Note: Donna's reply brought to the forefront of my mind my own cake-decorating contest experience. I started to reply, but decided it was too long and should be a separate post.
I participated in a Mormon cake decorating contest when I was a kid. It was the summer when I was fourteen, and was somewhere in Utah County, otherwise known as Happy Valley.The Cake Festival was an annual LDS church youth activity in that local jurisdiction.
The boys didn't participate n the decorating aspect of The Cake Festival. One of my paternal aunts was in charge of The Cake Festival that summer It was the same aunt who later blocked The Food Network from her home TV offerings because she feared Bobby Flay was making her son gay. She didn't know what the rest of us knew, which that her son was gay long before he ever laid eyes on Bobby Flay, but that's another topic for another day's blog. The boys weren't allowed to decorate cakes for The Cake Festival, presumably because the activity was deemed "not manly enough." Had the boys been allowed, there probably would have been something resembling a "Barf on a Rainy Day" entry.
Even at the time, it seemed a bit odd to me that if judging cakes was to be such a big part of the event, no contest involving how the cakes actually tasted was a part of the festivities. Since then I've concluded that it was a metaphor for the LDS way of life in general. Appearance is far more important than is actual substance.
So the Mia Maids -- who I don't think were officially called that anymore though the name still stuck -- were to decorate the cakes and the Teachers (the second Aaronic :Priesthood Quorum, as opposed to anyone who ever taught anything to anyone else) were to judge the contest. My cousin had forewarned me that it would be a waste of time to make a serious effort, as the girl with the largest boobs ALWAYS was awarded the prize, even if she didn't bother putting any frosting on her cake.
One year that actually was what happened, my cousin told me. The only stipulation was that the girl with the largest lactoids actually had to have a cake in the contest in order to win. Another year they tried to award the prize to the girl with the biggest boobs when she hadn't entered a cake. The leaders didn't understand the unofficial protocol, but they took the award away thinking it had been a clerical error on the part of the Teachers. That year it became a bit of a difficult decision, as it had been difficult to determine without the use of a tape measure, bra size tag, or view unimpeded by clothing, which girl had the second-most-impressive-set. My cousin said the contest ended in a split decision that year.
Cake decorating among LDS girls is a skill that must be perpetuated due to necessity. Mormons are big on wedding receptions. The average LDS temple ceremony begets roughly 2.5 receptions. Bakeries charge a sizable fee for baking and decorating wedding cakes. Mormons aren't accustomed to paying the going rate for goods and services of any kind. Hence, the girls and young women in the ward are expected to pick up the slack where wedding cakes are concerned.
If a girl becomes highly proficient at baking and decorating wedding cakes, she can bypass the free labor mill and can either work for a bakery or free-lance it. (She can either move to Vegas for the summer or stake out her clientele from among the wealthy Mormons whose checkbooks are not hermetically sealed when it comes to paying for their children's wedding receptions.) Her friends and relatives will try at every available opportunity to guilt her into producing the goods for free, but if she's busy coming up with wedding cakes in exchange for cash every weekend, it's a moot point unless it's her own sister who needs the 4-tiered monstrosity. One of my aunts worked her way through medical school (with NO student loans, which I consider quite impressive) by baking and decorating wedding cakes.
The B students of the School of Wedding Cake Decorating, however, will be called upon mightily to maintain the cake-eating status of Zion, and events such as the Canyon Creek Falls Vista View Second Ward Cake Festival will continue as long as wedding receptions continue. One would assume for such to be until the end of time as we know it, but that's probably what people though about missionary farewell celebrations, which have since been determined to be null , void, and the work of Lucifer himself
Anyway, my cousin Lucy warned me that any serious effort on my part would be not just a waste of my time, but a serious embarrassment as well. Imagine being the girl with the obviously best-decorated cake, only to have one's cake passed over in favor of the least-decorated cake in the contest, decorated by the most fully-endowed (and we're not talking LDS temple endowments here; these are Mia Maids, of which I write, fourteen- and fifteen-year-old girls who only in Warren Jeffs' realm would allowed into temples for more than just baptisms for the dead; endowed = gumdrop giftedness) Mia Maid in the ward.
It would have been difficult for me to decorate a genuinely attractive cake, anyway, even had I tried. I have no skills to speak of whatsoever in the domain of visual arts. I've never once drawn anything that anyone could correctly guess in the game of Pictionary. My coloring projects and maps were always the ugliest ones in my class except for the years my twin brother and I were in the same class, in which case the two of us consistently tied for the ugliest colorings, drawings, and maps. It stands to reason that a person who can't successfully manipulate a crayon would yield similar or even worse results with cake-decorating tools. The only art activity in which my finished products even vaguely resembled those of my classmates was when we finger-painted, and why ruin a perfectly edible cake by making it look like salmonella personified?
My aunt, who was in charge of the cake festival, would not allow me to leave her kitchen until my cake had something beyond a simple frosting topping. I used one of those squeezy things to scrawl the first fundamental theorem of calculus in chocolate frosting upon the white buttercream surface of my quarter-sheet cake.
Mission was accomplished: I did not call attention to myself as obviously having the least impressive tidbits among the Mia Maids in the ward by having a beautiful cake passed over in favor of something totally non-decorated and submitted by the Bon Bon Queen of The Mia Maids.