10 Tips for Documenting Your Baby’s First Birthday With A Cake Smash Session

By Ramina Magid – Newborn Photography Studio in Los Angeles, CA

birthday cake smash

10 Tips for Documenting Your Baby’s First Birthday With A Cake Smash Session

A cake smash session is a wonderful and increasingly popular way to celebrate your baby’s first birthday! It’s such a fun, adorable, and unforgettable way to mark this significant milestone. 

Imagine this: a tiny cake, just the right size for those little hands, waiting to be tasted and yes, smashed! Whether it’s a 6-inch classic buttercream frosted cake or a healthier version made with whole wheat flour and natural sweeteners, making this cake, icing it with care, and watching your little one interact with it can be one of the most heartwarming experiences.

But a cake smash session isn’t just about the cake. It’s a mini session where every little detail is carefully planned. From the outfits to the decorations – each element plays a part in telling the story of your baby’s first birthday. At my studio, the session often ends with a bubble bath, adding another layer of fun and giving you even more adorable photos!

See my cake smash photography portfolio here.

For many parents, the idea of a cake smash can feel overwhelming. What size cake should you choose? Should you make a healthy smash cake recipe or go with a regular cake? What about frosting ideas? 

Don’t worry – this guide is designed to walk you through every step, from choosing the perfect cake and theme to capturing those priceless moments. And when the day is done, and the cake is all but a sweet memory for kids and adults alike, you’ll have a collection of photos that perfectly capture the essence of your baby’s personality and the joy of their first big milestone. 

Tip 1: Planning the Perfect Cake Smash Session

Choosing the Right Theme

Think about what makes your baby light up – is it a certain color, a cartoon character, or maybe a beloved animal? The theme sets the stage for the entire session, ensuring those precious smash cake photos truly capture the essence of your baby’s personality.

Selecting the Perfect Cake for Your Little One’s Big Day

Now, let’s talk about the star of the show – the cake! The cake isn’t just a treat, it’s a prop, and, most importantly, a symbol of your child’s first big milestone. When selecting a cake for your baby’s first birthday, consider both aesthetics and taste. A smash cake is usually smaller, often a 6-inch cake, perfectly sized for those tiny hands to explore. You might want to opt for a cake without any added sugar or with healthy ingredients like whole wheat flour – after all, this is your baby’s first real taste of cake. The frosting is where you can really be creative. Cream cheese frosting is a popular choice, as it’s not too sweet and easy for babies to smash. Bright colors or a design that matches your theme can make the cake as photogenic as it is delicious.

At our studio, I always recommend buttercream frosted cakes as they work best. And please avoid red colored cakes and chocolate cakes as they don’t look good in photos.

Tip 2: The Ideal Cake – Balancing Taste and Aesthetics

Smash Cake Recipe Ideas for Your Baby’s First Birthday

Creating a smash cake can be a fun and rewarding DIY project. For a baby-friendly cake, consider using natural sweeteners like fruit purees. An easy smash cake recipe might include bananas or applesauce, which give a delightful sweetness without the need for added sugar. If you’re keen on baking, why not try a mini cake made with whole wheat flour and frosted with a light cream cheese icing? It’s a healthier option and just the right size for a smash cake. Remember, the cake is meant more for smashing than eating, so while taste is important, focus on texture and color to make those cake smash photos pop.

Designing a Cake That’s Not Just for Eating but for Smashing

Soft, fluffy cake layers are ideal for easy smashing, and bright, contrasting colors in the frosting can lead to some truly vibrant photos. If you’re planning to bake the cake yourself, a simple 6-inch cake pan is perfect for creating a small cake that’s just the right size for your baby to smash. You can even make the cake ahead of time and let it come to room temperature on the big day, ensuring it’s soft and smashable. Don’t forget to place the cake on a stand that complements your theme – it elevates the cake, both literally and visually, making it a focal point in your photos.

The first birthday and the cake smash are all about celebrating this incredible milestone in a way that’s memorable and enjoyable for both your little one and you. Whether you opt for a homemade cake or a professionally made masterpiece, the joy is in watching your baby explore, taste, and inevitably smash their very first birthday cake.

Tip 3: Setting the Scene – Creating a Photogenic Environment

Selecting Props and Backdrops

Creating the perfect setting for your baby’s cake smash session is like setting the stage for a mini theatrical production, where your little one is the star! The backdrop and props play a crucial role in transforming a simple photo shoot into a magical birthday celebration. When selecting a backdrop, think about colors and patterns that complement your theme without overpowering it. A subtle, pastel-colored backdrop can work wonders, offering a soft contrast to the vivid colors of the cake and your baby’s outfit.

Props are the cherries on top of this delightful setup. Balloons, banners with phrases like “Happy Birthday,” and even a few favorite toys can add a personal touch to the photos. However, remember the golden rule: less is more. You don’t want the props to distract from the main event – your little one smashing that adorable cake!

Cake Stand and Decoration Ideas

For a classic look, a white or vintage cake stand can be both elegant and timeless. If your theme is more playful, go for bright colors or fun patterns. Decorations around the cake stand can also enhance the overall look of your setup. Think about adding a cute cake topper, like a miniature banner with your baby’s name or a number “1” to signify this important first birthday. 

Small decorations around the base of the cake stand, like flowers or thematic toys, can tie the whole scene together beautifully. Remember, the goal is to create a photogenic but safe space for your baby. Ensure everything is securely placed and baby-friendly.

Tip 4: Capturing the Perfect Moment – Photography Techniques

Camera Settings and Angles for the Best Shots

Capturing the joy of a cake smash session is all about timing, perspective, and the right camera settings. If you’re photographing these precious moments yourself, here are a few tips. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze those candid moments. A setting of around 1/500th of a second should catch even the quickest of baby’s movements.

For angles, get down to your baby’s level. Shots taken from a low angle help capture the world from your little one’s perspective. Experiment with different positions – some close-ups capturing their expressions, and some wider shots to include the entire scene.

Regarding aperture, a wider aperture (like f/2.8) can give you that beautiful blurred background, making your baby and the cake stand out. Don’t forget to adjust the ISO according to your lighting conditions.

Capturing Natural and Candid Moments

Sometimes, the most precious photos are the unplanned ones – a giggle here, a curious look there, or the tiny frosting-covered fingers. Interact with your baby during the session. Sing their favorite song or play a game of peek-a-boo. It helps in bringing out those natural smiles and giggles. And remember, patience is key. Let your baby explore the cake at their own pace to capture the most genuine expressions.

Tip 5: Ensure Baby’s Comfort and Safety

When it comes to the cake for a smash session, baby’s health is as important as the aesthetics. Opt for a cake without any added sugar or use natural sweeteners like fruits. It’s healthier for the baby and reduces the risk of a sugar rush.

Be mindful of potential allergens. If it’s your baby’s first encounter with certain ingredients, consult with your pediatrician beforehand. The safety and comfort of your baby are paramount during a cake smash. Ensure the area is baby-proofed – no sharp edges, and everything within reach should be safe for a baby. The cake itself should be soft and easy to break apart, preventing any choking hazards.

I offer private mentoring for photographers, feel free to contact me as well as see this article I put together as a beginner’s guide to newborn photoshoots (tips for infant photographers) and this article on perfecting your newborn photography (tips and techniques). 

Tip 6: Dressing Your Baby for the Smash

Dressing up your little one for their cake smash is part of the fun and excitement. Whether it’s a birthday boy or girl, choosing an outfit that’s both adorable and comfortable is key. For girls, a cute tutu dress or a romper with a matching headband can look absolutely charming. For boys, how about a pair of suspenders with a bow tie, or a little prince-themed outfit?

When selecting colors, consider how they will contrast with the cake and the backdrop. If your cake is a riot of colors, a simple white or pastel outfit can create a beautiful balance. And if you’ve gone for a more minimalist cake, perhaps a pop of color in the outfit will add that extra ‘wow’ factor to your photos.

Tip 7: Scheduling Your Session

When planning your baby’s cake smash, timing is everything. It’s important to consider your little one’s daily routine. Scheduling the session around their happiest time – usually after a nap and a meal – can make all the difference. You know your baby best, so choose a time when they are typically most alert and in a good mood.

Best Time of Day for Optimal Lighting and Mood

If you’re shooting outdoors, the golden hour – just after sunrise or before sunset – provides a soft, diffused light that can add a magical quality to your photos. However, with little ones, we have to be more flexible. Mid-morning or early afternoon, when the sun is not too harsh, can also be a great time for outdoor sessions.

For indoor shoots, aim for a time when your home is filled with natural light, if possible. Position the cake smash setup near a large window where soft natural light can illuminate the scene beautifully. Good lighting not only enhances the quality of the photos but also contributes to a cheerful and warm atmosphere, perfect for celebrating your baby’s first birthday.

Tip 8: Post-Session Clean Up 

After the fun and frolic of a cake smash, the cleanup must begi!. But with a few efficient strategies, it can be managed easily. If you’re at a studio, they’ll likely have systems in place for quick cleanups. At home, using a large, wipeable mat under the smash area can save your floors from most of the mess. Have a warm, damp cloth or baby wipes handy for quick cleanups of your little one.

Remember, the cake can get everywhere – in hair, between fingers, and on clothes. A change of clothes for your baby and a simple wash station or a bath ready can make the post-smash transition smooth and fuss-free.

Tip 9: Preserving Memories

Besides the traditional photo album, consider creating a photo book with a narrative of the day. You could also select a few favorite shots for a canvas print, turning them into artwork for your home.

Another sweet idea is to create a birthday keepsake box, including a few cleaned props from the day, a piece of the outfit, and a selected photo. This box can become a cherished memento for years to come, encapsulating the joy and spirit of your baby’s first birthday.

Tip 10 - Embrace Unpredictability

As someone who’s seen many cake smash sessions, I can tell you they’re as unpredictable as they are fun. Embrace this unpredictability as part of the charm. Each baby reacts differently to the cake – some may dive right in, while others might be hesitant. This uniqueness is what makes each session special and memorable.

My Advice for a Successful Cake Smash Session

Preparing Your Baby for the Session

It’s a good idea to familiarize your baby with the texture of the cake beforehand. Let them play with a small cupcake or a similar textured food to get used to the sensation. This can help make them more comfortable during the actual session.

Scheduling for Success

Like we covered above, timing is crucial. Scheduling the session after your baby’s first nap, typically mid-morning, works best. Babies are usually in a good mood at this time, making for delightful and energetic photos.

Choosing the Right Cake

Buttercream frosted cakes are usually the best for smashing – they’re soft and easy for little hands to dig into. Avoid red and chocolate cakes as they might not photograph as well. The color of the frosting can make a significant difference in the photos.

Making the Most of the Session

At my studio, the cake smash session is a whole experience – starting with beautiful portrait photos, moving on to the fun of the cake smash, and ending with a delightful bubble bath clean-up. This progression not only captures a range of emotions and activities but also helps the baby stay engaged and happy throughout the session.

Ramina Magid Newborn Photography

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, my studio in Beverly Hills specializes in newborn photography, I am fully licensed, insured, and trained on newborn safety and would be honored to be considered for capturing your family’s special moments. 

See my reviews here and contact me today to schedule your shoot and begin the journey of capturing your family’s precious story in the most beautiful way possible at my Beverly Hills studio located at 1010 S Robertson Blvd Suite E, Los Angeles, CA 90035.


As we wrap up this journey through the delightful world of cake smash photography, it’s hard not to feel a little nostalgic. Celebrating your baby’s 1st birthday with a cake smash is more than just a trend, it’s a joyous, heartwarming way to mark a significant milestone in both your and your little one’s life. Whether you chose a 6-inch classic for your baby smash or experimented with a 4-inch cake, the memories you’ve created are as sweet as the frosting on those tiny cakes.

As you look back at the photos of your baby’s curious eyes gazing at the colorful frosting, the laughter and joy when they finally dug in little cake, every smear of icing and every crumb tells a story – a story of growth, love, and celebration. The cake smash is perfect in its imperfection, capturing the essence of childhood in its most unfiltered form.

Whether its a small cake made with your own hands or one made by your local baker, at my studio the outcome is always the same – so much fun, happiness and beautiful images!

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Ramina Magid Photography is a family, maternity, and newborn photography studio located in Los Angeles, CA, minutes away from Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and West LA. Ramina is a Los Angeles newborn photographer, baby photographer, and family photographer. Serving Los Angeles and surrounding cities including Burbank, Brentwood, Pasadena, La Canada, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Pacific Palisades, Santa Clarita, Van Nuys, West Hollywood, San Marino, Calabasas, San Bernardino, Malibu, Altadena, Covina, Alhambra, Granada Hills, Marina Del Rey, Manhattan Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, and all other communities in Southern California.