My Other Blog

What's a Wreck?

A Cake Wreck is any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate - you name it. A Wreck is not necessarily a poorly-made cake; it's simply one I find funny, for any of a number of reasons. Anyone who has ever smeared frosting on a baked good has made a Wreck at one time or another, so I'm not here to vilify decorators: Cake Wrecks is just about finding the funny in unexpected, sugar-filled places.

Now, don't you have a photo you want to send me? ;)

- Jen

Sunday Sweets: James' Sweet Safari

You Wrecks history buffs know that my friend Abby was the one who first e-mailed me the "cake that started it all", thereby indirectly inspiring this entire blog. Abby is also the mother of Sweet Baby James, who spent 482 days spreading joy on this globe before leaving us last August. Since today would have been James' 2nd birthday, Abby asked me if she might share his first and only birthday cake here on Sunday Sweets. Knowing how awesome you guys are, I figured you'd be willing to indulge us. So, without further ado, here's Abby.

My son James lived in the hospital for the first 135 days of his life, and I couldn't wait to take him home like a real mom and show him off! However, the day before he was discharged, my dreams of a big "welcome home" party were dashed. The docs said we had to keep him away from crowds for two more months in order to protect him from germs.

So by the time we got to James' first birthday and he was more stable, we were really ready to party! Not only would it be a chance to celebrate his life with all his friends and fans, but it was a huge milestone for a special needs kid who statistically should not have survived to be born. We invited nurses, doctors, therapists, neighbors, church friends, and everyone else who read James' blog (Sweet Baby James), and commissioned a friend who was thinking about starting a cake business to make a birthday cake to feed 100 guests.

Here's the spread:

As you can see we chose an African safari theme, to match James' nursery. Our friend started working on the design over a month in advance, sending us photos of her progress along the way. The animals were painstakingly crafted out of chocolate and were very fragile, but completely yummy. Each one had a perfect smile!

[Note: the animal patterns are from the book The Whimsical Bakehouse]

The cakes were covered with buttercream frosting - no fondant - and each was a different flavor and filling. The baker's husband custom built and painted the matching cake stand, and they even found a matching "first birthday" photo frame to sit inside it. What a dream for our son's big day!

Then there were chocolate cupcakes with more animal designs to cover us if we had more people than we estimated. These were a big hit with the children when we took the leftover cake to the Ronald McDonald House the next day!

When I asked her to make James a "smash cake," the baker was concerned about his diabetes being affected by the frosting. I told her that if James actually consumed any cake, I would probably die of joy. (At that time James' arms were too weak to "smash" anything, and he was so unused to eating food by mouth anyway [he had a stomach feeding tube] that he probably wouldn't know what to do with the cake!)

Sure enough, when it came time for the smash cake James just looked puzzled. We finally guided his finger to poke the cake a little and put a crumb or two in his mouth. He seemed to really enjoy the little taste he got!

Everyone agreed that James couldn't have had a more perfect birthday cake. As it turns out, he would never need another one, so we are very thankful for this labor of love. And in case any of you were thinking of contacting my friend to order your own professional masterpiece, I have to disappoint you. A month after James' party, she moved on from cake decorating and launched a humor blog for a somewhat larger audience—but it couldn't be a more grateful one than us.

Many thanks to Abby for sharing with us today. If you'd like to learn more about James and his story, you can visit his blog here.

UPDATE: Abby and her hubby John are indeed reading all of your comments! She asked that I post this word of thanks on their behalf:

To Jen & the Wreckers: It's been amazing (again) to experience such an outpouring of love from strangers. Thanks so much for making our first birthday without James really special for us through your kind words, prayers, and thoughts. It's been incredibly encouraging and comforting for us and the grandparents to know that James is remembered and appreciated as the wonderful kid that he was and is.

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Reader Comments (303)

The cakes are amazing! James looks very happy! Thanks so much for sharing!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDonna @ Party Wishes

Very sweet indeed. This has brought a very good, much needed cry.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommentermooP

What a beautiful boy and story. God blesses us all in so many different ways- and little James was an extra special one!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynda

Abby, thank you for sharing this very touching story with us. Your son is truly an angel, and what a blessing that you had the opportunity to celebrate his first year with a beautiful cake.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristina Kim

I'm sitting here at work with tears in my eyes. (and now one just rolled out and down my cheek)

He lived a big life for such a little guy. Happy birthday James.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrawbery79

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. What a sweet little boy.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatrina

wow! That had me in tears! The cake was beautiful and so was sweet baby James! Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful tribute!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin

That's the sweetest thing! Your son is beautiful, and the cake couldn't have turned out better!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdanielle

What a beautiful cake and what a sweet little boy. I know he gave/gives you so much joy. I scanned your blog chronicling the life of this precious little one. Thanks for posting the link. I am the aunt of a special needs child with lissencephaly (smooth-brain syndrome) who lived for 12 years (and died Christmas season 2005). He brought/brings so much joy to my family too. These children are such blessings.

I'm sorry your friend didn't continue the cake decorating business. James's cake was beautiful.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

I am in tears -- not just for such a beautiful little soul having to leave our world so early but for what is obviously a beautiful friendship.

Thank you so much for sharing, and Happy Birthday, Sweet Baby James.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterK

My husband and I love your blog. I am sincerely touched this Sunday. Thank you for sharing this Sunday Sweet with us. What a sweet baby boy. I think today is a good day to play James Taylor all day in his honor.


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterC.L.Hagan

This is the single greatest reason to love this blog... What a wonderful dedication to such a cute baby... TTuTT

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGabby

This just made me misty. What a beautiful story to share (the cakes are nice, too).

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTrackella

I have recently starting making wedding and birthday cakes as a side hobby. I love it and despite the painstaking hours involved, I hold on to the idea that a beautiful cake is often more than a peice of caketo those receiving it. This story was incredibly touching. I don't think I'll ever make a cake again without thinking of sweet baby James.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMy Journey

I remember checking out James's blog when you posted that he had passed away. I loved reading and seeing how much his family loved him. Thanks for letting his mom tell this story!!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLois Lane

What a beautiful gift--the lovingly made cake, and precious time with that sweet, sweet boy. I'm tearing up over here.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCecily

Oh just great, now I have started out my day crying! lol What a wonderful story and a true inspiration to those that read it. What a precious child of God.

Jen you are amazing! I am glad you decided to start the blog, but the world is truly missing out on a fantastic cake decorator! Awesome job on that cake!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

Oh goodness, I'm crying now. What a beautiful cake and what a precious little boy. Prayers are going out for your family.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlissa

What a beautiful wonderful cake and an even more wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing their story. My thoughts and prayers are with you all today. Blessings.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTaraB

Just when I'm feeling woe-is-me, I get something like this to put it all in perspective. Thanks! :o]

Also, I whole heartedly agree with a previous commenter, that stories like this make me want to value each moment: cake for breakfast!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

Happy Birthday, James.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarji

Baby James was obviously an Angel that HE could not live without him any longer... such a sweet soul, to be called up so early in life.

Thank you for sharing this with all of us. Who knew peeking at a cake blog could touch our hearts so profoundly?

God Bless.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersassyshortgirl

How sweet and sad. I'm so glad that beautiful little boy got a masterpiece of a cake for his one and only birthday.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKateri

Oh my gosh, that face of cute, no wonder they called him Sweet Baby James! And the cakes were absolutely awesome!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMotherBeck

This was lovely, but I shouldn't have read it at work. By then end, I couldn't hold back the tears, so I was doing little hickup breaths to try and not sob.
My nephew also spent most of his first year in the hospital NICU. He still has many challenges and special needs, but every day he gets stronger. Because he can't eat a cake, we had never made one.
This year, he is GETTING a cake.
Thank you for reminding me to never take anyone for granted, and that it all life is an amazing gift, no matter how long or short.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermeredith

Happy Birthday in heaven Sweet Baby James and congratulations on one of the most perfect cakes I´ve ever seen Jen.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLida

I love the fact that it took allll the way to abi for people to catch that Jen made the cakes You've been holding out on us!

Those are beautiful, and you totally made me cry. What an awesome tribute.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbibliogrrl

I'm in tears now, but they're the kind that come from reading a truly moving tribute. James' birthday cakes were gorgeous and I'm sure he is grateful to have had such a loving family and friends to honor him so much. *hugs* to Abby and Jen for sharing their memories of someone so special with us.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChey

*tear* the first cakewreck blog to make me cry and not out of laughter. bless his baby heart!


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Like so many of SweetBabyJames' family and friends, on his birthday we are joyfully and tearfully remembering his too-short time with us on Earth. We were blessed by his presence, and continue to be amazed and uplifted by the love and support from so many people who have shared their comments. Thank you all.
Grandpa and Grandpa Warren in Tallahassee

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJDW

Every morning I come on here to look at whatever might cause me laugh throughout the day and today I cant stop crying. This was is a great post but so heartbreaking. He looked so happy and that only made me cry more.


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I've been reading this blog for a long time and read all about Sweet Baby James when he passed. And I never post, but I wanted to comment on what a loving tribute this was. We can see what a labor of love you put into making those cakes for that sweet, sweet boy. Thank you for sharing on what would have been James' 2nd birthday. His story is an inspiration. (and I'm totally in tears...)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKimmad

What a beautiful post. How precious life is. Thank you so much for sharing this.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBlalock

I came across James' blog right after my great-niece was born and diagnosed with semi-lobar HPE. These sweet babies are absolute angels. What a wonderful tribute to James and the happiness & love he brought into the world.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Morgans

What a beautiful little boy. Rest well, sweet baby James.
The cake was perfect--he certainly deserved the best, I am sure.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnother Julia


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmily


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZhoen

What a handsome guy James is! And that smile, and those huge blue-blue eyes you could just fall into. He's a person I wish I could have gotten to know. But even though he's gone, he's still made *my* life a little better by knowing about him. Thank you.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

So, a sad happy birthday to Sweet Baby James.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolkie

This was such a bitter sweet post. I actually have tears in my eyes.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Lunar Fox

Beautiful Cake
Beautiful Story
Beautiful Baby

Sorry that he had to leave you so soon, but I am glad that you were able to create such a beautiful memory to keep.

Thank you for sharing.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan

Happy Heavenly Birthday, sweet baby James! I'm glad "Auntie" Jen made you such a nice cake! God bless your parents and loved ones on this special day.


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

What a sweet little boy. By far the best Sweets for Sunday.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Jen, your cakes were beautiful! And I have to say, that is the sweetest "Sunday Sweets" I've seen so far. Thank you, Abby, for sharing your precious boy with us. Happy Birthday, James :)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTristan's Mom

My kids are also a bit too big for these sets, but I have a new nephew or niece on the way later this year and I think the Zebra design is adorable. I like that it works for both boys and girls.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura


This may sound funny, but I'm well known among my friends as "not a fan of children," but even *I* find James absolutely adorable and beautiful! That last picture shows a boy with so much spirit in his eyes - you can see how very much he was loved.

I am SO very sorry his time with you was so short, but it sounds like you made the most of the time you had with him - both for yourself and, more importantly, for him.

Oh, and the cakes are adorable, too :)

Thank you for sharing that with us, I don't know if you have or want any other children, but if you do, you can be sure some of James' spirit will carry over to them - and if not, you'll always have it in your heart, eh?


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterthorswitch

That was so beautiful (Cake and the beautiful baby)

What a sweet tribute, and it was so sad.... I almost cried


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEllenFanatic

My best friend, also named Abby, lost her first set of twins (this was her first pregnancy) when they were born prematurely. My heart goes out to your Abby and her family. God will surely bless her for being the loving person she is. The cakes and cupcakes looked wonderful, I am sure everyone enjoyed them very much.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Such a WONDERFUL Cake and a touching tribute. So perfect.

and very very sweet.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterComfyDenim

Sweet Baby James' story reminds us to take joy when we can, as life can deal us some cruel blows. Thank you for sharing.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjanet2buns

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