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Ask The Expert: Dawn Parrott

Dawn Parrott is a Certified Working Pastry Chef and an accomplished award-winning

cake designer living in Spokane, Washington. Known for her outstanding royal icing work, she has won numerous competitions and awards in her career and is currently teaching around the globe as well as being a Brand Associate Partner for Renshaw Americas.

Colouring Fondant/Royal Icing

Q: What is the best way to colour fondant/royal icing?

A: I use many methods to colour both fondant/royal icing. It really depends on the colour. For example, if it’s a particular shade, I may start with a premodern colour and scale by weight to knead into a white paste. This will allow for easy matching should I need large amounts or need extra for pieces, etc. I use powder colours from time to time. This is good for royal icing as it doesn’t add extra liquid to the icing. With royal icing, it’s best to use a water based colour as the gels have glycerine which can break down or weaken the icing. I also use gel colours. There are many on the market. They are usually quite strong or concentrated and makes it easy to achieve your desired colour.

Using Royal Icing

Q: What’s your favourite thing to create using Renshaw Americas royal icing?

A: The royal icing is wonderful to pick up and just go with. It is ready made so all you have to do is stir, fill a bag and pipe. I love to use it for piping scenes.

Cornflour or Icing Sugar

Q: Cornflour vs icing sugar?

A: I do use both, however, I use only powdered sugar on real cakes because the cornflour on the underside of the fondant will turn to a gelatinous like substance once on the buttercream on your cake! When rolling for a competition cake, I generally use my cornstarch puff. The same for my gum paste work. Just be careful on using these, the sugarpaste will absorb them and can cause your fondant to dry out.

Sticky Fondant

Q: How do you deal with sticky fondant?

A: I generally add a little shortening to my hand or my mat. Again, you can add a little powdered sugar or cornflour to the work surface.

New Techniques

Q: Which of the latest techniques would you like to learn more about personally that you have seen in the cake industry and why?

A: I would love to learn more about sculpting and structure. As a royal icer, I have always done more traditional style cakes. It would be great to expand my knowledge to other areas as well. I tend to be a very architectural designer so sculpting would take me out of my comfort zone.

Transporting Big Cakes

Q: How do you transport big/delicate cakes?

A: I generally use cardboard boxes. If they are heavy, I cut a piece of wood to fit the base of the box. I cut one side of the box open by cutting straight down two corners. This way, the cake can go in nice and smooth. Sometimes I put a piece of foam on the wood to help absorb shock. On the foam is a piece of non-skid mat. I then place the cake and tape up the box. The final step is covering the top of the box in Saran wrap or cling film to avoid and rain or debris from getting inside. This is, of course, if your box flaps couldn’t be used due to the cakes height.

Best Buttercream

Q: Which is the best buttercream to work with on hot days?

A: Bakery buttercream – this is a buttercream that uses a high ratio of shortening. If it is a very hot area, like Texas, you can use all shortening to help.

Repairing Cracks in Fondant

Q: What is the best way to repair cracks in fondant?

A: Rub a little shortening over it. If that doesn’t work, you can take a bit of your fondant, work water into it to create a pipeable fondant and fill the crack. This will be an exact match!


Q: How and where do you find cake inspiration?

A: I am mainly inspired by architecture. The clean lines and thought in designs draw my eye and start my brain on design sessions. Wooden accents, picture frames, iron work, etc.