Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Sweets: James' Sweet Safari

Sunday, April 26, 2009

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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Anonymous said...

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.

Mara said...

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'

Bilby P. Dalgyte said...

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

Brown Suga' said...

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. :)

Danni said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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.

junewilliams7 said...

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.

ashleyalvina said...

Abby,
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.


a.

Catherine said...

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

MoJo said...

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.

L. Shepherd said...

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.

marion said...

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

Anna said...

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!

bigsky67 said...

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 you...you will see your boy again and then what JOY and HAPPINESS!

grace said...

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.

Latte With Me said...

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.

Suzanne said...

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 ...

Blessings,

Alli said...

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.

Jenn said...

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.

Shelley said...

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

Carrie said...

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

Anonymous said...

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!

The Fabulous Ms. Beth said...

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

erehwesle said...

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.

Mom to Gabe and Ayla said...

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 NICU....so 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.

Anonymous said...

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!

Russell said...

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.

Haiku Joy said...

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

Kat said...

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.

Ashley said...

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.

rknap14 said...

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.

rknap14 said...

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.

Melissa (& Billy) said...

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

How wonderful that you got to celebrate together.

Nakia said...

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.

!!! | said...

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.
Love
Kianna

GGM said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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.

Dea said...

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

lyndsay said...

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.

Kitten said...

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.

mozzer0906 said...

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.

Andrekabu said...

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!

Jo said...

Fabulous cakes! Looks like it was a great day.

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

hockey_mum said...

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

The cake and cupcakes were beautifully done. :)

Christy said...

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!

Ctina said...

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

Catboreal said...

Thanks for sharing James and his cake with us.

Bright Blessings.

Cat

Janet said...

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!

Daviah said...

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-

robyn said...

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

Bead said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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

Anonymous said...

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.

Hailey

Anonymous said...

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

Tina said...

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

Anonymous said...

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

Bibi said...

Thank you for sharing his story.
God Bless,
-Bridget

Carrie said...

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!

Allison said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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.

Suzette Saxton said...

What a cutie-pie!

Liberty said...

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.

Tasha said...

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.

MissCritta said...

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

I love this blog more every day!

Denise said...

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

Nichole said...

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!

Nichole

The Newmans said...

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

BethE said...

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.

Holly said...

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.
Holly
Biloxi, MS

relan said...

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.

meauxjeaux said...

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.

Anonymous said...

*wiping tears from my eyes*

Beautiful story, beautiful cake.

My deepest condolences on the loss of baby James.

samann1121 said...

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!

Tanya said...

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

Clay Doodles said...

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

[[Hugs]]

Anonymous said...

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.

gingerina said...

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

Samantha Suzuki Photography said...

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

heartafire said...

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.

Becky said...

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

MommyKoz said...

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.

JustAGirl said...

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!

Davenports said...

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!

wustaz said...

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

kerry said...

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.

Melissa said...

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!
-Melissa
www.myventspace.blogspot.com

Wendy said...

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

Jayme said...

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

Gina said...

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.

Pearl said...

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.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your loss to.

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

Sofia ***

Pearl said...

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.

Erin B. said...

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.

Bridgett said...

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

Erika O'B said...

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

Micah said...

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!

Cupcakes Lady said...

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

Megan said...

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.

MrsMalcolmDarcy said...

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." www.bensbells.com 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.

Judy in SATX said...

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.

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