Make your baby's first birthday a smash hit by incorporating a smash cake into the party. Meant for just the birthday boy or girl, these cakes are supposed to be smashed, eaten, crumbled, and otherwise destroyed by the child as part of the festivities or in a special photo shoot.
How to Do a Cake Smash
Conducting a cake smash session at a birthday party or in a photographer's studio is fairly easy. Follow these basic steps to make one happen:
- Pick out a cake design and flavor and either make plans for baking and decorating or place an order with your favorite bakery.
- Add any accessories, like hats or bibs, to your child.
- Set up the designated area so your photos will be festive. Use balloons, banners, and other fun items in the background.
- Alert guests and the photographer that your child is ready to smash the cake.
- Snap pictures as your child enjoys his cake!
Not all babies enjoy their cakes and some refuse to smash them. D'anne Dzon, former owner of Dm Cakes, has noticed the rise in smash cake requests at her business. Dzon has a few pointers on how to handle that situation. "Just let the child go at it on their own," she said. "Don't try to coerce them and egg them on. Just let them do what comes natural."
A cake meant for smashing can take a variety of forms. From a simple cupcake with frosting to an elaborate tiered cake that matches the first birthday party theme, parents have plenty of choices.
Dzon mentions good designs could include buttercream roses and ruffles. Other basic design ideas include:
- Large cupcake-shaped cake
- Ribbon cake with birthday party colors and a candle shaped like the number one
- Polka dots or stripes
- Cake shaped like the number one
Many parents have the smash cake mimic the larger first birthday cake design but on a smaller scale. "I usually have mine match the main cake as close as possible with the same design," Dzon said.
Additional examples for themed smash cakes include:
- Jungle or safari theme - Round smash cake with a zebra or lion face
- Monkey theme - Smash cake shaped like a banana or featuring a monkey face
- Beach theme - Round smash cake with beach ball stripes
- Character theme - Character face on top of the cake
- Farm theme - Animal face on top of the cake
- Prince/princess theme - Crown image on top of the cake or around the sides
- Teddy bear - Teddy's face on top of the cake
- Sports - Cake in the shape of the ball or equipment
If you're making the cake yourself, Dzon said to "just have fun with it and let your imagination run wild; don't be afraid to try new things!"
Dzon said that any flavor is fine, but most of her clients stick to vanilla due to allergy concerns. Parents who are concerned about their child's nutrition and health can opt for a cake that is gluten-free or make a sugar free icing. Don't let allergies or health worries stop your baby from smashing a cake if that's what you want to do in honor of his or her birthday.
Keep in mind that while bright, dark cakes might look lovely, they may not be the best for a smash. "I try to avoid icing the whole cake in a dark color so their teeth and body are not stained," Dzon said. "Accent colors are enough."
Dzon recommends not using fondant. "It's too tough for the little ones hands to get into the cake," Dzon said. She notes that it's messier, (making for better photo ops), if the cake is done in all buttercream.
Capture It With Photos
Once the cake has been made or purchased, it's time to let your child smash the cake! Capture the memories with your camera so you don't forget a single expression as the birthday baby enjoys the cake.
At the party, set up a designated area. A highchair or plain plastic tablecloth on the floor in front of a birthday banner or wall works best. Set your camera for optimal settings based on the lighting in your area. Using a continuous shutter option, if you have one, will help you capture all the memories.
The photographer will likely choose the best background and any accessories for the cake smash shoot. She may have a small table set up if you think your baby will not stay in one spot if the cake is on the floor.
"For professional shoots people like the taller layered cakes, usually four inches high or more," Dzon said. "[It] shows up in the photos better." Keep that in mind when ordering or making the cake for the photo shoot.
If you're planning on taking other photos during the same session, do the cake smash last. Otherwise, you may not be able to get your child cleaned up enough for the rest of the photos.
Tips for Successful Smashes
Make your baby's first birthday cake smash a success by following these tips:
- Pick the right size of cake. "I usually recommend a six-inch round single layer cake," Dzon said. "It's small enough to not be intimidating."
- Set up the cake smash at home in an area where everyone can see how the birthday child reacts. If you're doing a professional photo shoot, don't forget that outdoors is a great option if the weather cooperates.
- Have baby wipes, rags, and an outfit change available so you can quickly change your child after the session is over.
- Let your baby eat the cake until she is no longer interested in it. If you take it away too early, your child may get upset for the rest of the party or photo shoot.
Trendy Birthday Cakes
While the idea of having a separate cake for your child may seem like a novel idea, it is one that has garnered a lot of attention. "I think everyone should try to get a smash cake for the 1st birthday," Dzon said. "It's a wonderful memory to look back on in photos!"