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All About the Smash Cake Craze

So what are these “Smash Cake” photos you’ve been seeing all over your Facebook feed? Thinking about trying it out for your little one? Libby Godecke, founder of specialty bakery Chicago Custom Cakes, explains what this is, and how to do it right!

A three tier white wedding cake, a coconut dusted Easter lamb cake, a sparkling sugared purple, green and gold Mardi Gras king cake, and a rum doused nut studded holiday fruit cake. Our celebrations often include traditional cakes that can be traced back centuries, but that doesn't mean there is nothing new happening in the world of cakes. One more recent development is the smash cake.

With the advent of social media, pictures have become the new baby book and everything can be documented with a snap of the iPhone. First smiles, first steps, and first words are all saved to the cloud and instantly shared with grandma and grandpa. You may not think you are familiar with smash cakes, but chances are you have seen them on your Facebook feed.  Baby hands, faces, hair and bare bellies smeared with cake. This miniature cake is meant only for the birthday boy or girl and it is designed with pictures of the baby digging into it in mind. Most smash cakes are part of the first birthday party, but they are also increasingly showing up as part of professional photo sessions which capture all of the little one's adorable smashing, mushing, poking and stomping.

If you decide to make the smash cake part of your family tradition, there are a few things to keep in mind. These tips should help you create the most enjoyable smash cake event for you and your baby.

1. Consider what your baby will wear. A special "1" outfit? Cute onesie?  Diaper cover and matching suspenders? Whatever you choose, be ready for that outfit to get frosting on it. If you bought something special for the party, perhaps consider removing it, or at least add a bib, if you want to remain relatively clean. For pictures, a solid color will photograph better than a very busy print. If you have a special outfit in mind, and really want that included in the picture, consider choosing a cake with all white icing. You can still include a special texture or design in the icing, even if it is monochromatic. A white cake can also help keep the focus on your sweet baby’s expressions. 

2. Consider when you want to have the cake. Timing is very important. If you do your baby's smash cake at their birthday party, schedule it as the last thing. This way you don't have to worry about washing up your child. You also avoid any meltdowns due to overstimulation. If you do decide to have the smash cake at the beginning of the party, plan to give the baby a quick wash when you are done and have another outfit ready for them. 

3. Consider the location. If you have a spring, summer or fall baby you are in luck, because the best place to have a smash cake is outside. Not only do you get great natural light for any pictures you take, but it also can make clean up a breeze. Smash cakes can create quite a mess. The whole point is to create adorable mayhem. If you are having your smash cake indoors, you will definitely want to lay down a piece of tarp or plastic that can be easily wiped down and then pulled up when finished. You also want to choose a location with a good amount of space. You don't want your walls, furniture or guests to end up covered in frosting.

4. Consider the cake. While fondant cakes can look beautiful, they might not be the best choice for a smash cake. The fondant can be difficult for those with few teeth to chew and it will not smash as well as a soft buttercream. Another cake consideration that is frequently overlooked is the colors of the frosting. Some colors, especially darker shades like blue, green and purple, can color mouths and teeth. While it is temporary, it might be best to stick to lighter colors on the cake. Doing a separate cake also allows you to do a lower or natural sugar cake for your baby, while serving a traditional cake to guests. 

5. Consider the theme. Most people choose one of two options for a smash cake. First, you can choose a smaller version of the main cake. The cakes can match or complement each other and the theme of the party. This is becoming especially popular as more and more people are choosing to do a stacked cake, where the top tier serves as the smash cake, and the bottom tier is the cake to serve gusts. The other route is to choose a simpler cake, maybe with your baby’s favorite color, name or number one on it. 

6. Consider cake alternatives. Sure, having a baby smash into a mini cake is very cute, but if you are on a budget or want to mix things up a bit you can always do the same set up, but sub in a slice of the birthday cake, cupcake, or donut.  One thing to keep in mind, the messier the better. The key to these pictures if to choose something that the baby can play with and have fun. Babies love the texture of fluffy icing and it's ideal for smashing. 

7. Consider the optics. For those doing a smash cake session with a photographer, you don't have anything to worry about. For those doing it with your own camera, there are a few things you can do to help you get the best shot you can. You want to set the stage for great smash cake photos by choosing a blank or minimal background. Even hanging a white sheet will help create a nice backdrop that leaves the focus on the subject. You could add a cute birthday bunting banner with your baby's name in front of a neutral background for a cute scene. A few well-chosen props can also be used in addition to the cake. Think something like a large #1 or a balloon. These will give the baby something else to engage with and add visual interest without creating too much clutter.

8. Consider your baby. Some children are natural attention lovers. They smile and coo for a crowd, no problem. Other kids are a bit shyer. They might need more time to warm up to strangers or get fussy when surrounded by a large group. This can be a consideration when choosing when to do a smash cake. If your baby loves to be the center of attention, a birthday party can be a great time to do a smash cake. If your baby prefers smaller groups and does not enjoy lots of noise, a one-on-one photo shoot with you or a photographer might be preferable.  Another thing to think about is that often, children don’t understand what to do with a cake when seeing it for the first time. It might be a good idea to let your child have a bite of cake before the big day to see if they enjoy the texture and to be sure there are no unknown allergies that pop up at a birthday party.  

When your baby turns one, it can be a fun time, and it is natural to want to document every new “first” so it is not surprising that so many parents are choosing to document their baby trying a sweet for the first time. The options are endless, homemade cupcake with a simple design at a birthday party all the way to a specialty themed cake and photo shoot. No matter what you choose, it can be lots of fun and great photo opportunity that you can share with family and friends. 

Libby Godecke is the founder of specialty bakery Chicago Custom Cakes. She believes in taking the time to design unique cakes, cupcakes and smash cakes for each of her client's celebrations. To see her work and contact her for a consultation, please visit www.chicagocustomcakes.com.