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)

wow! thats a really cute and great cake, with a touching story to go with it. it makes me sad that some people have to leave the world so early, or some have to live through it with all kinds of health issues........

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCheesy Ninja

The best "Sunday Sweets", yet. A lovely tribute.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I found your blog this weekend. What an incredible post. Thank you so much for sharing your friend and the family's story. Just amazing. Alice Xxx

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

That was such a bitter-sweet story. What a beautiful little boy, it makes me so sad to know he wasn't with us for long. But I'm sure his sweetness and joy lives on with you, and now us.

A beautiful cake for a beautiful boy.


April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarianne

Oh, I love the pictures of that little boy. The cake is wonderful - and he and his parents deserved every bit of wonderfulness in his precious life. Thanks for sharing it.

P.S. I love this blog!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNovel

I rememeber reading about sweet baby James and seeing this post brought tears to my eyes. That cake was simple, but beautiful. Thanks for posting this Jen. :)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterApril

Oh, this is so sad I almost cried!! I appreciate you honoring this request, and I'm glad that this special little boy had such a perfect first, (And only,) birthday!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlaura

WAITaminnit - JEN made those??? You've been holding out on us!!

Seriously, this is a lovely post, and those are some amazing cakes. Thanks for sharing this with us.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterabi

What a wonderful way to celebrate with your son! He was a beautiful little boy.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Jen, you are a very talented cake decorator!!! I'm impressed.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

Beautiful cake, beautiful post... thank you for sharing!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReverend Ramona

Jen, your cakes were exquisite. And Abby, your story made me cry.

-Amy H.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

WOW!!!! an amazing cake for an amazing boy!!!! Thanks for sharing it!! And for sharing your journey - you will never know some of the lives your story has touched!
I pray that as you celebrate the day of his birth, your heart will be comforted by peace that passes understanding!!!!
Blessings from Colorado!!!!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlisa


I am so sorry for your loss.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNYCGirl

Oh my goodness. I'm crying happy/sad tears for that sweet boy and his family this morning. I'm so glad he had such a special birthday. I know it's a treasured memory. Thank you for sharing that.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMama Jamz

Gah, ok, now I'm in tears.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdarkshines

What a beautiful little boy. His eyes were captivating! Beautiful cake too.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Love it!

Happy birthday James :)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbella1021

Those are truly beautiful cakes for a truly beautiful little boy. Thank you and Abby for sharing such a special moment! Happy Birthday Sweet Baby James!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSuzan

This cake is simply beautiful! You can tell how much care, effort (and love!) the baker put into it. James was a very lucky baby to have such incredibly parents and such wonderful friends that cared about him.

And Jen -- did you make that cake? Cause if you did -- massive kudos to you.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterValerie

This is a heartwarming story--it is proof that we should live as though every day is precious. Cake for breakfast from now on!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

What a wonderful and touching entry. THANK YOU for sharing. I would say that your birthday safari bagged a grand trophy of love and joy.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you for sharing that with us...what a sweet, inspirational post. And what a wonderful cake for such a sweet beautiful boy!
God Bless.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie Green

Fun cake, beautiful boy! Sweet baby James touches my heart.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTauna

What a beautiful and touching story! Rest in peace, sweet James...

I am in awe of your amazing baking skills, Jen! :) That cake stand your husband made is really sweet too.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRose

Truly why this is called Sunday Sweets. Thanks for sharing.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFluffy Cow

Abby, your son was beautiful and a joy to behold. I am so sorry you lost him. I am so glad your friend started her wonderful blog ;-) but wow, she is a fantastic cake decorator too....It's always good to have a back-up career plan. :)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

That's so moving.

What a wonderful cake, and a beautiful smile on James' face.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGlory von Hathor

I always come here to laugh. Right now I'm sitting here with tears running down my face. I've read this blog almost since the beginning, but this is my first post.
My own James just ran up to me, smiling, wondering why Mommy is crying. He, too, is a special needs kid who's been through hospitals and surgery and therapy. I gave him a huge hug. He squirmed until I put him down. He doesn't understand what I'm thinking right now. That's OK.
I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your James will live on in a lot of memories ... including mine.
And that's a beautiful cake. :-)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Gorgeous cake--and boy. Thanks for sharing your story!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobyn

Thank you for such an uplifting story. What a great way to remember James on his birthday.

Fantastic job on the cake. :)

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterC. Beth

Oh my....I have tears in my eyes. Happy Second Birthday to your darling baby boy.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThreeBeans

What a wondeful, but tragic story. James certainly was a beautiful child. And the cake was a masterpiece.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterValerie

I think we watched a video about Baby James in my church in North Carolina. I cried then as I'm crying now. What a precious boy.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I think I may have cried into my oatmeal a little. Seeing the joy in his beautiful face just made me lose it.

Thank you for sharing this story!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Cee

I had read about sweet baby James.

This post brought tears to my eyes. Such a beautiful labor of love.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMari

This is a lovely story. Thank you for sharing. The cake is adorable, the little boy is beautiful.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Mish

Beautiful story to go with a beautiful little boy. God bless!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMamaMia

I read their blog.. what a special family! I am so happy you shared that with us.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterColeen

Oh dear, what a sweet story with such a bitter ending. James will be in my prayers tonight. I hope you guys are coping well.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

An angel is only allowed to visit us for a short time. But his life will continue to touch many.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterheather

Those cakes are so beautiful and made of nothing but the most genuine love.

I have often been in tears after reading this site, but never quite like this. Thank you for sharing this story.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjeannie

I'll never forget when I first found this blog and through it stumbled upon Sweet Baby James' story. I spent that ENTIRE day reading his story and it has touched my heart deeply. I teared up again reading this post, it is so wonderful that he had such a special first birthday and a great cake (Wow Jen!). Happy Birthday Sweet Baby James.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Best Sunday Sweets Ever. This is an amazing tribute to a beautiful little boy. Sweet Baby James indeed.

My fiance and I both have tears streaming down our faces now. And we, indeed, are having cake for breakfast.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMallory

I read this blog while I'm eating breakfast and often I am in danger of choking and crying because I'm laughing so hard but I didn't expect to be tearing up for a different reason. That was lovely. Thank you Jen for sharing your friend's story. I'm glad you could bless her with such an amazing cake. Sweet baby James has the most beautiful eyes and I am sad to know he isn't with us anymore.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterweirdmom

Thank you for sharing your story with us. The cakes were beautiful and I'm sure your sweet baby boy was a precious gift to many. I pray today you will find comfort in the love of family and friends.


Btw Jen, any idea why I suddenly can't see some of the pictures? In this post I could see all but the last three and in the post before I couldn't see the middle picture. Same thing with the post before that. Just didn't have that problem before - and it's frustrating the heck out of me!

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDorci Harris

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing James, and his story, with us. What a precious little life. I'm glad you still celebrate him even now. His life was worth celebrating.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlois

What's that on his head?

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Oh, Jen... thank you for sharing this with us! You're a marvelous cake artist in your own right, and an incredibly good friend to James.

You did good, girlfriend. You did really, really good.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermamagotcha

PS...Nevermind about the question on the pictures, I think I've figured it out. Thanks.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDorci Harris

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