Barbara Evans (left) and Mary Jo Dowling won the Pillsbury Bakers' Plus Creative Decorating Competition at the Atlantic Bakery Expo.
Cake decorating competitions often bring out the best in team members with complementary skills. Barbara Evans and Mary Jo Dowling exemplified this truism in winning the 17th Annual Pillsbury Bakers’ Plus Grand Champion Creative Decorating Competition held April 8-9 during the Atlantic Bakery Expo at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“I do the fiddly bits and cake carving. Barb is very neat, pristine, and her string work is incredible,” said Dowling, who runs Frosting and Crumbs cake studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In winning the competition, Evans of The Wedding Cake Connection in Peoria, Illinois, and Dowling concentrated on their individual strengths. Evans designed a gorgeous rose gold wedding cake that featured textured layers, intricate stenciling and delicate string work.

Mary Jo Dowling scultped a lifelike husky as a grooms' cake.

Dowling sculpted a lifelike husky dog out of cake and icing with a mechanical wagging tail. Evans explained that contestants followed the scripted theme — a couple getting married at a botanical garden, and the groom being a hockey player with a dog named Puck.

“Eight hours goes incredibly fast,” Evans said. “We are honored to be in the place we’re in.”

On the second day, they collaborated on a colorful adult birthday cake featuring fondant ribbons and all shapes of decorations.

"Pinterest and the food networks have totally changed the cake decorating world,” Dowling said. “Everyone expects a lot more, and nothing is off limits.”  

One of the baking industry’s most prestigious competitions for professional bakers, the 17th Annual Pillsbury Bakers’ Plus Grand Champion Creative Decorating Competition was hosted by General Mills Foodservice and the Retail Bakers of America.

Robbyn Yuen (left) and Ashley Spitzer work on their elegant wedding cake.
The overall second-place prize went to Ashley Spitzer and Robbyn Yuen of Creative Cakes in Tinley Park, Illinois.

The third-place team was Fiona Black and Dorey Williams of Sweet Nothings Fine Cakes and Desserts in Wyandotte, Michigan.

The Pillsbury Bakers’ Plus Grand Champion Creative Decorating Competition called upon professional cake decorators and pastry chefs to showcase their creativity, imagination, artistry and skills in three categories: wedding cake, rolled fondant cake and sculpted cake. The 2018 finalists were chosen to compete by either winning a regional competition or via portfolio submission.