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)

It's a beautiful cake, but what really shines is that little boy's smile. What a sweet boy.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Abby.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBead

What a beautiful cake and a beautiful little boy. Rest in peace, sweet James.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

These are the most beautiful cakes ever. From this post I went and read the entire Baby James story form the beginning, and I finished it in two days. It is the most heart wrenching and insprirign story I have ever heard. And it really touched my heart! Baby James was such an inpritation and beautifully perfect child.


April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

James was fortunate to have such loving parents and devoted friends. God bless him.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you for sharing, it touched my heart. What pure joy on the face of Sweet Baby James on his birthday. Good job Mom and Dad. May God continue to bless you. Love, Karyn

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Your touching story has me in tears... thank you for sharing it. This was a wonderful tribute to your beautiful son.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTina

Thank you for sharing his story.
God Bless,

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBibi

The tears i usually get from reading Cake Wrecks are usually flowing like a river. But this was a wonderful post, a wonderful cake and a wonderful family. I've bookmarked their blog and added it to my reading list. Thank you for sharing!

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Such a wonderful, lovely sweet tribute to a completely adorable little boy. Those eyes, my goodness, how gorgeous! I'm sure your baby is celebrating his birthday and sending his love to his family.

Hugs from another mom of a diabetic kid.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

So nice to see a well crafted buttercream cake in this section..It's been all about the fondant thus far. Everyone tells me fondant tastes like sugary earwax.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

What a cutie-pie!

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSuzette Saxton

This was moving and I did cry (usually Im crying from laughing!). Jen the cakes -especially the little animal faced cupcakes were ADORABLE. Im so glad to know God has Baby James and his family in His arms.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLiberty

I've been following Cake Wreakers for several weeks now and I'm pretty sure that I've read everything your site has to offer :-) What can I say? I love your blog just as much as I love cakes! But I haven't commented until now....

Abby, thank you so much for opening up your heart, photo album, and family to all of us. It's obvious that your precious baby boy has affected and stolen the hearts of nearly every reader. I'm so encouraged by your strength as a mother and by his child-like joy and fascintation of sugar. :-)

May God bless you and your family.

P.S. I'm sure James' 2nd birthday cake and his audience of angels was just as stunning as his first.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTasha

I'm sitting here with giant tears rolling down my cheeks. Beautiful story (and cakes!)

I love this blog more every day!

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMissCritta

Thanks for sharing your lives, your stories and your love of Sweet Baby James. You gave me a good cry.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

I have to say, I usually turn to cake wrecks for giggles; tonight however, I read the story of James and cried like a baby. My heart goes out to mom and dad who obviously love their little James! What a beautiful cake and what a beautifully sad story!


April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNichole

What a wonderful tribute to a sweet boy with such a beautiful cake & party. I send his parents my love.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Newmans

My baby girl was born 3 months early and spent 76 days in the NICU and came home on oxygen. She has lung issues, but is now 3. My baby boy was born a little over a year later, but passed before he was born. The grief of burying a child is unlike any other. Your son is a beautiful boy. I'm so happy you were able to spend such a wonderful time with him and enjoy his 1st birthday. And I'm so sorry for your loss.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBethE

I almost lost my special needs son soon after his birth. He is now 9 months old and doing well. I wish that your family, Abby, had the same. I looked at James' site and was incredibly touched by the Bible verse y'all had chosen before he was born. He surely lived up to that verse and is touching people even though he is no longer here on earth. Thank you for sharing his story. His smile is so beautiful and honest. I am deeply sorry for your loss. God bless.
Biloxi, MS

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

aww, this brought me to tears. such a touching story (and with a beautiful cake!)

thank you for sharing this, and i imagine sweet baby james is smashing cakes with glee up in the where-ever you believe people go when they have to leave us. my thoughts are with the family.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrelan

i'm not sure whether i'm crying more because my heart is breaking for james' parents or because i'm so touched by the great love they (and you) had for that sweet little baby.

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermeauxjeaux

*wiping tears from my eyes*

Beautiful story, beautiful cake.

My deepest condolences on the loss of baby James.

April 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Oh, now I'm crying again!

My first-born (now a strapping 3-day-old!) was born the day this post went up. I can't even imagine going through what Baby James' family has. This story is so touching -- thank you so much for sharing it!

And Jen, I'll echo everyone else -- NICE job on the cakes and animals!

April 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersamann1121

What a wonderful story to remember such a sweet little boy, bless his family and their cherished memories.

April 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

This was so touching, it made me cry. May God continue to comfort your hearts and give you peace.


April 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClay Doodles

I've never posted on CakeWrecks before, but read it regularly. I saw this and had to write.

James looks like such a happy, sweet little boy in these photos. How lucky he was to have you (Abby and her husband) for parents, and this wonderful safari birthday celebration. How lucky you are to be touched by him.

April 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I remember James' story well. Thank you for sharing his second birthday with everyone.

April 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergingerina

I'm a little late, but wanted to thank you for sharing James with us. What a wonderful celebration of his life!

I just prayed for James' dear family.

It is evident that they are Christians, and truly, since that is our only hope (all of us---whether we know it or not) what is so very sad will one day be a source of joy and thanksgiving.

This is really your best "Sunday Sweets" ever. Deserves a category all its own.

April 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterheartafire

I read through James' entire story (with many tears). What a beautiful, brave boy he was! Thanks for sharing with us!

April 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

What an angel and such a sweetsweet story. Thank you so much for sharing that little bit of love with us today, along with all the laughs.

God Bless James and those who loved him.

April 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMommyKoz

Wow. Just... wow. This post made my heart simultaneously swell and break.

I wish I had something appropriately pithy to say, but I think we're beyond words at this point.

So consider this reply my way of virtually hugging the world. Aaaaaaand GO!

April 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJustAGirl

I read about James' sweet life on your blog a while back and cried my eyes out. I have a little boy who is almost one, and I can't help but think of him when I read about James. Thank you God for his life and the lives he continues to touch. I'd love to experience the outpouring of kisses James is getting from our Papa! We love you guys and are praying for you!

April 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavenports

thank you for posting this again. your little boy touched me. God really does have a special angel up there!!

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwustaz

I come to cake wrecks for the laughs, and am now sitting here with tears streaming down my cheeks. My own beautiful son, Finnegan, spent the last year of his life in intensive care and passed away on 3/20/09 at the age of 4.5...what would have been his 5th birthday will be 6/3--and I hope I can muster the courage and energy to celebrate his life as James' mother has on his birthday.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkerry

Sending loving thoughts your way and certain your sweet James was able to run on his own steam to sit at God's side and eat handfulls of sweet frosted cake for his birthday this year. God Bless!

May 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Sweet Baby James was indeed a gift. Thank you for sharing his story with us and thank you for inspiring us to see joy.

May 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

What a sweetie pie!
It's not fair that a sweet baby like James have to leave the world so soon.
RIP Sweet Baby James

May 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJayme

What a precious, precious little soul. Jen, your cake and cupcakes are outstanding and obviously a labor of great love - I can see why. That sweet little one stirred my heart and I only saw pictures - you knew him! Thank you, Abby, for sharing with us.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGina

Thank you for sharing this lovely story of a beautiful baby boy and his parents. James' story is bittersweet, yet it made my Mother's Day. Children such as James are God's Angels on Earth. Thank you, and God Bless You, for sharing him.

May 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPearl

I am sorry for your loss to.

Loved the cake and the happyness in James face! :)

Sofia ***

May 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

This post really touched me, and I'm trying not to cry at work. What a wonderful first birthday you helped your friend give to her sweet baby boy. I know she must miss him every day, and I hope that great picture of him with his smash cake looking so happy gives her some comfort.

May 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPearl

This really brought tears to my eyes. What a special little boy, and what fantastic parents he was given to celebrate his short life with! My son celebrated his first birthday yesterday, and this reminds me to treasure every day I have with him Thank you for this inspiration.

May 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin B.

Dang it, I come here to be amused and here you go and touch my heart!! What a bittersweet story. Lovely.

June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBridgett

God Bless Baby James and his parents! I am crying right now. What a beautiful boy and story. Thank you.

August 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErika O'B

I've been looking through your archives and came upon this post, which is sweeter than all the sugar on your pages. Thank you for sharing!

July 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMicah

How sad. I'm glad that this special little boy had such a perfect birthday. Bless. xx

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCupcakes Lady

What a sweet story with a beautiful cake! James looks like was a very sweet boy that brought much joy to many people. I love his smile after he ate the cake!! He and the family are such an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing.

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I realize this post is coming waaaaaay late, however, this Sunday Sweet's post linked back to James's birthday cake. My son Malcolm was born at 1 lb. 9.5 oz and spent 5 months in the NICU. He was terribly unhealthy for a long time. We were extremely lucky that he made it to his 1st birthday and beyond. He had a trach and a feeding tube and was not permanently off oxygen until he was about 2 yrs. 9 months. I am so grateful he has made it to 5 years. I have known so many NICU and PICU families who lost their precious ones as you have.

There is an extremely wonderful organization here in Tucson called "Ben's Bells." It is founded and run by a family who lost their little one too soon. The driving philosophy is basically, random acts of extraordinary kindness.

My heart goes out to you. I know how that first birthday felt. We weren't sure if he was going to make it then.

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMrsMalcolmDarcy

Dear Abby and John

Another late poster, thanks to the link from this week's Sunday Sweet. My three year old son has been fighting cancer for the last two years, so I have an inkling of what you're feeling. At his two-year birthday, I cried because I didn't know if he'd be able to walk or have both legs when his third birthday rolled around.

I'm glad sweet baby James was able to have such wonderful birthday party, and you are in my thoughts.

January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJudy in SATX

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