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Cabarrus Magazine

The Number One Dessert Decorating Tip from the Owner of Concord's Downtown Donuts

Jan 19, 2018 06:50PM ● By Melanie Heisinger
You can make it taste good. But can you make it look good too? 

That's the question that Nate Ernst, one of the owners of Concord's Downtown Donuts, asked. We wanted to know what the trick was to designing the perfect donut. Luckily, he had a few answers for us. 

"I’ve been a designer for lots of years now," Ernst told us, "and I keep finding tenets that cross into food. One of the basic principles of design is contrast. Whether it’s a poster or a website, if there’s isn’t enough contrast it’s not going to make an impact."

So, it's all about the contrast. This translated to so much more than simply desserts and decorating. 

"I love to cook Mexican food, and cilantro is a great way to add contrast to almost any dish," Ernst said. "In fact, google your favorite Mexican dish and the photo will usually have at least a few sprigs of cilantro on top! Cilantro adds some great contrast to a tortilla, cheese, and some rice or beans."

Downtown Donuts hasn't done a cilantro donut (yet?), but they have an easy staple to dress up desserts.


"We have all kinds of sprinkles to choose from," says Ernst. "Sprinkles are like the cilantro of the dessert world."

More than simple sprinkles, Ernst suggests having fun with making your own sprinkles with unique items and combining them. "We can make some delicious donuts with chocolate, and more chocolate, and then oreo, and chocolate sprinkles, and covered with chocolate. One minute… Ok, that example worked, that was delicious."

However, Ernst noted that it was simply a big brown donut. Nothing more. 

This week's Downtown Donut is a great example of the perfect combination. Six months ago, they did M&M’s on vanilla icing. The M&M’s really popped against the vanilla. This week, they wanted to try out mini M&M’s on chocolate.

"The problem is that the M&Ms don’t have the same pop on chocolate icing," Ernst said. "They’re just as delicious, but how can we show it? Contrast!"

When decorating, they never want to change the flavor in order to dress things up, but a dash of powdered sugar was all we needed to make these donuts look outstanding. So the next time your dessert looks a little dull, think of a way to add some contrast. It doesn’t have to be crazy colors, it can be anything that adds contrast.

So, whatever you are decorating, grab some frosting and assorted sprinkles, and create some contrast! 

Or, as per Ernst's advice, "If you’re all out of ideas, add a few sprigs of cilantro."

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