I always loved the cards that painted the roses red in the Queen of Heart’s garden, and for about a year, have had the idea to do an edible rose bush for a centrepiece for a Alice in Wonderland tea party.
The original idea was to make it entirely edible, including the base/ stem, but with this heat and humidity, it was a struggle enough with the sugared petals and chocolate leaves.
So, no fluffing about, this is a long post, so let’s get stuck into it.
Step 1: Plan
Start by sketching out a rose bush concept, remembering that nature is pretty balanced. Branches go left, right, left right, when growing. You might not do as many roses and leaves as you’ve drawn, but it gives you a base to go from.
Also, plan your time. This is a pretty hands-on project, and takes 2 days if you’ve really got it together. In saying that, I’d suggest starting this 3 days before you actually need it. Just. In. Case. The first day make your wire base and wires for the leaves and roses (I talk about this next), that evening start your rose petal base, and the next morning finish off your roses and your chocolate leaves, and that afternoon attach the roses and leaves to the wire frame.With it finished, store it in a cool room under a glass cloche or similar to keep the dust off until you’re ready to.
Step 2: The Wire Rose Bush Frame
Important note: you are working with wire, so for safety purposes, please make sure you have all the right equipment (wire cutters or very sharp scissors, eye protection, etc) and when I tell you to wrap the wires, whether with baking paper or floral tape, it’s because half is for hygiene and the other half is safety. Make sure all the edges are covered so it doesn’t poke anyone. I’m not taking any responsibility for someone getting hurt! Safety comes first.
Count the number of roses and leaves you want for your bush. Unwrap and cut that number of wires. I used a wire 1mm thick from the local hardware store. I made mine all the same length (in this case ~45-50cm long) and cut it down later.
To keep yourself from poking your eye out, separate three sections of the wire. Line them up so their edges are flush, and take one of the wire ends and wrap it around the base so they are secure. Repeat with the other two sections. Finally, combine the three sections together. Take brown floral tape, and working from the base up, tightly wrap the tape around to secure the wires together. Give the floral tape a gentle pull. It does stretch out and is sticky. About 20 cm up from the base, angle one of the three sections away from the other two. Keep wrapping the floral tape up the two remaining sections (you’ll come back and wrap the other bit later). 2-3 cm later, angle the two sections away from each other, and continue the floral tape up one of the sections. You’ll repeat this same process on each of these three sections.
So for the section you are continuing to wrap, there’s about 15 wires in my one section. About 5 cm up, angle a few wires away (in my case I angled 6). 3 cm up along the main section, angle more wires ( 5 ) so you’re left with the remaining ( 4). Continue this same process, this time, just angling one wire out every 1-2 cm, in the opposite direction (remember that nice balance in nature). These final singular wires, don’t bother wrapping, as they’ll be attached to the rose or leaf wires later. Repeat this process for the other two sections until you’re completely down.
Whew. I hope you got that. Confused? That’s why I included pictures. You can see in the two photos below how they separate and alternate.
Stick your rose bush frames base into some floral foam, and stick that into the vase or flower pot you’re going to display it in.
Finally, prune the singular wires so 3-4 cm of wire is left sticking out for each piece.
Step 3: Create wire frame for roses
Count the number of roses you want to make- this is how many mini wire frames you’ll be making for this step.
Use floral wire and cut about 11cm for each piece, and fold over the top of the wire to create a hook, so the hook is about 2-3 cm.
Because this is food we are creating, to keep it hygienic, take a ~1cm wide strip of white baking paper and thread it through the hook. Squeeze the hook closed, and tightly wrap the baking paper down the wire for about 2 -2.5 cm. Tear off and take a piece of brown floral tape, and wrap it tightly twice around the base of the baking paper, and then continue wrapping the tape down the rest of the wire. As stated before, floral tape has a stickiness that will help hold the baking paper in place.
Step 4: Create wire frame for leaves
We’re going to do similar for the leaves now. Again, count the number of leaves you’ll have, and cut this many pieces at 16cm long. Fold the wire in half so you have a 8cm length wire doubled up. Cut a strip of brown baking paper 1cm wide (we found brown muffin cup and unfolded them). We’re suing this because chocolate for the leaves will be attached to this. Like the rose wire, thread the brown baking paper through the top near the hook and squeeze the wire closed. Start wrapping the brown baking paper around and down the doubled up wire, until 2-3 cm from the bottom. At this point stop wrapping. Hold it at this point with two fingers, and take the two metal strands sticking out from the bottom, and fold them upwards tightly over the last wrap of baking paper. Wrap the baking paper once around the wire that’s just been folded up, then take the rest of the wire that’s sticking upward, and fold it back downward. Take a bit of brown floral tape, and wrap it tightly around this base and finish off whatever wire is left, if any.
Now that we have the frame all done, we can get onto the food part of it.
Step 5: Creating the rose centre
This will give the rose petals something to hold onto.
Cut a 2 cm wide strip of rice paper (the white sweet type, not the savoury semi transparent type).
Paint one side of the rice paper with egg white, and wrap it around the white baking paper tip of the rose bush wire that we made previously. Scrunch it together, and set it aside to slightly dry.
Step 6: Creating the roses
Now this part is very important. You should only use roses that have been grown organically with no pesticides. We are eating these after all! This means no getting flowers from your usual florist or grocery store. Hopefully you have a friend who has a garden. There’s rose bushes galore in my parent’s backyard, so I went to town picking them.
Choose only flowers with no, or next to no, blemishes. You want these pure white and perfect.
Once inside, straight away pluck the petals, place them in ice cold water and thoroughly wash them. No soap please. Just nice cold water in your bowl. Don’t let them soak.
Take them out, very very gently squeeze them of water, and lay them on paper towels. Lay more paper towels on top and, again gently, press down. Repeat with more paper towels, making sure you spread the petals out so all the water is absorbed.
Now, to make these sugar petals, there’s two ways about it. But before you choose which one, go through and remove any damaged/browning petals, and pinch off any yellow bases of each petal. You can do this as you go.
The first process is the usual crystallisation process.
Take a brand new paint brush, and paint egg white on both sides. Sprinkle with fine castor sugar on both sides, and give it a shake.
Take your rose/rice paper wire frame, and paint egg white on one bit of the rice paper centre you just created. Lay the rose petal on top, press the petal and its edges down onto the rice paper, and lean the wire against a low bowl on an angle to let it dry.
Note: I used a small wooden toothpick when doing the first crystallising process, as it needed help with the structure while drying. Doing it again, I wouldn’t bother with it. Just leave it to dry for longer instead. The second process definitely doesn’t need any extra support.
I do not recommend letting the petals dry flat on baking paper or a tray and then trying to attach them later to the frame. I tried this. It failed. You need them to curve like a rose petal does.
Every few hours, repeat the process of painting a petal with egg white, sprinkling with sugar, and overlapping the petals.If you have a petal that just dried on one side, you place the next petal on the other side, with just the petals edges overlapping. As it gets bigger (how big you go is up to you, just remember the wire frame does need to hold this up!) you end up attaching the petals in a clockwise direction, so the petals spiral around each other like a normal rose would. (I’m hoping that made sense).
The second process that I tried halfway through, and looked much nicer, and dried much better (and the one I recommend) is using royal icing.
It’s the same attaching process, but you need to give it less time, and it’s much more secure.
To make the royal icing whisk 1 egg white and 1/2 tsp lemon juice. Bit by bit, add in 1 1/2 cups sifted pure icing sugar (you can make it by pouring some white sugar into a clean coffee grinder if you don’t have it on hand) until it has a nice thick consistency, but still thin enough to paint on.
Like the first process, paint both sides of the petal, and press onto the rose wire frame around the rice paper. Let it sit and dry. You’ll be able to come back every 1/2 hour to an hour to repeat the process.
Step 7: Chocolate Leaves
In between the creating the roses, you can create your chocolate leaves. I used basil leaves because they do look similar to the rose leaf, but the lines are more defined.
Pick enough basil leaves. You can’t reuse the leaves, so make sure you have enough, and then somas back up.
Temper dark melting chocolate, and paint (or scoop and smooth with the back of a spoon) the chocolate onto the underside of the basil leaf. Make sure you coat the leaf thickly, as the chocolate can be quiet fragile and you need it to be able to hold up.
Set it aside to dry. An hour or so later, you can come back and gently peel the basil leaves off. Let the chocolate let sit and dry a bit more, as some of the basil oils will have transferred (makes for a beautiful taste!)
Step 8: Putting it all together
Now, in my photos and videos I show that I did some of the leaves first, then the roses. Don’t do what I did. When I went to do the roses, my hands kept smashing into the leaves and breakage them off.
So start with taking your roses. Overlap the rose wire with the singular wire sticking out of the frame. Take the floral tape and tightly tape it together. If your overlap of wires comes to another wire that sticks out, just wrap above and then below this sticking out wire. The more you wrap the wire and tape down the frame, the more secure it’ll be.
For the chocolate leaves, lay 4-5 cm of the brown baking paper wrapped wire along the underside of the chocolate leaf (the non detailed side). Paint more dark melted chocolate under and over the baking paper wire so it secures it to the chocolate leaf. Let it dry, then attach it to the rose bush frame the same way as the roses.
Right so, almost there.
You’ll have leftover royal icing, so dye some a deep red, and gently paint just one or two of the roses, so make them look like they’re being painted by the cards.
Store under a glass cloche or something similar to keep dust off, until you’re ready to serve it as your centrepiece.