Are Sparklers Safe on Cakes?

Birthday cake with candles and sparklers.
Sparklers make cake festive, but are you sure you want to eat the metal filings they throw onto your food?. Betsie Van der Meer / Getty Images

Nothing makes a cake more festive than adding a glittering sparkler to the top, yet how safe is it, to put a firework on your food? The answer depends on your definition of "safe." Here's a look at the various risks associated with using sparklers on your cake or cupcake.

Sparkler Candles on Cakes

The candles that emit sparks are completely safe on a cake. They don't shoot off many sparks and aren't likely to burn you.

That doesn't make them food, however, so don't eat them.

Risk of Burns From Sparklers

By far, the greatest risk from putting a sparkler on a cake is the risk of getting burned when removing it from the cake. Sparklers account for more firework accidents than any other type of pyrotechnics in part because they are used more often and because there is a genuine risk of grabbing the wire while it's still too hot. The solution is easy. Just wait for the sparkler to cool before removing it.

Don't Poke Your Eye Out

Sparklers can be used on party cakes for kids, but don't let kids play with the sparklers. Accidents occur when people get poked with the sharp wire. Adults should supervise any use of sparklers and they should be removed (when cool) before serving the cake.

Chemicals in Sparklers

All sparklers are not created equal! Some are toxic and should not be used on food. All sparklers throw off small particles of metal, which can land on the cake.

Food grade sparklers are more likely to be safer than sparklers from a fireworks store.

Even the safest sparklers shower your cake with aluminum, iron, or titanium. Colored sparklers may add some barium (green) or strontium (red) to your festive treat. The other chemicals in sparklers generally are not a concern, as long as you are using ashless, smokeless sparklers.

If the sparkler throws ash, you'll get non-food-grade chemicals on your cake, including chlorates or perchlorates. The biggest risk comes from heavy metals, though there may be other toxic substances, too.

The chemicals from sparklers aren't likely to kill you or even make you sick, especially if you only eat cake as a special treat, but you might feel better scraping off any residue that looks suspicious. Enjoy sparklers on your cake, but use ones meant for food and let them cool before touching them. You can find these online or at any party supply store.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Are Sparklers Safe on Cakes?" ThoughtCo, Mar. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/are-sparklers-safe-on-cakes-607432. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, March 25). Are Sparklers Safe on Cakes? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/are-sparklers-safe-on-cakes-607432 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Are Sparklers Safe on Cakes?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/are-sparklers-safe-on-cakes-607432 (accessed November 23, 2017).