Wedding cake advice: should I have real flowers or sugar flowers on my wedding cake?

As a wedding cake designer with a tendency towards rustic and bohemian designs, flowers are an integral part of the aesthetic and it’s a good job because I adore a floral flourish and to be able to dabble in a bit of floristry is just the cherry on top (pun unashamedly intended)!

When it comes to cake flowers, I often get asked which is better: real or sugar flowers? The fact is, and I know I’m sat so firmly on the fence that I’m at risk of getting splinters, I would have to say that neither is better. It really is just down to personal preference but what I can do however is give you some tips on the pros and cons of each option, so here we go….

Real Flowers


Mother nature already does a darn good job of decorating our green and pleasant land with beautiful botanicals so real flowers are always going to look amazing against the canvas of a wedding cake, and if you’re looking to match the cake flowers to the rest of your wedding florals then it’s a no-brainer. 

To ensure a seamless match of flower types and colours, I would always encourage your cake designer to liaise directly with your florist. There’s nothing that haunts my dreams more than turning up to a venue with a three-tier cake only to find enough flowers for a one-tier just because something got lost in communication along the way. Let us worry about the details and you carry on with the joy of getting married!

When it comes to dressing your cake with flowers, each cake designer has their own methods but, as I’m a teeeensy bit precious, I always personally dress the cake. After all, your florist has enough to be getting on with on the day without having to wrestle with the messy business of cake! Plus, I will have designed your cake with your vision in mind and it’s my responsibility to turn that into reality.

As beautiful as they may be, one thing to bear in mind with real flowers is whether or not they’re safe to put on a cake. A good cake maker will clean and prepare the stems before dressing your cake to ensure that no nasties come into contact with it but some flowers are toxic (hydrangeas and calla lillies are a couple of the cheeky culprits!) so should be avoided unless you want your wedding to be memorable for the wrong reason! 

Also have a think about the time of year. It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll find a spring daffodil in a summer bouquet so if there’s a flower that is a particular favourite or has special meaning to you, then you’ll need to consider seasonality if you have your hearts set on a specific species of flower. 


If your vibe is rustic then the not-so-humble wild flower (think daisies and cornflowers etc.) can be so simply effective and oh so prettily boho! And if the thought of dried flowers conjures up images of a dusty bowl of pot pourri then think again; the trend for dried stems is really hitting the wedding blogs currently (pampas grass anyone?) and can look a-ma-zing!  


Sugar Flowers


When I first learned how to make a sugar rose about ooh, 15 years ago, I can’t say I was entirely enamoured. Lovely as she was, our evening class tutor seemed to be stuck on a certain look, which harped back to wedding cakes of the seventies complete with pillars and a plethora of peach!

Fortunately, trends have changed and advances in sugar craft techniques have moved on since then and now I love them. There are a variety of styles that can be achieved and the sugar flowers hitting the Pinterest and Instagram feeds today look so incredibly realistic that they warrant a third look and that, I think, is their main appeal.

If you choose to have a wedding cake then it’s one of the key elements of the day and it’s going to take up a fair bit of real estate on your photographer’s DSLR so it needs to be a showstopper and realistic sugar flowers can really add to that wow-factor. There is also a freedom with sugar flowers that you don’t get with real flowers, which means you can have any species of flower and in any colour you like and the bonus, they won’t wilt and die! In fact, they pretty much last forever if you keep them dry and dust-free.

Now I’m not going to sugar-coat it (pun number two also entirely intended!), like any other work of art, sugar flowers take time and skill to make and more often than not, your cake maker will make more than they actually need to allow for breakages, so a lot of time is invested and in turn, that means more investment from the client. Sugar flowers can take days to make; each petal individually cut, veined, thinned, wired, dried, dusted with colour and assembled but the result is a labour of love that makes your wedding cake look INCREDIBLE. 


Sugar flowers can also take other forms and be created using buttercream, royal icing, rice paper and you can even have them hand-painted onto the cake. The options are endless and with a bespoke cake you can literally take your pick of the bunch (and there’s the pun hat trick!).

So there you have it,  I hope that has helped with any dilemmas but ultimately, your cake designer can help you come to a decision that’s right for you and your budget so don’t be afraid to ask them for their creative input, that’s what they’re there for after all!