The Basics of Edible Gold Leaf Sheets and Flakes

What it is, where to buy it, and why it's safe to eat

Gold Leaf on Chocolate Strawberries
RJR Studio / Getty Images

You've probably seen edible gold leaf in action before: a glimmer of gold on a piece of chocolate cake, a stunning metallic hint on a truffle, or a crinkled piece of real gold on top of a sliver of tart. There is absolutely nothing as striking as the glitz and glamour of real gold. And the best part is, if you use edible gold leaf, you can actually consume these gorgeous gold decorations!

Learn all about the basics of edible gold leaf—what is is, where to buy it, and why it's safe to eat.

What Is Edible Gold Leaf?

Edible gold leaf is a gold product that can be used to decorate food. In candy making, it is often used to cover whole candies like chocolates or truffles or applied sparingly as a small decorative touch. Edible gold leaf is also used in other dessert decorations, from a few speckles on top of a cupcake to covering an entire cake with gold leaf.

Is Gold Leaf Really Edible?

In most cases, yes. Gold is considered "biologically inert," meaning it passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed. When selecting gold leaf, make sure to get gold that is as pure as possible. This means it should be 22-24 carats. Gold leaf with a smaller carat value has more impurities and is less safe to eat. If you are careful and buy gold leaf that is clearly labeled as "edible" and has 22-24 carats, eating gold leaf is harmless.

You can also buy an edible silver leaf, which behaves just like the edible gold leaf. Make sure you're buying from a reputable source and that the silver is clearly labeled "edible."

How Gold Leaf Is Sold

Gold leaf is typically sold either in sheets or as flakes. The flakes are easiest if you want to sprinkle the tops of candies with a gold glimmer. They are also frequently used by fancier bartenders for adding floating gold flecks to alcoholic drinks. The sheets are more delicate and can be tricky to use. They are useful if you want to cover a larger surface area with gold.

Sheets are sold in two ways: loose leaf and transfer leaf. Loose-leaf is best if you want to tear small pieces of the gold leaf apart and use small portions to decorate candies or truffles. Transfer leaf is preferred if you want to cover a large surface, like a cake, entirely with gold.

Purchasing Gold Leaf

Gold leaf is readily available online, from specialty gold distributors and even Amazon. Specialty cake and candy decorating stores often carry gold leaf or gold flakes. If you are looking for the sheets, you might also find them at an art supply store, where they are used in art or craft projects. Just be sure that if you find the gold leaf at a non-cooking source, you are truly buying an edible-quality gold leaf.