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10 Smash Cake Ideas to Help You Celebrate Baby’s First Birthday

Mark this major milestone with a smash! Check out unique smash cake ideas, expert tips and a recipe here.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published January 12, 2024

It’s baby’s first birthday, which means it’s time to celebrate! And what better way to do that than with a cake smash? From TikTok to Instagram to Facebook, you’ve probably seen first birthday cake smash photos popping up all over your feed. Babies’ mouths covered in icing, hands full of confectionary fun—it’s as messy as it is adorable.

If you’re interested in taking part in this tradition, we’ve got everything you need to know to make your cake smash a smashing success—including a smash cake recipe, creative design ideas and more.

What Is a Smash Cake?

“A smash cake is typically baby’s first cake,” says Orran Booher, founder, owner and pastry chef at Atlanta-based allergy-friendly bakery Baker Dude. “It’s made just for baby and is designed with destruction in mind.” Smash cakes typically have light, and therefore smash-friendly icing, are small enough for baby’s tiny hands to dig into and are made to look cute even after they’ve been destroyed.

The whole idea is to put the cake in front of baby and let them go wild if they so choose. The tradition seems to have originated with the Mexican birthday trend “la mordida,” but no one seems to be quite sure exactly how the smash cake became so popular. And whether you plan to have baby’s smash happen at their first birthday or are setting the scene for a fabulous cake smash photoshoot, there’s no shortage of creative smash cake ideas out there.

How big is a smash cake?

Unlike a typical towering birthday cake, a smash cake is intentionally petite, usually ranging from four to six inches in diameter, says Booher. The size ensures that baby can easily interact with the cake (aka gleefully destroy it), creating a delightful—and manageable—mess.

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What to consider when ordering or making a smash cake

Here’s what you should know when preparing baby’s first birthday smash cake, whether you’re discussing details with a baker or making it yourself.

  • Discuss allergies and preferences. If baby has allergies, or if you’re looking for a gluten- or sugar-free smash cake, make sure to tell your baker. They can customize your experience, for example, providing an option where you can remove some sugary decorations before the smash.
  • Time it just right. If you’re going for a buttercream cake, Booher recommends ordering or preparing it no more than 24 hours in advance. If you opt for a paleo cake or one with coconut oil in the icing, allow it to sit out at least 30 minutes before the smash to reach room temperature and soften.
  • Stay away from fondant. Fondant applied in a thick layer over the cake can be challenging for baby to smash into and even harder to bite into. For a smoother experience, stick with buttercream or a frosting with a similar texture.
  • Top it off. Elevate the smash experience by placing an engaging toy or topper in the center of the cake. This will help make baby’s experience more exciting—and maybe even put them at ease during a situation that can be stressful…
  • Don’t forget to order a cake for everyone else. If you’re hosting a celebration for baby’s cake smash, remember to include sweet treats for the other guests—including yourself. “Parents deserve to be celebrated too for surviving that challenging first year,” says Booher.
  • Let baby go at their own pace. Lastly, remember to make the experience fun! If baby doesn’t want to smash their cake or gets nervous when all eyes are on them, you can move on to another activity—no pressure.

Baby Smash Cake Recipe

Thinking of baking baby’s smash cake yourself? You can always use your favorite tried-and-true cake recipe, of course—but if you’re looking for a sugar-free option without common allergens, Booher shares his fan-favorite paleo baby smash cake recipe:

Makes a six-inch, one-layer cake.

You’ll need:

Cake:

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 4 cage-free eggs
  • 4 oz. maple syrup (Golden, Grade A)
  • 3 oz. organic refined coconut oil
  • 1 oz. coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla

Frosting:

  • 7.5 oz. Nutiva coconut-palm shortening
  • 4 oz. organic honey
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. organic refined coconut oil

Steps:

  • In a bowl, sift and mix coconut flour, baking soda and sea salt.
  • In a mixer bowl, combine cage-free eggs, maple syrup, refined coconut oil, coconut milk and vanilla.
  • Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  • Scoop the batter into a prepared 6-inch pan and bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, combine coconut-palm shortening, honey and vanilla.
  • Add tapioca flour, coconut flour and salt, and mix until smooth.
  • Slowly add refined coconut oil while mixing on high.
  • Continue to whip until the frosting is light and fluffy, achieving a very light-yellow color.
  • Frost the cake with the prepared frosting and enjoy! Remember to set out the cake 30 minutes before the smash so that it’s soft.

Smash Cake Ideas

Smash cakes come in all shapes and sizes, offering a blank canvas to capture your one-year-old’s blossoming personality and interests. Whether you’re looking to create a whimsical theme, a character-inspired design or a timeless classic, here are some Instagram-worthy smash cake ideas to spark your imagination.

Barbie World Smash Cake

Transform baby’s smash cake experience into a Barbie dream world. With vibrant pinks, sparkles and iconic Barbie accessories, this theme adds a touch of glamour and fun.

Bluey Smash Cake

Bring the beloved cartoon to life with a Bluey-themed smash cake. Adorn the cake with Bluey and Bingo characters, paw prints and vibrant blues.

Friendly Lion Smash Cake

Roar into the celebration with a friendly lion-themed smash cake. Featuring a cute lion mane and a warm color palette, this adorable theme is perfect for little ones who love the animal kingdom.

Gorgeous Greenery Smash Cake

Infuse elegance into the smash cake experience with a greenery-themed cake that you can decorate with edible leaves, delicate vines and a soft color palette. This sophisticated theme creates a beautiful contrast to the playful nature of the smash, and is sure to make for great photos.

Cartoon Smash Cake

Embrace the magic of cartoons with a vibrant and colorful smash cake that looks like it came straight out of the comics section!

Oreo Smash Cake

Keep it simple yet delicious with this Oreo-themed smash cake. Topped with—what else?—Oreos, it features a classic black-and-white color scheme.

Flower Smash Cake

Let baby celebrate the beauty of nature with this flower-themed smash cake, perfect for a spring celebration. Adorn the cake with brightly colored edible blooms and delicate petals in baby’s favorite colors.

Train Smash Cake

Choo-choo! A train-themed smash cake, complete with steam coming out of the engine, is sure to be a hit with many a transportation-obsessed almost-toddler. And if baby cries or decides they want nothing to do with the smash cake? Try to embrace it: Part of the smash cake experience is that it won’t always be picture-perfect.

Simple Smash Cake

Sometimes, less is more. There’s nothing wrong with opting for a simple and minimalist smash cake. Decorate with a smooth frosting, a neutral color palette and perhaps a personalized cake topper.

Rainbow Unicorn Smash Cake

Add a burst of color with a rainbow-themed smash cake. Incorporate bright layers of frosting, edible rainbow decorations like a unicorn horn anyone and a sprinkle of joy.

Whatever smash cake ingredients, size and design you go with, the number-one thing to remember is to center your and baby’s needs and preferences. “There’s no right or wrong here,” says Booher. “You pick what works for your family.”

At the end of the day, your smash cake experience is less about the cake and more about the joyful celebration it represents. So don’t stress too much if the cake isn’t lavishly decorated or baby cries for the entirety of your cake smash photoshoot! The goal isn’t a perfect photo—it’s to make memories and celebrate baby’s first birthday in a way that’s fun and comfortable. Enjoy every messy, hilarious moment—and here’s to many more sweet celebrations in the years to come.

Sources

Orran Booher is the founder, owner and pastry chef of Atlanta-based allergy-friendly bakery Baker Dude.

USC Digital Folklore Archives, Mordida, April 2017

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