It was a hot, summer day. July 14th, to be exact. For most people, most normal people, baking and decorating a cake on a day when the mercury creeps over 90 degrees is not something you’d do.

But we’re not normal people.

Sometime in June, our friends told us about a cake decorating competition for kids at Duff’s Cakemix in Pasadena. At the time, I had no idea who Duff was, and I had never seen his TV show, nor had I ever passed his shop. He has several locations in the Los Angeles area, but I never even knew about the one near us in Pasadena. 

I love baking, and Mimi enjoys it, too. So we thought, “Why not?”

I didn’t want to put any pressure on her ahead of the event, but. Yeah, there’s a “but.” The entry fee was $100 (!) and I was pretty sure, after reading up on Duff, that there would be a good number of kids getting ready for this. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to teach Mimi the basics of cake decorating. And to make this whole thing fun for her.

According to the competition information, the cake Mimi would decorate a 6-inch cake. But it didn’t say anything about the height. Judging from the pictures I found on Duff’s website, it was maybe around 8 inches tall.

Mimi first drew a picture of what she wanted to do - a mermaid theme. And then we bought some fondant, a fondant roller and some other tools, so that she could practice and get used to fondant. Personally, I don’t like fondant. It tastes awful! But it is great for cake decorating.

For the two weeks leading up to the competition, she practiced rolling, cutting and shaping fondant maybe once every three days or so. I didn’t want to push her too hard - it would take the fun out of the whole thing. She said fondant was a lot like Play-doh, but that you can eat it.

Well, the day of the competition was fun. Once the kids were all seated with their cakes in front of them, they were given one hour to make their masterpieces. Duff and his partner, Geof Manthorne, walked around the room to give kids advice and to see what they were doing. I wondered if their presence would affect her; no, nothing did. She was fully focused on creating her mermaid and her mermaid’s world. And she did a beautiful job.

Mimi did her best. I loved what she created. And so did she, which is what was most important. She didn’t win, and I don’t think it really bothered her, either.