and function are concerned, the popular dessert decoration is most commonly available as either pre-fab flakes or in sheet leaf format. The latter is ideal for larger projects requiring a lot of coverage (aka cakes), or, generally speaking, anytime you want more control over the shape and size of the gold design.
Just remember you’ll need a paintbrush handy for application purposes (gold leaf needs a bit of moisture on a surface in order to stick to it), as well as all the patience you can muster. Expect ripping, wrinkling, general unruliness, and likely unavoidability of settling on a “rustic” free-form look. And whatever you do, avoid directly touching the stuff as much as possible for obvious reasons. Making a smooth sheet of gold leaf (like on the outside of a layer cake) is trickier, but here’s how to apply smaller flakes:
Per cake expert Ashlee Marie, you’ll also want to be sure to turn off any air in the house as an unexpected breeze could cause your precious gold leaf to flutter away (it’s feather-light).
Now, if you’re still up for the challenge, go for the gold with these inspired gold leaf-decorated recipes.
Edible Gold Leaf Recipes
Didn’t think the classic French macaron could get any more precious? Take a look at this pale pink, gold leaf-flecked rendition filled with pomegranate ganache. (Or, you could take the semi-homemade, shortcut route—no judgement—and head-to-toe trim the ones you bought from the boutique bakery in the glitzy gold stuff.) Get our French Macarons with Pomegranate Ganache recipe.
Spiced wine-poached pears are lovely; a classic, even. But vanilla-saffron syrup poached pears drizzled with loopy golden tutus of spun sugar and garnished with gold leaf? That’s the stuff of epic dinner party legend. (Feel free to skip the tutus in favor of dark chocolate sauce.) Get the 24-Karat Saffron Poached Pears recipe.
If you’ve ever made chocolate truffles before, you know that the best thing about them (aside from getting to gobble them up with abandon, of course) is how easy they are to make compared to how impressive they look and taste. Still, if you want to up the ante for this year’s holiday party, consider making this variation that is not only gilded with gold leaf but also spiked with a decadent South African cream liqueur. Get the Gilded Chocolate Truffles recipe.
That being said, if you prefer your your gold-bedazzled chocolate truffle in full plated dessert format, there’s always this elegant tart to fall back on. And you can thank the pre-made tart shell for keeping this decadent, glittering looker low-maintenance. Get the Chocolate Truffle Tart recipe.
Gold Leaf Brownies
But even your basic brownies can be gilded (literally). Just bake your favorite batch and let them cool almost completely before you artfully smooth some gold leaf on top for a dazzling effect. See our guide to perfect brownies if you’re still searching for a go-to recipe.
Those mini marshmallows you can buy at the store are cute, but if you really want to crush the holiday (or awards) season, you’ll whip up a batch of these gold-flecked mallows to accompany your hot cocoa (or fondue). Get the Gold Leaf Marshmallows recipe.
Leave it to the Milanese to turn the volume on the way up on a simple, classic rice dish. The signature creation of Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi, the opulent entree goes for gold on gold by garnishing saffron risotto with a sheet of gold leaf. Get the Saffron Risotto with Gold Leaf recipe.
Well, would you look at that: The Jell-O shot has gone and graduated from the college party scene. Inspired by the flavors of a French 75 cocktail, this version of the the frat house favorite keeps it extra classy with a dusted gold leaf garnish. But don’t let the makeover fool you, these sparkly shots will get you into just as much trouble as they used to back in the day. Get the Champagne Jello Shots recipe.
The stiff, frothy cap of this fizzy Champagne cocktail is the perfect vessel for a dazzling gold leaf dust garnish (but try it with any egg white cocktail too). Get our Red Carpet Royale Champange Cocktail recipe.
Note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated with new links, text, and images.
Header image by Chowhound