Now, you know how I feel about fresh flowers on cakes, I'm not the biggest fan. Too many variables including fertilizers, plant toxicity, wilting, pesticides, who's been sneezing on them or dropping them on the floor en route to the cake, etc.
But the flowers that were waiting for me really closed the deal on me not wanting to use real flowers, ever.
I picked the topper up and touched one of the flowers in it in the process. It felt sticky. Not a little wet-sticky, but spray-adhesive-on-them sticky. Whatever it was got all over my hand and made it sticky, too. The flowers also looked really shiny.
At first I thought that it must be sap from one of the plants, but then I realized that the flowers all had something applied to them that was making them feel that way. I've never seen anything like that before, so I asked a few florists who I know to see what they thought it could be.
They were pretty unanimous that it was probably some type pf preservative. Al Brockwell from FloraCulture commented "It's called crowning glory, used to help flowers from wilting. I hate it." I spoke to him soon after that and he said that the stuff is nasty. (Al also tells his brides not to use fresh flowers on the cake because of the types of fertilizers that are used on South America, where many flowers come from these days.)
Mona Ray from Flowers by Mona Ray speculated that "It was probably a petal proofer to keep them together and stop them from wilting... Not sure I would have wanted that on a cake... What kind of flowers were they? Most things in the chrysanthemum family wilt really badly and we spray them for designs with the petal proofer... surprised to hear it was on the cake flowers."
There were chrysanthemums in the arrangement, so that's probably the reason that the spray was used.
Deborah Mooney, owner of Lasting Florals, added: "There are 2 popular products used to preserve and hydrate fresh flowers when out of water, one a spray and the other in liquid form. Clear Life and Crowning Glory. The key is to use it properly and minimally. They are both non-toxic when dry. Sticky and dewey is way over done, photographs suffer from the shine and at all costs there are ways to prevent the flowers from touching the cake."
So there was a clear consensus that it was a preservative, and that it's nasty, and that it pretty much was overdone in this case, and that you probably shouldn't be using it on flowers that are going on the cake. I looked up the specifics on Crowning Glory, and although it says that there are no known hazardous chemicals in it, it can cause irritation to skin and eyes and cause headache, nausea and nose and throat irritation. So I don't know...Oh, and you're not supposed to let it get into the municipal water supply if it spills. And you should evacuate the area in the case of spills??? Huh?
Clear Life was worse than that, it's pretty clear that you shouldn't let that touch your food.
So...I'll just add this to my list of reasons why I prefer to use sugar flowers on my cakes. At least if I drop one of those I don't need to evacuate the kitchen. And there's no propane or butane in them that I know of.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com