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)

what a precious, precious boy and such a dear story - may the Lord wrap His great, strong arms around your hearts as you remember sweet baby James today. dianne b.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Ah, damn. Now I'm crying.

I'm such a girl.

Beautiful cakes, and a beautiful story.

Though I have to admit, this is the first I've ever heard of a 'smash cake'

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMara

It's very sad to hear about poor James :( At least you got to have a wonderul birthday for him with a lovely cake :)

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBilby P. Dalgyte

Cakewrecks always touches a chord somewhere, even when it makes me laugh. Today was no different, though I am tearing up.

Beautiful cakes for a beautiful boy! Blessings to Abby & her husband for being such wonderful parents, and to you for your baking talent and hilarious blog. :)

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrown Suga'

Thank you for sharing their story. Their son is beautiful and it makes me cry to know they no longer have him with them. I am glad though that he had so many to love him so much. The cakes you can tell were a labor of love. I lost a child too many years ago I know how their hearts feel.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDanni

What a beautiful thing the parents did so everyone who helped their son could join in the celebration of his birthday. How sad that he is no longer with us, but I can tell that his wonderful smile touched everyone he met.

Jen, you have talent, for sure. What a terrific honor the day today.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'd say something semi-intelligent except I'm busy crying. *hugs* to you all, Abby, John, and grandparents! James was a beautiful baby boy, and I know he'll be even sweeter when y'all see him again in Heaven.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjunewilliams7

There is something so humbling and beautiful about the kind of strength that grows out of heartache. So often, the temptation is to hide our pain or our most precious memories and keep them for ourselves...but you have chosen the opposite; you have chosen what is right. Thank you for allowing your life and your son's life to be a catalyst for GOOD.

Know that sharing James' story has begun a never-ending ripple effect; a ripple that will wave through everyone who hears your story. We are changed; we are reminded of what matters; we are face to face with the beautiful, soulful eyes of a perfect child.

much love to you today,
happy birthday, sweet James.


April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterashleyalvina

What a gorgeous boy! It's lovely that he got a taste of his beautiful cake. Thankyou for sharing your story with us all.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

After I admired the cute little jungle animals, I had to read James's blog. I read through every single archive, and I can't wait to share with my kiddos, and hug them a little more often and a little tighter.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMoJo

He really looks beautiful in the pictures. Thanks for letting us know about him. This is the first time this blog has ever made me cry.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterL. Shepherd

he is your golden boy,as is my son who died aged 20 3 years ago,precious memories!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermarion

I have been left speechless by the wrecks on this blog numerous times. However, today I am left speechless for a completely different reason. Your story is truly inspirational. Thank you so much for sharing.

ps... The cakes were amazing too!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

The cakes are beautiful! Your boy is beautiful too! God blessed you with him and blessings will continue to pour forth from his having been here with us. To love and be loved...there is no greater gift and I believe the whole reason that we are here. We love strangeres for a moment if we show kindness to them. This kindness that we believe is nothing carrys on with great effects like a ripple in the water. If a small showing of love between one another has an ongoing effect imagine what your relationship with your son and how you have shared it with others will travel and what love it will generate. In my belief system and I hope you do not mind me sharing it with will see your boy again and then what JOY and HAPPINESS!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbigsky67

It's no wonder that James was an incredible boy. Abby, you and your husband are amazing people.

I came here today for my usual Wreck fix, but left with something far more meaningful.

Thank you.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergrace

I really wish I had read this yesterday in the privacy of my home instead of sitting at my desk at work!

What a precious birthday! Thank you for sharing James' second birthday with us. I can only imagine the celebration he's been enjoying with our Heavenly Father.

Thank you James' parents for sharing your sweet story with all of us and sharing pictures of James' first AND BEST birthday!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must find some Kleenex.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLatte With Me

Dear Family of Sweet Baby James ...

I love the banner in the background of the cake. It reminds me that He IS our Rock, and upon Him we can place ALL of our trust, faith and cares!

What a blessing to know that, someday, you will celebrate with James for eternity!

God bless you as you remember him here for this time ...


April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

What gorgeous cakes and cupcakes! Such an adorable theme. Thank you for sharing your son's first and only birthday cakes with us. He was just beautiful and the tribute was wonderful. So happy that you were blessed to have him, even for a short time, in your life.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlli

Damnit, I went to the blog and now I am bawling my eyes out! It doesn't help that I'm about a week from having baby #2 and WAY overly emotional, but normally I come here and cry from laughing.

Beautiful cake and story.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

The best Sunday Sweets I've read. Happy birthday sweet James!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShelley

Wow, what a beautiful cake & a beautiful story - looking forward to looking through James' blog some more. Thank you for sharing this!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

This was a beautiful cake for a beautiful boy (and his clearly amazing family).

As a mother of a blessedly healthy 13-month old boy, these pictures brought tears to my eyes - and in a public library no less!

How wonderful that they had as much time as they did and that you could help them celebrate his life!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

:) Thank you for sharing with us.
I hope sweet baby James had a fabulous birthday in heaven with my sweet angel Charlie.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Fabulous Ms. Beth

Beautiful post, and such a beautiful boy. Abby and John, he is an angel. My heart is with you today; thank you for sharing your story of his wonderful birthday.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentererehwesle

Thank you for sharing such a sweet story with us. The cake was beautiful, and James was an adorable little guy.

I also lost a son, but he never came home from his 55 day stay in the I can appreciate how special those little moments that so many take for granted truly are. I will never forget James and his touching story, his family will remain in my thoughts.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMom to Gabe and Ayla

Agreed, this is the BEST Sunday Sweets ever! Happy Birthday precious James! I know you must be having a wonderful party in heaven!

Thank you for sharing your sweet little boy with us.
May God bless you!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you for sharing this story. As a father of a nearly two year old I was moved to tears over this story. My prayers are with the family.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

James, ah, James! To know
You is to know how love plans,
Strives, exalts, aches, heals.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHaiku Joy

Thank you for sharing this story. I can't imagine a better Sunday Sweet than this tribute to such a sweet little boy. God be with you, Abby.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKat

Thank you for sharing this lovely story. I heard about James before this, but seeing the connection was very touching. Happy 2nd birthday to James. What a reminder of the beauty and fragility of life.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

It's Monday morning and I just got around to reading Sunday's Cakewrecks. Now I'm a mess. What a sweet, wonderful, sad story. And thank you so much for sharing with us. You are very brave.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrknap14

It's Monday morning and I just got around to reading Sunday's Cakewrecks. Now I'm a mess. What a sweet, wonderful, sad story. And thank you so much for sharing with us. You are very brave.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrknap14

Oh my goodness those eyes are so full of joy. He was indeed a sweet baby.

How wonderful that you got to celebrate together.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa (& Billy)

An absolutely beautiful, heartwrenching and joyful post all in one. Thank you so very much for sharing with all of us. My thoughts and prayers go out to beautiful James, his remarkable family and cherished friends. James continues to touch the lives of those around the globe as he smiles down from heaven.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNakia

Thinking of you guys and sending lots of love from Omaha. James was a beautiful boy and he was here for many good reasons. He's an inspiration. Thank you for sharing his life and story with us.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter!!! |

darn you, cakewrecks! i'm supposed to cry from laughing not from gut-wrenching sadness! Lord have mercy....I don't know whether to bake a cake, hug my son, or cry myself to sleep.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGGM

This is exactly what a 1st birthday cake should be. That is absolutely gorgeous. (It's also nice to know that Jen has so major skill to back up her critiquing. I am so impressed.)

Happy Heavenly Birthday James.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

BEST Sunday Sweets ever. What a sweet angel - I'm sure he's smiling, remembering that delicious frosting! :)

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDea

that is absolutely AMAZING!!! what a cake. what a cutie too. i can't even believe how awesome the chocolate animals are. i'm dying of amazed cuteness here.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlyndsay

I have only just read the post; I was moved but didn't start to cry until I saw the joy on James's face and in his eyes.
God does send trials, but also great gifts. James uplifted me in just the moments I read about him, and the description of him having his own ministry was so true.
His soul will keep bringing joy to others for all eternity.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKitten

I have often been move to tears of laughter from reading this blog, but today I was moved to tears for a different reason.

What a beautiful boy. Thank you for sharing his amazing first birthday cake story and him with the rest of us.

The cake was adorable and warm, no doubt it was exactly like the person it was made for.

Happy 2nd birthday James.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermozzer0906

What a beautiful boy. He looks like he was a very happy child for his brief time with his parents.

Your cake skills are insane. I love beautiful fondant-free cakes, and you aced it. Well done! Clearly you were inspired by a wonderful little boy!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrekabu

Fabulous cakes! Looks like it was a great day.

Abby and John, I am so sorry for your loss.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJo

That was heart wrenching story. I cried. My heart goes out all of those involved.

The cake and cupcakes were beautifully done. :)

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhockey_mum

Oh goodness. This is definitely the best "sunday Sweet" as it has the sweetest story. What an amazing friend to make such a cake! James was lucky to be surrounded by such loving people during his short time on earth - and now I look forward to meeting him someday!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristy

Yea for the most precious and adorable little guy who ever lived!!! :)

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCtina

Thanks for sharing James and his cake with us.

Bright Blessings.


April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatboreal

My daughter sent me the link to Abby's blog last night, and I spent some time getting to know sweet baby James. His parents are truly blessed, because they see with eyes not filled with sorrow, but with grace.

The cake is beautiful. What a lovely tribute to a gorgeous little boy!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

Im a long time wreck-reader, but this is the first entry ive ever commented on. My heart goes out to James's family. He was such an adorable little boy with gorgeous eyes. And he knows just how much his parents and family loved (and still do) love him. For his brief time here on Earth, you gave him more than he could ever have imagined. That little angel is waiting for you up in heaven, ready to give you the big hugs you've long awaited for! -hug-

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDaviah

Abby and John, my prayers go out to you for your loss and the bittersweet birthday memory. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful little boy with everyone here.

Robyn in CO

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrobyn

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