What is a Smash Cake? The Ultimate Smash Cake Guide!

What is a Smash Cake, did you say? Well, of all the first-year traditions to enter the arena, the smash cake is one with mega staying power (or should we say “sticking” power, with all that frosting?). 

The concept of letting babe dive face-first into their first birthday cake isn’t new. But the level of dedication to the occasion has leveled up significantly. With its steep rise in popularity in recent years, the cake smash can be considered a tried and true first birthday tradition, to the delight of moms, dads, and onlookers.

Before I go too far down this adorable (and MESSY) rabbit hole, let me explain what a smash cake is in case you’re new to the parenting and/or baby’s-first-birthday scene.

What Is A Smash Cake?

babies with smash cake
Photo credit Livingmorephoto

You can probably guess what the “smash” in “smash cake” is about. As important is who does the smashing—a baby! The defining factors of a smash cake are that it is a dedicated cake just for baby. Just for the smash.

Why should you make a smash cake for your baby’s first birthday? Well, smash cakes are more than just “OMGCUTE.” Here are some lesser-discussed benefits of the smash cake ritual:

  • Cleaner for the rest of us – I am good with not eating the same cake that’s been squished and handled by a baby’s hands. Pandemic, remember?
  • Healthier for baby – While your party guests might see through the ruse of a beet-infused cake with no-sugar spinach coconut cream frosting, your barely-1-year-old will not. They’ll be enamored and totally distracted by the THING that’s right in front of their face that NO ONE IS TAKING AWAY YET, omg ima put it in my mouth nom nom nom …
  • Perfect for virtual parties – It’s hard to get a baby to do much of anything on a Zoom with the family. But watching them explore and experience a whole cake to themselves is entertainment for anyone.

Practical AND healthy? You’re winning at this parenting thing.

 What Is A Smash Cake Made Of?

The ingredients in a smash cake can wander out of traditional super-sweet territory and into a more balanced and even nutrient-rich treat for baby. They do tend to be sweet, however. A smash cake is still a cake, after all.

Smash cakes can be fancy, with fillings and elaborate decoration, or simple and traditional. Vanilla and chocolate work just fine.

They can be cake-like in texture and taste, but with far less sugar, and may even have veggies snuck in or used to dye the batter or frosting.

Vegan, bacon, gluten-free, straight-up sugar—there’s a smash cake for everyone.

Can You Make Your Own Smash Cake?

first birthday smash cake

If you’re not a practiced baker, you might think making your baby’s cake is a recipe for disaster. But the DIY gods always have tricks, tips, and hacks. Claiming craftsmanship of a gorgeous 1st Birthday cake memorialized on social media and in a baby book is within reach.

Try these tiny-cake hacks on for size:

  • Grab a few mug cake packets and a small glass or ceramic cake pan. You can even use a large mug if you line it with parchment paper and cooking spray. Just add water (or milk), mix, microwave, frost, apply sprinkles. Boom.
  • Buy a large muffin or plain cupcake, or small cake. Frost and decorate it.

Pro Tip…put Dad on cake duty!

 Best Smash Cake Recipes

These recipes are a few of the best and are easy to make for even the most novice baker.

first birthday smash cake

A traditional take, this old-fashioned chocolate cake with fluffy, smooth cream cheese frosting is a drool-worthy smash cake recipe for drooly babies.

healthy first birthday cake

Yummy Toddler Food’s Vanilla Oat Cake with Yogurt Frosting is simple, beautiful. Plus it comes with make-ahead instructions and allergy-free options.

healthy first birthday cake recipe

This healthy cake is gluten-free, dairy-free, low sugar, and even sneaks in some veggies. Don’t crinkle your nose up just yet. Babies have been raving about it!

Or check out this video tutorial for a healthy banana smash cake.

 What Size Is A Smash Cake?

Smash cakes are baby-sized, usually four to six inches. A single layer is most effortless, but the sky is the limit. The taller, the messier!

 What Is A Smash Cake Photoshoot?

A smash cake photoshoot can come with a host of tools, props, and people to capture and commemorate the moment of your baby smashing the cake. Themed outfits and backdrops, lavish and highly creative cake decorations, a professional photographer … the works.

Many photographers offer backdrops for rent or include one alongside their professional services. Party and event planners also offer First Birthday cake photoshoot packages in an array of themes. Don’t forget your babe’s accompanying outfit!

A popular cake smashing trend is to schedule it as its own private photo session without an onlooking sea of in-person first birthday party guests. But if you don’t want grandmas, grandpas, friends, and family to miss it, you can Zoom them in. Or have a second birthday cake make its appearance at the birthday party itself.

Pro Tip…Take the cake out of the fridge an hour before go-time. Then it’s in peak smashing form: soft and at room temperature.

And be sure to check out this super cute video compilation of the sweetest cake smashes ever!

 Ready, Set, SMASH!

If you’re willing to clean up a messy baby (just another day in the life, am I right?), you cannot go wrong with giving yourself, friends, family, and most importantly, your baby the gift of your adorable little one ripping into her very own delectable cake.

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