Your sweet little baby is about to turn 1! Gone are the days where pics of baby’s first food mess are just spaghetti or whatever mom and dad were eating. Now it’s a whole “thing.” An event that family and friends look forward to witnessing at the first birthday party even more than the toys and gifts. And it’s always some gorgeous, yummy-looking cake. Parents spend big money on their kids’ “smash cake,” but is it really necessary? After all, they’re just going to destroy it anyway. If you’re a frugal mama, your head might explode at the idea of dropping $50 to $100 for a smash cake that no one will even taste. Fear not, super saver! A smash cake — or any birthday cake — is 100% something you can DIY without spending a ton of time. Need some easy smash cake recipe inspo? We got you covered.
1. The Easiest Smash Cake — A Bundt Cake
Mama, stop greasing those six round cake pans, you’re not a busy bee, reach into the back of your cupboard and grab the bundt cake pan. Layer cakes are oh so pretty when you slice neatly into them, sure. But that’s not what the smash cake is about. For this, you just want something yummy and beautiful for your kid to destroy. Bundt cakes are a lot easier to make. Most often, they just require a little longer in the oven. They’re also much simpler to decorate if you opt for a glaze and some pretty decorations.
2. 7-Ingredient Vanilla Smash Cake Recipe
At one year old, your little bug isn’t exactly boasting a refined pallet. Save the fun flavors for your guests’ cupcakes (or for another year altogether) and opt for a smash cake made with pantry staples. Color the batter or go for bold icing, if you want to brighten things up.
3. Sheet Cake Smash Cake
Just like doing a bundt cake, there aren’t any rules that suggest your smash cake recipe needs to add up to a tall and round cake. Another fun option is to let your child take one of their toy mallets to a simple sheet cake. You can make it shaped and fancy or just a simple chocolate cake. The fun part for your future drummer will be pounding away at it.
If you do want a cake piled high but don’t want to spend too much time baking, any supermarket with a bakery worth its salt will sell you sheet cakes to the dimension and flavor specifications of your dreams. WholeFoods, for example, sells them. Assemble them together with a simple buttercream recipe and have your newly minted toddler at it.
4. Unicorn Smash Cake
Desperate to create a magical unicorn cake for your pretty, pretty princess? It might be one of the most complicated cakes on the list, but it’s not impossible by any means. The hardest part is twisting the fondant to create the perfect unicorn horn for on top. If you get stuck, ask an older offspring or spouse — it seems like every family has at least one person who can nail it on the first try.
5. Rainbow Layer Smash Cake
If you’re going bold and colorful for your baby’s first birthday, you might start thinking about a rainbow layer cake. It’s way easier than you’d think! Whether you make it from scratch or doctor up a boxed cake mix, start with a white (not yellow) cake recipe, divide the batter into the desired number of colors and use food dye to get them colored accordingly. Easy-Peasy, right?
6. The Box Mix Smash Cake
Helpful reminder: Nearly all of these cakes can be made without digging through your pantry for the expired baking soda. The two keys to a successful smash cake photo shoot are: a demolished cake and a messy baby. Grab any cake mix you want and start with that for a simple base. You can always flavor or dye the cake (or just get strawberry, lemon or funfetti mixes) to make it extra special. In the end, though, it’s all about the icing… and the aftermath.
7. Healthy-ish Blueberry Cake
Nervous about your kiddo loading up on a bunch of sugar and then having a mid-party meltdown? Lots of parents are turning towards healthier options. This scrumptious blueberry smash cake is sweet and colorful but a little more healthy and natural than some of our other options.
8. Another Healthier Cake Idea — Go Easy on Icing
So many of these gorgeous smash cakes are loaded with frosting. But, that doesn’t have to be the way it goes. Take a note from wedding cake trends and opt for a nearly naked cake. They’re still delicious (and gorgeous) but use icing sparingly. And, honestly, it’s not that hard. The gist: Ice the cake when it’s cold (and less likely to crumble) and use a wide, offset spatula to scrape away most of the icing from the sides.
9. Surprise Smash Cake
Looking for a bit of an extra bang during your smash cake photo session? The surprise cake is, well, surprisingly easy! Tearing into a cake is exciting enough for a baby, but tearing into a cake with candy spilling out is even better.
10. Cookie Monster Cookie Dough Cake for a Smash Cake
Let’s face it: Some kiddos just don’t know what to do with a cake because they’ve never had one before. If you’re nervous about your freshly minted toddler even understanding the concept, your best bet is to find a way to make the cake engaging. Are they Sesame Street zombies? A cookie monster cake (complete with a cookie dough cake recipe) will lure them in. If you’re not sure you can tackle recreating Cookie, just go for bold blue and find some cookies and a couple eyes to pop on top.
11. Mickey Mouse Cake
While a Mickey mouse cake might be a little too abstract for your kiddo to recognize, the bright red and deep black icing colors will still lure them in. Plus, the visual is amazing. While any flavor cake will technically work, red velvet cake isn’t hard to conjure and will keep up the theme. Just use the small star tip on your icing bag to complete the look below.
12. Funfetti Cake
While you can totally make a yummy Funfetti cake from a box mix, you might want to do it from scratch so that you have more control over the ingredients. (You could even be obsessive about what color sprinkles you use.) Any white cake recipe can become an easy smash cake recipe if you just add sprinkles. But there are plenty of excellent recipes to walk you through the process.
13. Giant Cupcake Smash Cake
Kids love them some cupcakes, so why not go with that idea for a smash cake that looks like a giant cupcake. For this, you’ll need to buy a large cupcake baking mold, but since they’re readily available in all baking stores or online. To make the cake lighter, use a pound cake recipe of box mix, decorate with buttercream frosting and large sprinkles, and present to your freshly-dubbed toddler.
14. Chocolate Piñata Cake
You don’t have to be a master chocolatier to make this chocolate piñata cake at home. All you need is chocolate candy melt, a domed metal bowl, and some patience. First things first, melt your chocolate melt and coat a thin layer inside the bowl before chilling in the freezer for five minutes. Repeat the process for three layers before gently pulling out the chocolate dome onto a serving platter full of small toys you want to present to your birthday boy or girl. Decorate with M&Ms or anything else you want, using buttercream as glue, and present to your toddler with a toy mallet. It’s honestly so much easier than it sounds.
15. Pancake Stack
If making a chocolate dome is not your idea of an easy smash cake recipe, how about just a stack of pancakes? This sounds weird, but kids love pancakes, and if you make them fluffy and top with whipped cream and strawberries your newly-dubbed toddler will dive right in. It also makes for a cool breakfast-themed photoshoot if you decorate with egg and bacon balloons.
16. Cupcake Smash
Let’s go wild and assume one-year olds are a lot of work and you’re a tired mama. Yeah, what an outlandish hypothetical but go with us here. In the case you’re sleep deprived from your newly-dubbed toddler’s sleep regression or teething woes, why not skip the cake completely and go for a stack of cupcakes with colorful frosting? They’re easier to make (or cough buy) and your little one will still get that frosted messy picture you’re longing for.
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