Cake goes missing, draws attention

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The hunt for a missing butternut cake is still on, even after the tragedy drew national attention.

The problematically placed pastry, originally reported missing in the classifieds of The Messenger, quickly found its way to the airwaves of NBC as the subject of one of Jay Leno’s “Headlines” Monday night.

‘Lost; A homemade butternut cake between Banks, AL and Naples FL.’

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That was the alarming message posted in the Announcements section of the June 11 edition of The Messenger.

Jim Crawley, owner of JCrawley Transport L.L.C., placed the ad after the cakes’ disappearance, thereby establishing the butternut bounty.

The ad instructed anybody with knowledge of the cakes whereabouts to contact JCrawley truck driver Mike Smith, the individual the cake was last seen with.

“I was supposed to deliver three cakes,” Smith said.

But when the normally reliable driver reached Naples, he realized something had gone terribly wrong.

“When I got down there I only had two,” Smith said.

He panicked.

“We looked everywhere,” he said.

Owner Crawley explained the three cakes were to be delivered to a customer as a gift, a common practice of the Banks-based trucking company.

“Somehow, some way, when he was putting the cakes in his truck…” he trailed off.

“He called first-thing asking about the cake,” Crawley said regaining his composure.

Smith, who was in Florida, searched the truck from top to bottom and he even went so far as to ask his wife to check a truck stop in Dothan where he had stopped.

But it was to no avail.

So Crawley got the idea to play a trick on Smith, who was genuinely concerned about the missing cake.

“He’s a wonderful person and a wonderful driver with an excellent sense of humor,” Crawley said.

The next day calls about a butternut cake came pouring in on Smith’s phone.

“I’m the butt of a thousand jokes,” Smith said.

One asked for a reward, another offered a road kill pie.

One even said Smith himself was a nut.

And the calls kept coming after Jay Leno read the ad on the Tonight Show Monday.

“I got 500 calls when the ad ran but it’s international now,” Smith laughed.

“It’s the best practical joke that’s ever been played on me.”

Smith is happy to laugh though, after suffering through what might have been a good bit of guilt.

Crawley said great care was taken in explaining to Smith that the “butternut tree” is indigenous to the area, and there is only a brief time of year when the inside of the trunk can be hulled out, revealing the ever-elusive main ingredient of the mythical butternut cake.

“Not only was he in trouble for losing the cake, so much work had gone into making it,” Crawley joked.

Smith, who still hadn’t pinpointed the identity of his prankster, said the whole ordeal was nuts.

“I’m planning on getting a private investigator and Johnny Cochran to represent me for defamation of character,” he said.

“I’m damaged, I’m never going to be able to eat another butternut cake.”