Your baby is about to become a one-year-old toddler. Commence crying, freaking out, or rejoicing that you’ve nailed down year one of parenthood. In that year, you’ve captured their first moments from their first day at home, their first steps, and even their first lemon slice. Now it’s time to capture their first taste of birthday cake! (i.e. the cake smash)
You most likely caught those other moments on a whim with your smart phone (because, let’s be real, you take at least 100 pics a day of them with that thing.) To capture this particular moment, you can do a full on production, be your own creative director, even build a set in a make-shift home studio. And you can do it all for less than $20, saving you hundreds compared to what professionals can charge.
I had a ridiculously fun time planning and implementing my girl’s first cake smash, and captured so many adorable shots. Here’s how I did it, along with some handy tips to help boost your inspiration and get to planning!
PLAN IT and DO IT:
- Research for ideas/themes
- Acquire props/costume
- Create backdrop/background
- Make a cake
- Set-up and snap away!
Chances are you’d like to do a cake smash because you’ve seen photos of other babies partaking in this trend. Did any of the colors or props used stand out to you? If you need to get your inspiration flowing again, sometimes a little flip through Pinterest helps. A stroll through a dollar store works for me too!
If you are doing a themed first birthday party, you could create the setting for this shoot using the same party decor to get multiple uses out of them! For example, if you are having a Hello Kitty party, you could use the HK table cloth as a backdrop with HK party plates and napkins taped to it, balloons, a cake frosted with similar colors, and dress her in an HK shirt.
Depending on the weather, take into consideration where you’d like to create the setting- indoors or outdoors. That alone could inspire you on what your cake smash theme could be. Do you have access to a beach? (LUCKY!) You could do a sandcastle background and a beach blanket cake smash. If foliage abounds near your home, you could set up the smash in front of a bush, and decorate it like an xmas tree.
I chose to do my photo shoot indoors because I had the most pristine natural light coming in from the kitchen window. The kitchen also had enough space to create a backdrop, and clean-up was be easy.
Now that you’ve nailed down the color scheme or theme of what you’d like to create, you can now start putting together things you’ll need. The only prop you’ll really need is the cake, but if you’d like a final photo full of fun things, go for it. Balloons, a Happy Birthday banner, streamers, bunting, a number 1, flowers, a cake stand, etc etc.
If you plan on doing a theme, you could go wild with props that can enhance the actual cake smash, for example- a baseball theme. Give them a little plastic bat to hit the cake with! Or a plastic sword for a pirate theme. Or an inflatable hockey stick for a hockey theme. The possibilities are endless. These are things that if you don’t have on hand already, you can most likely find at a dollar store!
What is your little peanut going to wear? Do they have something in their wardrobe that goes with the color scheme or theme? You could just cover up their diaper with a bright tutu or diaper cover. Or let them eat cake naked! (Do this if you know their signs for potty time, or else that won’t be a fun cleanup!) Accessorize them with theme related accouterments, for example, wings for a Valentine’s cake smash, or a pirate hat for a pirate theme.
I went with a street art theme, and created her outfit with dripped paint on an old onesie. I didn’t use props because my backdrop and cake were busy enough.
Ok creative director, what will the setting be? Sketch out your ideas with the location in mind (indoors near a good natural light source/outdoors.) Brainstorm materials you will need to fully flesh it out. A large bed sheet, wrapping paper, or butcher paper duct-taped to a wall works well as a backdrop. You can tape balloons to the sheet, or draw a scene on the paper to work with your theme. If outdoors, work with the natural background and add props if you like.
I spray-painted butcher paper for her backdrop using paint from my personal supply stash. Butcher/craft paper is awesome, with so many fun uses. (I will definitely share a post in the near future of the many wondrous ways you can keep a tot entertained with a roll of that paper.)
Once you have all that nailed down and have all necessary supplies on hand, you’re just about ready. But first, you’ll need CAKE!
MAKE A CAKE
You’re reading this because you are creative and frugal. You don’t need to buy a cake from a fancy baker (unless that fancy baker is one of your awesome friends and you totally support them at any given opportunity!) Seriously, YOU CAN DO THIS!
Ever see that show “Nailed It”, where amateur home bakers try to recreate famous viral cakes? This cake doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t need to decorate an elaborate piece of baked art for this, because drum roll, it’s gonna get smashed!
You can use a basic box mix, or if you’d like to limit the added sugar, bake a cake that uses applesauce and bananas in place of sugar! Check out this great recipe from Our Haven Hill on how to make a healthy baby cake. I altered that recipe a bit for my kid’s cake and added food coloring to create a colorful smash experience. There was enough batter to make 3 small layers (about 5 inch diameter) and a couple cupcakes for her actual birthday party the following day.
Decorate the cake to reflect your color scheme or theme! You can use store bought frosting, sprinkles, fruit, and other edible decor. You can create your own frosting with this recipe, adding colors to fit your scheme. If you’d like to cut down on the sugar, make it a “naked” cake and use a cream cheese apple juice frosting like this recipe from Our Haven Hill in between the layers to keep them stuck together. Even more fun, leave the cake naked, and moments before you’re ready to take pictures, pile some whip cream on it!
I made and decorated the cake the night before the photo shoot. I used store bought frosting to save myself time, spray painted it with Wilton’s Color Mist food spray, and dripped it with glaze in varying colors. To make the glaze, I combined 1 cup of powdered sugar with 3-4 tbsps water and food coloring.
SET-UP & SNAP AWAY:
Alright, now you have everything, and you are ready to do this thing. While your baby is occupied doing something else, set everything up. Get your backdrop taped up, props in place, and set the cake out. Make sure your baby is in the mood too, so take the photos at a time they are most active (i.e. not whiny and ready for a nap, not immediately after a nap when they are still waking, and not immediately before a meal so they don’t wreck their appetite.)
TIP: Go into this with no expectations! They may have no interest in the cake, they may prefer to sit in it, or step on it, or hug it, or spit it out… all of which will make excellent photos!
Luckily, I had my husband on set with me to help keep my kid occupied. After I set up everything, I took some “before” pictures, and set up my smart phone off to the side to capture it all on video. I got down on the floor, a few feet away from the cake, my DSLR in hand, and he set her down behind the cake. That’s when I started snapping away at the little super model!
At first she didn’t know what was going on, as we kept asking her to try the cake. So I helped a little by pulling a chunk of it out on her side. A quick clean of my hand, I sat back and she started digging in, so back to snapping away! My husband was off to the side making funny noises that made her smile for the camera. This went on for maybe 5-10 minutes before she was done and ready to move onto something else. I took about 200 pictures, and she ate maybe a baby handful worth of cake and frosting, so there was no giant sugar rush freakout!
TIP: Get pictures of everything! Take a before picture of the set and cake, the aftermath mess and destroyed cake, close-ups of them eating, close-ups of their hands in the cake, close-ups of anything covered in cake, etc.
Hopefully something in this post has sparked your inspiration, and you’re ready to start planning your baby’s cake smash! I’d love to hear what theme or unique twist you did with yours. Share it in the comments!