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)

This should be on "Stuff White People Like"! (making their babies complicated cakes they can't possibly understand)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFrancois Tremblay

Abby, thank you for sharing your story - James is, and always will be, a beautiful boy. I'm so glad that he had a wonderful first birthday. Your story made me cry - I've spent the whole morning reading your Sweet Baby James blog, and it reminded me just how truly blessed each and everyone of us truly is.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you for posting this. It is very close to home with me. My son was born at 24 weeks gestation and also spent a total of 135 days in the hospital. Right now he is on a feeding tube and we are going to be celebrating his coming home day instead of his birthday this year.

This post reminded how truly lucky I am. Besides a few hiccups, my son is very healthy. My heart breaks for your friend. Her son was such a sweet baby and endured so much.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJ.Lea

Wow, That was a great story Abby. Thank you for Sharing it. Sweet Baby James was a beautiful child.
That cake was to die for. Why did you give it up, if you don't mind my asking?
This is my first "Sunday Sweets" and it was the best article. Im sorry about James and his parent's but Im sure they are grateful for everyday they had with him.
merin44...Erin's my real name

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Beautiful cake for a beautiful family.

It's obvious from reading their website that James's parents are amazing people, who were up to the challenge of providing a very sick child with a life full of laughter and joy. May his joy continue to fill their lives now.


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Definitely my favorite Sunday Sweets you've had---thanks for paying tribute to one of God's angels---BEAUTIFUL!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Potocniks

I'm a mom of a kiddo with special needs- I totally know what you mean about dying of joy if he actually ate any cake. I remember thinking how weird it was to be actually trying to TEACH my son to make messes with his food!
What an awesome celebration for an awesome little boy!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKeri and Crew

Very sweet and touching.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I found Abby's blog a couple of months ago and have been touched by the family's faith and strength throughout everything. I found cake wreck's a while earlier and didn't know what the connection was until today. My son also died and when I need a smile through my tears I often look to see if another wreck has been posted. Thank you for the beautiful birthday cake you made for James and thank you for the many smiles you bring to me :)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRebekah

Abby, thank you for sharing James' cakes with us. I'm so sorry for your loss. Happy Birthday, James!!!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMandee

That was such a touching story and such beautiful cakes. I recognized the animals immediately, as I did the Whimsical Bakehouse safari cake for my own son's first birthday, which was 3 months after James' first birthday celebration. The story brought tears and reminded me how blessed I am. I will give my son an extra hug tonight and send a prayer for sweet baby James and his family. I hope they are able to remember his birthday with joy.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

This was very touching. Now I am all teared up. I am glad they were able to have a nice one year celebration for him.

And that cake is amazing!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

That made me cry.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScritzy

What adorable cakes and cupcakes. James has the longest eyelashes I've ever seen, what a sweet little boy he was. I am so happy to read that his mom and dad are pregnant with baby #3. I hope everything is perfect.
This makes me realize how fortunate I have been with my children, you take them for granted sometimes. Please tell them thank you for sharing James with us.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMari

Abby's positive, life-affirming attitude is astoundingly inspirational. Thank you for sharing this with all of us...I went to James' blog and started to read, but couldn't get very far today. I'll try it again when tears aren't making everything blurry. :)

That cake is COMPLETELY AWESOME, as well.

What a wonderful Sunday Sweets.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergd

Sunday sweets.
Beautiful to see.
Then they're gone.
Only memories.

Goodbye James.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDreamed

Cake wrecks has made me laugh out loud till my sides's made me chuckle..and grin..
Today it made me cry.
God Bless James' family for sharing their story..and for obviously having such Grace during a time that is unimaginable as a parent.
And I'm glad that cake baker started a blog instead! :)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJaye


You totally rocked it! What a great friend you are-

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReam O Rama

I never thought reading Cake Wrecks would make me cry. I held it together until I got to the picture of James with his big smile and then I was gone. James was a beautiful boy, and it looks like he was loved a lot. Thanks for sharing the story. The cakes were awesome as well, and I was even more impressed when I read that Jen made them, you go girl!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDevyn

What a beautiful boy, and how wonderful that that celebration of his life was held during his life, with him getting to enjoy it, too.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlisonH

Thanks for sharing the photos and the story. What a rough journey for everyone involved. It is lovely to have these photos of a very happy time in James's short life.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

That's the first time Cake Wrecks made me cry.

What an incredible story - and an incredible little boy. Thanks for posting it.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulia O'C

The sweetest Sunday Sweets yet. Great job on the cakes Jen!! Happy Birthday James! :)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTrish

Jen, Abby and John - look how many of us have been touched by Sweet Baby James!!! What a special little angel.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDebbi

I am so moved by this story and certainly the labor of love was just a drop in the ocean of love that the baker must have felt for this boy.

Thank you for sharing this with us. I feel privileged to read it and be another person who can remember James too.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

today was our march for dimes walk and James is the reason we do it. We lost one of our triplets at 8 days old and we do everything we can to raise money. this year we raised $8300 for the March of Dimes so that no child should ever go through this.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbob kennedy


Your story made me kiss my son many more times than usual today. Thank you for sharing!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTrish

Yesterday I celebrated my niece's 3rd birthday, not thinking at all of the children that hadn't made it that far. This morning, I spent 4 hours reading Sweet Baby James' blog. His story is weighing heavy on my heart. I won't soon forget his beautiful eyes, and all of the wonderful and not so wonderful ups and downs he endured during his short stay on this earth. Every moment is special. Every smile a keepsake. Thank you for reminding me.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Baby James. I hope your loved ones feel my love, and yours on this day.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCassieInIowa

Happy Birthday, James. Thank you for sharing his story with us today. We are remembering him with you.

peace- emily (from

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Happy Birthday, Sweet James! Your first birthday was so special and I will forever remember you sitting in your high chair with that beautiful cake in front of you.

Jen, you made that sweet day even sweeter!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Beautiful boy, beautiful memories. God bless you all.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFrances

Abby, you have my deepest condolences. My son was also premature, also spent time in the NICU, and also has special needs. (We still don't have a diagnosis.) You have lived through my worst nightmare with a grace I find hard to fathom. Thank you for sharing your beautiful little boy with us.

Jen, where were you when I didn't have a birthday cake for my son's first birthday, because he had just been diagnosed with food allergies? (I molded a sweet potato and stuck a candle in it!)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAllergy Mom

Since discovering your blog in January, I finish ever day by checking out Cake Wrecks to have a good laugh, so I did not expect to be in tears this evening. But I don't mind, for James is so sweet and beautiful and I am happy to be able to help honor his memory today. I too had a baby who died; he was five weeks old. That was almost seventeen years ago. Of course it is heartbreaking, but a strong faith and the support of friends and family gets one through. Abby, I am so glad that you were able to have a wonderful first birthday for James, and I am touched by your sharing today. These angel-babies are with us for such a short time, and yet when we share about their lives it sends ripples of love across the planet. We still celebrate our son, Gareth's birthday. Our family goes to the gravesite which is in a lovely secluded wooded cememtary, we have a picnic, and share cupcakes (not the dreaded CCC though!). We always leave one for him that I am sure the squirrles enjoy. We also use artist pastels/chalk to draw upon his gravestone. We all participate and over the years we have moved from brilliant scribbles to amazing pieces of art. This birthday celebration helps to keep his memory alive, especially for his siblings who were young or not even born at that time.
Anyway, Happy Heavenly Birthday to James; love and hugs to Abby and her husband; and thanks Jen for a terrific Sunday Sweets!
- Shannon

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you for sharing that with us. The best Sunday Sweet you've ever had. And James is such an adorable boy. I'm sure he is bringing smiles and joy into everyone around him, even if it isn't on this plane with us.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Abby & John, Such a beautiful blog to tell such a beautiful story. I am so inspired by your strength & faith. The Lord couldn't have picked anyone to tell that story better. Thank you so much for sharing. I pray that your story continues to touch lives & hearts!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

This post made me sadder and sadder... until the last picture. What a beautiful, happy, boy. Thank you for sharing this day with us.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Very nice cake for a very special occasion.
~Amy B

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

What a touching story. James looks so happy, and such a beautiful cake! I hope his family can find comfort in knowing that the story of their precious son has touched the lives of so many through Cake Wrecks.
This story really struck a chord with me, as my sister, Abigale, was 10 weeks premature, and had to eat with a feeding tube into her stomach for quite some time. Thank God, she is a happy, playful little girl, 4 1/2 years old.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

Thank you for sharing this with us. A truly special "Sunday Sweets"!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

What a sweet and lovely tribute.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

That is a beautiful story, and what lovely treats Jen! :) thank you for sharing that today :)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersmiles :)

What a beautiful story. And the cakes are spectacular.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHilary Cable

A friend of mine told me to look at this website about a month after I lost my daughter. It was the first time I laughed since it happened. I am so grateful for this blog! I check this blog every day (sometimes more than once if it's a bad day) and often think of Lily when I do. What a beautiful post.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. O'Neill

Happy birthday, baby James.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterzara hemla

I love, love, LOVE the photos of such a sweet one year old boy with his cake. Look at his eyes! Look at his smile!

Thank you to Abby for sharing your sweet baby James' story with all of us.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you for sharing this. I am in tears but happy this little boy got to have a beautiful birthday with his family before he passed on. Bless you all.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Surely, a Sunday Sweet.
Thank you, Abby and Jen for sharing yours (and James') story with us.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I just spent the last several hours going through the Sweet Baby James blog, and am crying my eyes out. What a touching story and a lovely tribute to such a special little soul!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterIsha Jo Corbin

Wow, that cake was beautiful, and the story very touching.

Thanks for your fun blog!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrandy

Thank you for sharing this story. James and I share a birthday, and it really reminds me to be thankful for all of the blessings in my own life.

Happy birthday to your beautiful baby boy.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Mostess

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