Whether you’re a novice or an expert cake decorator, we bet that stringwork remains high on your list of techniques to learn! Stringwork adds a stunning degree of intricacy to any cake design, but requires patience to perfect. To help guide you in getting started, we spoke with award-winning cake designer Dawn Parrott, whose beautiful designs are winning competitions across the country.
How did you get so good at piping?
Practice, practice, practice. You need to learn the strength of your hand pressure, what consistency works best for you, how much icing to put in your bag, etc. In the early days, I kept a bowl of icing in my fridge at all times— if I had free time, I would take out the icing and pipe random patterns. I literally piped constantly. As my comfort increased, I would find harder patterns to try.
How do you know when to stop decorating? Sometimes when I am piping, I just get carried away!
That is a tough question. My family thinks I am crazy because I always say that the cakes tell me what they want. I used to guide an art tour in Toronto, and one of the architects of the buildings on the tour had a saying: “Less is more.” This motto has always stuck with me. Empty space is good space. I always remind students to step away frequently and look at your design with fresh eyes when you come back into the room.
You have competed in the most renowned wedding cake competition in the USA; what is your best advice for competing?
I love competing. The best advice I have is to compete because you want to learn, not because you want to win. I am the decorator I am today because of my competition experiences. I got better and pushed myself harder because of the comments and questions from judges.
Your cakes are so intricate and look so delicate. How do you transport a cake with string-work?
I transport all of my cakes in cardboard boxes with a piece of soft foam underneath as a base. The foam takes the impact and keeps the cake in a steady position. Luckily, I have never had any issues with breakage during transportation.
How do you come up with ideas for classes, and what is your favorite thing to teach?
Architecture is one of my main sources of inspiration. Whenever I see something that catches my eye, I question, “How can I make that in sugar?” I then look at what is already out there for similar techniques and develop my own approach. Once I’m comfortable with it, I work on creating a plan to teach the concept or technique. I love helping others enhance their current skills and broaden what they can offer.
What would you want decorators who question whether they have enough experience to take your class? What level of skill is needed for your classes?
My classes are designed for all levels, from the beginner to the master. Everyone has something they can learn. Everyone learns differently. I approach every student individually and my goal is to get them excited about the art of piping while keeping it fresh and new.
What can I expect to learn in your classes?
In my classes, I want you to become more comfortable when using royal icing as a medium, knowing how to make it correctly and gaining confidence in piping skills that can be applied to everyday cake design.