What is Edible Gold Leaf?

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. 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! 

This article will cover the basics of edible gold leaf--what is is, where to buy it, and why it's safe to eat.

For instructions on working with gold leaf, please see this gold leaf tutorial. 

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. It 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 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 edible silver leaf, and it behaves just like edible gold leaf does. Make sure you're buying from a reputable source and that the silver is clearly labelled "edible."

How is Gold Leaf 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, and they are also frequently used for adding floating gold flecks to alcoholic drinks.

The sheets are more delicate and can be tricky to use, but they are best 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. Transfer leaf is best if you want to cover a large surface, like a cake, entirely with gold. 

Where Can I Buy Gold Leaf?

Gold leaf is readily available online, from specialty gold distributors, auction sites, and even Amazon.com. 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 it at a non-cooking source, you are truly buying edible-quality gold leaf.

How Do I Apply Edible Gold Leaf?

See this tutorial showing how to use edible gold leaf. For a recipe using edible gold leaf, see this recipe for Champagne Truffles.