Most children are told not to play with their food from the minute they’re old enough to start feeding themselves. But a fairly new trend on the first birthday scene has little ones doing quite the opposite. A smash cake is a miniature cake, separate from the actual birthday cake, into which the birthday boy or girl may dig, or “smash,” with reckless abandon. The result is (hopefully) several hilarious, picture-perfect minutes of the birthday baby elbow-, face-, even shoulders-deep in yummy frosting.
The cake smash craze first emerged about a decade ago, but its popularity has gained momentum rapidly over the past few years. The ability to easily share pictures, via social media, with endless friends and family members in a single click has caused a major surge in the demand for increasingly camera-ready moments – especially for the proud parent crowd.
It’s really no surprise the cake smash craze has been instated by so many families as a first birthday tradition. A child’s first taste of a sugary-sweet birthday cake is bound to get a little messy; you might as well embrace it! So do you think your little one can wreck a cake like a pro? Here are a few things to consider.
The Mess is a Must
A messy baby equals cake smash success. In fact, the messier the baby, the better. With any luck, your child will end up wearing more cake than he’s eaten. As such, you need to be prepared for the disaster.
Weather permitting, an outdoor party will provide for the easiest cleanup. If you choose to have the party indoors, be sure to spread an old sheet or table cloth on the floor to catch anything that goes overboard.
If the party is not in your home, remember to bring a change of clothes and a package (yes, a whole package) of baby wipes. You’re going to need them.
If you’d rather not ruin the special birthday outfit, simply strip the baby down to his diaper for cake time. Don’t even bother with a bib, unless it matches your party theme and will make for a cuter picture.
Be selective with your choice of frosting. Dark colors like blue, black, and red will be very hard to clean and may stain your child’s skin for a day or two. Lighter colors like yellow or light pink are less likely to remain on skin and clothes. Not just your child’s clothes, but your own clothes too! Or did you think someone else was going to wipe down your sticky, frosting-covered child?
Be prepared for a mess, but not so prepared that you ruin the moment. The cake smash experience is proof that life’s sweetest moments are sometimes a little messy.
To Bake or Not to Bake?
When it comes to birthday cake, the possibilities seem endless. Smash cakes are no different. Party planning can be stressful, so you might want to order from a local bakery or cake designer to save yourself the added baking responsibilities. When you purchase the main birthday cake, ask if a smaller cake can be made just for the little guest of honor.
If the party has a particular theme, the smash cake can match the theme. It can be detailed and elaborate, or simple and sweet. As its name indicates, it’s going to end up smashed either way! But you’ll still want a few pre-smashing pictures, so take that into consideration when selecting your cake.
While the child is certainly not going to eat the whole cake, some parents might be concerned about the amount of sugar or artificial ingredients involved. Feel free to ask the bakery if there are healthier options, or you can also research recipes that use applesauce, bananas, or other natural substitutions in place of sugar. Dye-free frosting can be easily made using fruit or vegetable juice (check Pinterest for some good ideas). There are plenty of ways to replace unhealthy ingredients without sacrificing the taste or look of the cake.
When it’s finally cake time, be sure to serve it at room temperature, not straight from the refrigerator. This will make for a softer, more pliable (read: smashable) cake.
Get the Picture
This is a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity, so don’t just leave it up to your friends to snap a few good shots with their smart phones and then tag you on Facebook. You definitely want to go pro on this one. Hiring a professional photographer to capture all the chaotic fun of the smash cake will ensure it was worth every adorably messy moment.
With the rising popularity of the cake smash, many photographers have begun to offer special cake smash photo sessions. The pictures are taken a few weeks before the child’s first birthday and often appear on the invitations and thank you cards. As an extension of the cake smash trend, photographers may also include the post-cake bath shots, where the freshly-washed baby is posing inside an old-fashioned water basin or tub.
Pictures taken during the party should be relaxed and fun. Asking the birthday boy or girl to smile or look at the camera could distract from the cake-smashing and make the pictures – and experience – a lot less fun. At least wait until the cake’s been destroyed to start begging her to say cheese!
The smash cake can become an endearing new tradition for your family, one that you’ll remember for years to come. You’ll especially enjoy sharing the pictures with your children once they are old enough to really appreciate them. But kids only get one first birthday and it arrives more quickly than you realize, so don’t waste any time. Go book your photographer, order your cake, and then tell your little one to smash away!
By Jeannine Cintron, who really, really wanted a piece of cake after writing this article. Read her blog at highchairsandheadaches.com.