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)

Thanks for sharing this sweet, sweet story. This is the best Sunday Sweets yet. I read your blog all the time, but this is the first time I have commented.

It's a wonderful cake and story.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLouanne

That was a beautiful and wonderful gift you gave this family that they will remember their whole lives.

Bless You!!


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

JEN----you are trying to be modest....because YOU are the one who made the cakes and cupcakes!

They are so cute, and I'm so glad your friends had a great 1 year birthday for their boy. Sweet baby James really did a lot of good for people while he was here on earth (I just got back from reading his life-blog)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Beautiful story. He was a beautiful boy.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMs. V.

@Jennifer: the strap on James' head was a special hearing aid. It conducts sound with low-level vibrations, I believe.

And thank you all for the lovely comments! Your words matter to James' parents & family & friends, so thank you for taking the time to write them.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Abby, your baby James is so sweet indeed - great big blue eyes and a smile to melt your heart. Thank you for sharing. ~S

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

beautiful cake
beautiful boy

thanks so much for sharing both for us to see and love, too

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRay-Ray

That's the sweetest Sunday I've ever seen. Thanks.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

What a lovely tribute and a lovely friendship!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarah

Wow. Just, wow. Thank you so much for sharing the beautiful story (and the beautiful cake!) with all of us. I have a feeling I won't ever think the same way about "just a cake" again.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

I've got something in my eye... *sniff*

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

What a beautiful story and a beautiful boy! This post brought tears to me eyes and made me hug my family in honor of James.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlaydeedancer

What a wonderful tribute to such a special life. (Very pretty cake, too, but you'll forgive me if Baby James is seen as the star.)

Thanks for the post. <3

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterQuiara

Thanks for making me cry like a b**** 20 minutes before my birthday party!

The cake is beautiful, and the story is as well.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlunamorgan

Sweetest. Sweet. Ever.

I'm truly touched (and bawling my eyes out) by the story and the beautiful tribute to this gorgeous child. How blessed he was in his short days to be surrounded by so much love. What a loss to this earth to be without his shining eyes any longer, but what a change he's made to everyone who has been touched by his story in such a short time here.

Blessings to his family.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMalMal

I think everything I'd want to say has been said, but I'll just say this was a wonderful Sunday Sweet--sweet (if sad) story, beautiful, well-crafted cake, and love all around.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Magnificent - both the cakes and the tribute. Thank you.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstacymckenna

Beautiful post and such a sweet cake!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErika

Abby, it is a fantastic privilege to be able to share this story. Jen, you are an amazing friend! Thank you both!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelley Marie

I've cried before reading this blog, but from laughter. Right now I'm crying because that was such a touching story. I'm so sorry for your loss, but I'm happy you were able to share it with us.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy

Readers, please don't misinterpret the typo error in the signoff for my comment posted at 11:24 AM.
Grandpa and GrandMA

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJDW

what a sweet story, thank you for sharing. your little angel is truly beautiful, and a sweet gift from god. thank you again for sharing, this was a sweet inspirational post. god bless you.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Thank you for posting this! The cake is as beautiful as the life it celebrated - Truly a Sunday Sweet!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

God bless you, your family and your friends as you remember Sweet Baby James. May his memory forever warm your heart as it has warmed mine this morning with just this glimpse into your life.

Thank you for sharing this.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaurel

He has the most beautiful eyelashes.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid and Sandy

That was a very beautiful story. God bless the little cute. Happy Birthday James!


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

This made me cry! But it was really sweet!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEll

I love the tribute. The backstory brings tears to my eyes. I'm happy that he lived a happy life, though it was short.

I hope your friend is Okay.


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJumpyham

What a lovely and sad story. Thank you both for sharing it and little James with us. I'm so sorry for your loss, and happy for the joy you had with him. Just perfect cakes, by the way.


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Such a cute little kid. And the cake is wonderful. You are truly blessed.

THank you for sharing the memory with me. I too had a premee, but mine is now 29.

My thoughts are with you and your beautiful boy on his day.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRose

How lucky for me that I just a few days ago began following Jen on Twitter and found my way to this story. Beautifully done--both the story and the cakes.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSheri

The friendship and support between Jen and Abby is as beautiful as James.

I'm the caretaker of my brother, who has multiple disabilities, and I know I wouldn't be able to do it without the support of my friends. With love, there is nothing we can't face.


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Gorgeous cake for an amazing little boy!

I am so sorry for your loss Abby.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMommyAmy

I started reading this blog just around the time Baby James left us and it was on that post that I left my first comment because I felt so incredibly sad.

Abby, my heart goes out to you. I bet you're an amazing mom and Baby James will always live on through you and the memory of him that you keep alive.

Wonderful Sunday Sweets. I'm in tears now.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

I think of James every day, and how all of a sudden he went from a baby to an adorable little kid.

What I can't wait to see will be the cake for Abby and John's new baby boy who is on his way! Will you please go update your blog???!!!! How are things going?

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCaliGirl9

Ha! When my son had his first cupcake, he looked at it with disdain and tossed it over his shoulder! That photo is priceless!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPretty Things

Thank you for the story about James. After I found your blog, I started reading James' blog as well. I feel like I know Abby, John, and James even though I will likely never have the pleasure of meeting this wonderful family.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

One year ago today, my husband and I were married and I officially had the best day of my life. When I checked your blog this morning and followed the link to read about Sweet Baby James and his awesome journey, it brought tears to my eyes to realize that on the same day, little James and his family were celebrating his first and only birthday. Thanks for this tribute, and Abby, if you're reading, thank you for sharing this beautiful story!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterI'm Jessica

Thanks for sharing this story. My heart goes out to the family for their loss. This beautiful boy deserved his beautiful cake.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

That read like a true Steve Harvey's "The Rest of the Story". Really amazing and touching story.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you for sharing this story. Abby, may your family find comfort and peace in the memories you cherish.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

This is for James' Mom and Dad, and all of his family:
I do not remember when, how, or why I happened upon Sweet Baby James' story. It doesn't matter.
I read through the whole of it hoping for a miracle, in spite of everything.
Well, there WAS a miracle, because there was James.
Someone with a smile like that- just for you- what else but a miracle.
James lived love, in its purest essence. Only love like that can be felt simply from reading a story about someone you never knew.
Crying hurts, but look up--baby angels don't cry. They laugh.
Happy Birthday, James.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersendingtheclowns

Wow, great cake and such a neat story of how it came to be!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

Darnit, Jen, Cake Wrecks isn't supposed to make me cry!!!!

Beautiful cake, and a sweet tribute to a dear little boy.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMiranda

Happy Birthday, James! I'll bet your heavenly cake will be hard-pressed to match your Safari one!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbats :[

He's so precious! His adorable face is the face of angel. Yet his story is so sad...made me tear up... But still best Sunday Sweets yet

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

Beautiful cake Jen. I read James' blog and it brought me to tears. My youngest spent 6 weeks in that same NICU - that is a life-changing experience in itself. Such a beautiful baby boy and a wonderful tribute to him today.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

That's such a sad story ! I'm tearing up here.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

This made me cry for the first time in years. So sad, but wonderful of you to celebrate this child's life.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCicadas

Beautiful cake and a wonderful tribute to James. Thanks for sharing.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Zehrs

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