Tips for a Cake Smash

Cake Smashes have become a fun and trendy way to celebrate your baby’s first birthday. The concept is pretty simple: give your baby a cake and let them do with it what they will while you (or a photographer) takes pictures. Easy-peasy, right?  Well, sort of.

The thing is with cake smashes, you can go as big or as simple as you want and the pictures will still turn out cute. I mean, it’s your little one we’re talking about here. They are always adorable. The problem is that we can get caught up in the planning if we aren’t entirely sure what to expect. So here are my tips for planning and executing a fun cake smash for your little one.

1. Relax

Yup. Start here. If you google “cake smash” or, heaven forbid, look it up on Pinterest, you’re going to get overwhelmed with all the ideas and whatnot that you could use to get the perfect photos of your baby. I’d advise against it. Start by breathing. What is the goal of this session? To get fun pictures of your kid getting messier than they’ve ever been allowed to get. If you keep that goal in mind, the rest doesn’t seem so important.

2. List What You Need

Making an organized list can help you with any stress you’re feeling about the day. Keep in mind that you may not use everything that you put on your list. I’m going to show you my list that I made and then the list of what I actually used.

List 1 (what I expected to need):

  • a photographer
  • a cake
  • a cake stand
  • jeans & suspenders for Monkey
  • a birthday hat
  • an empty picture frame (for him to hold & take pictures through, painted blue)
  • a wooden letter (the first letter of his first name, painted blue)
  • a chalkboard & chalk (to write “1” or his name on)
  • a background (either a sheet, pretty paper, or wrapping paper)
  • something to put on the floor
  • Christmas lights (his birthday is in December)
  • bath stuff (for clean up)
  • balloons
  • jingle bells & plastic snowflakes for decor on the floor

List 2 (what I actually used):

  • a photographer
  • a cake
  • jeans & suspenders for Monkey
  • a wooden letter (the first letter of his first name, painted blue)
  • Christmas lights
  • bath stuff

Now, my photo session was pretty minimal and we took the photos in my own home, which changes things. We had a blank wall with enough floor space that we could take pictures on. I was concerned about the lighting since we took the photos in November and my windows face north, but that didn’t seem to make too much of a difference. Of course, you can add or subtract as many things as you need to make the photo session reflect yourselves more. But keep in mind…

3. Be Flexible

Things are going to not really go the way you wanted them to. I had set up a whole area in my house for the photos complete with a wrapping paper background (photographer veto’d it because it was going to reflect too much light), false snow sheet on the floor (also veto’d because the white would be too distracting), oversized jingle bells (too distracting for baby), and a table of props (most of which went unused). Almost the entirety of this area that I had stressed over for days went into the trash immediately.

Then we decided to take some photos of Monkey and, while he wasn’t grumpy, he wasn’t happy either. There were no tears, but also no smiles. He’s a serious looking baby when he wants to be and these photos reflected that. I wanted some joy, but I got mostly wide-eyed stares until the very end.

I was very lucky that Monkey actually wanted to play in the cake, but I’ve seen many pictures of kids who didn’t. I don’t know if it’s because we have given Monkey chocolate before (please don’t judge) or if it’s because he’s a boy who loves to get into stuff, but he had fun flinging the cake all over my dining room. Some kids don’t like mess, are freaking out about the attention, or just don’t like cake yet. And that’s okay. That’s why you have a couple of props. Sometimes they’d rather play with a chalkboard than with cake. Doesn’t mean you’re not going to get some adorable pictures. And you know what, I love the cake smash photos, but we took some pictures of Monkey in the sink afterwards and those are the best of the bunch!

4. Have a Clean-Up Plan

My photo session took place on a Monday at noon so everyone else was working. The only people at my photo session was me, Monkey, and our photographer. And I was stressed that I’d never break the imaginary cycle of clean up baby, start to clean up cake, baby gets into cake, clean up baby, start to clean up cake, baby gets into cake, and so on. Plus my bathtub is on the second floor of my house, but the photos were taking place on the main floor and how was I going to get a squirmy, cake covered boy into the tub without getting cake everywhere and then break that damn cycle?

I’d forgotten the sink! All I needed was a wash cloth, some bubble bath, and a towel and Monkey enjoyed playing in the sink enough to get clean. Plus we got some adorable pictures, which we wouldn’t have gotten if I brought him up to my less than tidy bathroom. I still couldn’t leave him alone so I could get the cake cleaned up (had to wait until I could elicit some help from my brother before that got done), but his clean up was actually kind of a breeze.

5. Don’t Judge the Photos Until You See Them

Between the few smiles and the little natural light and the lack of props, I worried about how the photos would turn out. But when I got them, I was overjoyed. You don’t really need a whole lot to make your kid cute, I promise. You did all the work already when you made the little tyke, right? And, if you really are unhappy, many photographers are more than willing to help make it right. No one wants bad press.



Some final words of wisdom:

  • Blue icing stains!
  • Oversized sprinkles are a choking hazard
  • Red icing, if super dark, can look a bit like blood
  • Some people advise against chocolate cake, but I thought it still looked cute and, who cares if it looks like dirt? I can’t imagine the bath pictures with white cake instead of chocolate
  • A dustpan works wonders as a shovel to toss whatever cake is left over
  • Make sure to have some orange oil or something of that nature to get the icing off the walls
  • Put your pets away (my dog just really wanted some of that cake and was a distraction to Monkey)
  • Get pictures before and after
  • Making the cake yourself (or getting your talented mom to do it for you) is a great way to save money, especially since most of it goes in the garbage. My mom got a giant cupcake mold from Superstore and baked a chocolate cake from a cake mix. This worked perfectly! No need to go super fancy!
  • Finally, make your kid the star of the show. The cake is fun and so are the props, but people (and you) want to see your kid first!


Have you ever done a cake smash? Do you have any tips I might have missed or questions about something I didn’t cover? Let me know below!



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