Here's help selecting the right birthday cake for the milestone moment.
Published: May 31, 2017
By: Emily Reed
While the concept of having a cake at a birthday celebration for any age is nothing new, having a smash cake – a smaller-sized cake – for a first birthday is gaining in popularity.
“A smash cake is a term for a cake that is a smaller version of a regular cake,” says cake decorator Kelly Taylor of Magic Muffins Bakery in Cahaba Heights. “Our smash cakes are two layers of cake with one layer of filling. They are designed for first birthday parties for the child to smash his or her face into the cake.”
While the flavors and decorations for a smash cake range to meet personal preferences for each family, the goal of documenting the baby’s first taste of cake is universal.
“I feel like cake smashes have been a rite of passage for a while,” says Birmingham-based photographer Lane Weichman of Lane Weichman Photography. “I am sure most of us even smashed cake at our first birthdays. Over the last few years though, it has become super popular. A lot of times it is the baby’s first taste of cake, so getting to be able to photograph it is so much fun.”
Both Weichman, and Birmingham photographer Amy Pate of Amy P Photography, began offering “smash cake” photo sessions between three to four years ago, and average between three to six smash cake photo shoots a month.
While the photo shoots typically involve a particular outfit, prop and cake, the main purpose is for the photographer to document the baby’s milestone of turning one through eating his or her first taste of cake. These photo sessions are typically taken before or after the child’s first birthday celebration.
“The hardest part of a cake smash photo shoot is when the baby will not have anything to do with the cake, and we have tried everything,” Pate says. “I will tell the parents to put some puffs or Goldfish crackers down in the cake and the babies almost always will pick them out and eat them, which is when I get my eating shot.”
Both photographers admit many babies want nothing to do with the cake, or will often only stay focused on eating the cake for a short time, so parents should be prepared for a lot of nudging to eat the cake for a successful photo shoot.
“One of the hardest parts is when the parents get super excited about their baby’s cake smash and the baby wants nothing to do with it,” Weichman says. “It is totally out of your control how they are going to react, but I still think the experience is so much fun to photograph.”
Jamie Battles decided to schedule a cake smash shoot for her daughter, Haleyann, due to wanting to document her first taste of cake in a stress-free environment. “My husband and I decided that we wanted to have a smash cake photo shoot because we weren’t sure how our daughter would do with her smash cake at her first birthday party being that there were 40-plus people attending,” Battles says.
Ashley Adams of McCalla selected an “UNO” theme for her son Gibson’s first birthday party. “We used UNO cards, primary colors, and had a taco bar,” Adams says. “The smash cake fit right in with the theme. Another cute touch was a time capsule jar, where the guests were able to write messages to Gibson in the future, when he turns ‘veintiuno,’ or 21.”
Adams said one of the most enjoyable experiences of the first birthday process was seeing her son react to his birthday. “All the mixed emotions from laughter, curiosity, to the tears that came on when the excitement of the day snuck up on him,” Adams says. “A child’s first birthday is more so an accomplishment for the parents to be able to look at your significant other and say, ‘we did this, we survived our first year as parents.’”
Marta Hammonds of Alabaster planned her daughter Macy’s first birthday party in April, as well as having a smash cake photo session taken. She says she learned during the process to not procrastinate, and to place a plastic tablecloth to go underneath the baby while they are smashing the cake.
Many moms agree that the key to a successful first birthday party, and smash cake photo shoot is not to stress, but to enjoy the process. “Don’t get overwhelmed with the idea of having to ‘go all out,’” says Angie Hauth who planned a first birthday party for her twin sons, James and Jacob Hauth. “I knew I would be less stressed and more relaxed with a small party with family at our home, and in the end the babies were happy because they were surrounded by faces they knew and loved.”
While planning her son’s first birthday celebration, Ashley Horn realized the best plan was to pick a theme and stick with it, while also planning early. “I advise to keep it simple, and definitely have additional cake for your guests or cupcakes,” Horn says.
Emily Reed is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom to her son, Tobias.
How to Have a Smashing Success:
- Plan to have additional cake or cupcakes for guests attending the birthday celebration as babies are likely to dig deep once they get their first taste of cake.
- Prepare in advance that any food coloring in cake icing might stain clothing.
- Be aware of any food allergies your baby might have before deciding on a flavor of cake to serve.
- Many bakeries require advance notice between 24 hours to one week for ordering.
- Some bakeries offer special promotions for smash cakes, so call ahead for pricing.
- Print any pictures of designs for cakes to present to both photographers and bakers to give them a better idea of the party theme.