Naturally gluten-free chocolate sweets with candied violets for Valentine’s Day: the candied flower from Parma to give a sweet scent to the palate.



Candied flowers and chocolate

Violets are the symbol of spring when their unmistakable colour begins to paint the still cold earth with purple and white brush strokes. This little flower, delicate in form and colour, bursts forth with its powerful scent to announce the magic of nature’s reawakening, which repeats itself every year like a rebirth.

Violets arrived in Parma thanks to Marie Louise of Austria, the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was Duchess of the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla between 1814 and 1847. The Duchess’s passion for this flower meant that many violet cultivations were planted in the area , which the monks of the Convento dell’Annunciata used to obtain the essence through steam distillation of flowers and leaves for the Duchess’s exclusive use. The fragrance created using the precious essential oil soon became famous throughout Europe under the name of Parma Violet.

Even today, at Marie Louise’s behest, her tomb in Vienna is always adorned with violets.

If the use of the violet in perfumery is no surprise, its use in cooking is certainly less well known, especially in the form of a candied sweet, made with painstaking care, artistry and charm by a few skilled hands.


The production of candied violets is closely linked to nature because, as we all know if we like to pick these fragrant flowers, their appearance along the paths and in the meadows varies according to the temperature, so the few companies dedicated to their processing have their binoculars aimed at spotting the mauve-coloured dots popping up on the horizon.

To be candied, the flowers must be quite large – as the process will reduce their size – and perfectly intact. Once carefully gathered into bunches, the violets are sprayed with fresh water to gently wash them, the stems are removed one by one, then the petals are brushed by hand with glucose syrup before being coated with caster sugar. Covered with sugar, violets are placed in tanks containing glucose and sugar, called Brillantiere, where they crystallise, taking on the appearance that characterises the finished product.

The most striking thing when eating a violet is the scent: a truly unusual experience. Personally, I only discovered in adulthood that these sweets on sale in Parma’s traditional pastry shops were real flowers treated with such passion and not sugar souvenirs for tourists!

Le violette candite sul dolcetto

The candied violets on the cake

In the month of love, a flower to eat.

I wanted to take the opportunity of Valentine’s Day, which I love celebrating in the Anglo-Saxon way (i.e. celebrating love in all its forms and not just between married couples or fiancés), to share with you this traditional preparation from my hometown because I thought you might find it nice to give a ‘bouquet’ of violets to use to make deliciously beautiful and fragrant, mouth-watering treats, to be consumed sparingly when approaching rich and precious things… like a chocolate treat! If you prefer to bake a cake, use candied violets to decorate the Lovers’ Sacher.

Where to find candied violets

In most confectioner’s shops in Parma, especially during the first months of the year, pretty packages of candied violets will pop up, ideal for having a little piece of tradition in a sweet. To be on the safe side, you can enter the realm of confectionery enthusiasts (both physical and online), the shop Dalla A allo Zucchero in the city centre, where you will find any ingredient or equipment to make your cakes, including these beautiful violets.

Chocolate sweets with candied violets

carbohydrates of shortbread bases 53.38g per 100g

carbohydrates of chocolate mousse 22.12g per 100g

Ingredients for the shortbread for 12 sweets

  • 110g wholemeal rice flour*
  • 65g butter
  • 65g brown or coconut sugar
  • 35g almond flour*
  • 25g potato starch*
  • 25g tapioca starch*
  • 10g bitter cocoa powder*
  • 1 egg
  • grated orange peel or orange paste*
  • 1 pinch of salt

Ingredients for the chocolate mousse

  • 200g fresh cream
  • 100g dark chocolate*
  • 50g milk
  • 30g egg white (about 1)
  • 30g sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice;
  • grated coconut*
  • candied violets*

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation of shortbread and mousse

  1. Prepare the shortbread by putting all the ingredients in the bowl of the planetary mixer; mix for a few minutes until the mixture is blended. Form a ball, cover it with cling film and place it in the refrigerator for the time needed to prepare the chocolate mousse
  2. Chop the dark chocolate finely; bring the milk to the boil and pour it over the dark chocolate, stirring with a whisk so that the chocolate melts completely.
  3. Whip the egg whites until stiff and add the sugar, mixing it in. Add this meringue to the melted chocolate, which will still be warm.
  4. Whip the cream until it has the texture of a Greek yoghurt (semi-whipped), then add this to the chocolate and egg white mixture. Place the mixture in the bowl of the planetary mixer and whip it for about 2 minutes with the whisk so that it is creamy, but soft. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for the time needed to prepare the shortbread bases.

Assembly of chocolate sweets

  1. Roll out the shortbread to a thickness of about 5mm with a rolling pin and cut out discs of the diameter corresponding to the tartlet mould (I use the non-stick mould for 12 muffins by Le Creusetit is very convenient because it doesn’t need to be greased), make them fit well in the hole, pierce the bottom with a fork and bake in a static oven preheated to 180°C for 10-13 minutes.
  2. If you have some shortbread left, cut some heart-shaped biscuits that you can use to decorate the sweets.
  3. Take the tartlets out of the oven and allow them to cool completely.
  4. Take a pastry bag and choose the tip you want: I chose the smooth 1.5cm diameter tip. Remove the mousse from the refrigerator, fill a pastry bag and top the tartlets as desired. Sprinkle with grated coconut and complete with a candied violet and a small biscuit.

Dolcetti per san valentino

Version with gluten of Chocolate sweets with candied violets

The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten. If you want to use wheat flour, replace rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch with equal amounts of wheat flour.

Valentine’s Day is arriving to celebrate the feeling of love, to be together and exchange sweet thoughts. And what gift could be more appreciated than a delicious Lovers’ Sacher cake, decorated with fresh raspberries?

The perfect ingredients are all there: irresistible dark chocolate, delicate apricot jam and the intense flavour of raspberries to top it.

The shape chosen, needless to say, is the heart shape.

Try our recipe and give it to someone you love! And if you want more ideas for Valentine’s Day, have a look at these Chocolate sweets with candied violets.

Lovers’ Sacher cake

39.85g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for the cake

  • 150g gluten free flour mix for bread, brand BiAglut**
  • 150g sugar free dark chocolate*
  • 150g butter
  • 150g sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • a bit of vanilla from the pod
  • a pinch of salt

Ingredients for filling and coating

  • 250g raspberry jam without added sugar*
  • 120g apricot jam*
  • 150g sugar free dark chocolate*
  • 50g fresh raspberries
  • 50g fresh cream
  • 30g water

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)


  1. Melt chocolate and butter in a bain-marie, or in the microwave, stirring so that the two ingredients are perfectly incorporated. Then let the mixture cool.
    Separate the yolks from the egg whites and whip the latter until stiff, adding a pinch of salt; then set them aside. Add sugar to the chocolate mixture and then one egg yolk at a time, stirring with a whisk. Add the sifted flour and vanilla, continuing to mix so that no lumps form.
    Finally, incorporate the beaten egg whites.
  2. Pour the mixture into a heart-shaped cake tin, corresponding to a baking tin about 24cm in diameter, lined with wet and squeezed baking paper so that it adheres well to the walls of the tin; gently beat the tin on a surface to let any air bubbles out and bake in a static oven preheated to 180°C for 35 minutes. Once the necessary time has elapsed, remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool.
La base della Sacher

Sacher base

  1. Cut the cake in half horizontally. Spread 250g of raspberry jam on the lower half, then cover it with the top half. Pour the apricot jam into a thick-bottomed saucepan together with a little water; put it on the heat and let it melt slightly, then strain it through a fairly thick sieve to obtain a kind of thick, smooth juice.
  2. Use this jam to generously moisten the surface and sides of the chocolate cake.
La copertura con il cioccolato

Chocolate coating

  1. Prepare the chocolate coating by melting the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan over very low heat or in the microwave. Stir well to obtain a smooth and even cream and cover the cake with the help of a smooth-bladed knife.
La decorazione con i lamponi

Decorating with raspberries

  1. Place fresh raspberries around the perimeter of the heart to define it.
La Sacher pronta per essere gustata

Sacher ready to be enjoyed

Version with gluten of Lovers’ Sacher cake

Replace the 150g of gluten-free flour with an equal amount of wheat flour.