Edible gold leaf is a gold product that can be used to decorate food. Gold is considered "biologically inert," meaning it passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed. It is mostly used in desserts and candy making and is available in sheets and as flakes. It is one of the world's priciest foods, but considering it is real gold, the sheets and flakes are relatively inexpensive. It is important to buy quality gold leaf as cheaper versions contain impurities.
Shelf Life: indefinite
Most Common Use: dessert decoration
Where to Buy: specialty baking supply stores and online
Gold Leaf Uses
Edible gold leaf is used to bring a glamorous element to a dish. The flakes add a gold glimmer to the tops of candies and cupcakes; they are also frequently used by fancier bartenders for adding floating gold flecks to alcoholic drinks. The sheets of edible gold are sold in two ways: loose leaf and transfer leaf. Loose leaf is best to tear into small pieces for decorating candies and truffles. Transfer leaf is preferred when covering a large surface, like a cake, entirely with gold.
Although it is traditionally employed to dress up desserts, edible gold leaf has made its way to not only the savory side of the menu but also fast-food restaurants. In 2018, Popeyes fried chicken celebrated its 3,000th store opening by featuring champagne-battered, gold-flaked chicken wings, and a restaurant in Australia sold a giant hamburger with a gold leaf bun.
Edible gold sheets are delicate and can be tricky to use. They easily tear and can wrinkle, and because they are so thin, the sheets of gold will blow away if caught by a little gust of air (including your breath). The edible gold leaf will also stick to skin if touched and will become unusable. Therefore, it is important that a few directions are followed and the necessary supplies are close by, including a paring knife or razor blade and a clean, dry paintbrush; a pair of cotton gloves is also helpful. Since the gold leaf attaches to most surfaces, the knife or razor blade can be used to move the sheet to the food it is covering. A set of small tongs or tweezers is ideal for removing the flakes of edible gold from the container and placing them on the food item.
What Does It Taste Like?
Edible gold leaf does not have any taste at all. This food decoration is only used for its luxurious and shiny appearance, and to add a festive and impressive touch to a dish.
Edible Gold Leaf Recipes
Edible gold leaf is mainly used in desserts and sometimes cocktails, but once in a while, it is part of a savory recipe, such as risotto and sushi, raising the dish to a more elegant and extravagant level.
Where to Buy Gold Leaf
Gold leaf can be found at specialty marketplaces online. Certain cake and candy decorating stores will carry gold leaf or gold flakes, and the sheets may also be available in an art supply store (to be used in art or craft projects). Be sure that if purchasing the gold leaf from a non-cooking source that it is an edible-quality gold leaf.
When selecting edible gold leaf, it is important to choose gold that is as pure as possible. This means it should be 22 to 24 carats, which is actually a greater purity than most gold jewelry. Gold leaf with a smaller carat value has more impurities and is less safe to eat. The square sheets range in size from 1 1/2 inches to 5 1/2 inches and are sold in booklets of 10 to 100 pages. The flakes are packaged in jarlike containers and range from 100 milligrams to 1 gram in weight.
Edible gold leaf is very delicate and needs to be handled with care. The booklets of sheets should be laid flat and stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from any warm and damp conditions. The flakes should also be stored in a cool, dry place. Edible gold leaf will last indefinitely.
Nutrition and Benefits
As long as the edible gold leaf is clearly labeled as "edible" and has between 22 and 24 carats, eating gold leaf is harmless. Edible gold leaf has no calories or fat, and no nutritional value.