Do you want to do something a little different for a first birthday? Maybe you're tired of store-bought cakes, or you want to add a little extra activity to a party. This is a great idea for a kid's first birthday party, so read on to find out all about it!

Key Points

  • The idea behind a smash cake is that the birthday kid will smash it with their hands, creating fun for them and lots of photo opportunities for you!
  • You can make this cake as elaborate or as simple as you want! Just remember that it'll end up getting destroyed rather than eaten!
  • You may want to consider making another cake that the guests can actually eat.

What Exactly Is a Smash Cake?

You may be wondering: What is a smash cake? A smash cake is a small frosted cake used for a first birthday celebration or for a first birthday photo session. Basically, your little one destroys the cake and makes a huge mess, while you get memorable pictures of their first taste of cake! So much fun! But you can use this tutorial to make a cake for any occasion- just take out the smashing part! Let's talk about what you'll need to make your smash cake a reality.

supplies for smash cake
  • Cake pan (Either 4 inch or 6 inch pan)
  • Cake mix of your choice (usually need just one box, but for 3 layered cake mix you'll want two) and additional ingredients for making the cake batter – eggs, oil, etc. If you want to make your own cake from scratch, you'll need the supplies for that.
  • Large flower icing tip –  To see one we recommend, click here
  • Large coupler ring – To see one we recommend, click here
  • Gallon size plastic bag with zipper
  • Spatula and large knife
  • Foam board cut to size (Consider tracing your pan on a piece of dollar store foam board – the kind used for science project boards)
  • 5-6 cups of thick frosting

Step by Step Instructions for Baking a Smash Cake

Step 1. Preheat oven as directed on the cake mix box or the cake recipe you're using. Then, begin mixing together the necessary ingredients. Meanwhile, grease and flour your pan. Coat your pan with shortening, then dust with flour, dumping the excess. Fill the pan 2/3 full of the mix. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool.

Birthday Smash Cake

Helpful hint: Make sure it is fully cooked and golden on the top. Poke it with a toothpick – if it comes out clean, it’s done. If it’s not clean, bake a few minutes longer and check again. Repeat until the pick comes out clean. When the cake is fully baked, remove from oven and remove from pan within the first five min. To do this without the cake sticking to the pan, quickly swish the pan from side to side and you will see that the cake is loosening from the pan. When all edges are freely pulling away from the pan you can carefully flip the cake over onto a cooling rack.

Repeat step one two or three times to make the desired number of layers for your cake. I like the tall look so I usually do three layers. If you have more than one of the same size of pan, speed up the process by baking more than one cake at a time. In case you are wondering, patchwork is okay since this cake will be completely covered with frosting and will later be destroyed, so no worries!

Birthday Smash Cake

Step 2. When the cakes have cooled completely, level them using a large knife. Use a bread knife to cut off the cake top (or muffin top). Start high on the top and take off a little at a time until the top is level.

Birthday Smash Cake

Once all your layers are level, get ready to put them on a cake plate (or even dinner plate). Before layering, put a dollop of frosting on the plate to hold your foam board in place. The foam board is handy for easily removing the cake from the cake plate to store any leftovers you might want to save. Add the first layer to the foam, generously cover with frosting, then the second layer, frosting, then third (if you have one).

Birthday Smash Cake

Step 3. Now you are going to frost the whole cake. Perfection is NOT required. Just slop it on and then smooth it out with a butter knife or spatula. Don’t make the layer very thick if you plan on adding frosting roses. If it is too thick they will slide off. This layer of frosting is to hold your roses in place and/or to hide the cake.

Birthday Smash Cake

If you aren't adding roses, you can stop at this step. Just finish your cake by making your layer of frosting a little thicker, then smooth nicely. Then cover the top or sides with colored sprinkles and you’re done with your kid's smash cake!

Birthday Smash Cake

Step 4. Fill your zipper bag and cut a small piece off the tip. When we say small, we mean a ¼ inch.

From the inside of the bag push your coupler in place through the hole. The bag should not cover the opening of the coupler. If the hole is too small, cut it a bit more and try again until the coupler fits correctly. Place tip on the outside of the bag and secure with the ring.

If you have a large tip without a coupler, place the tip into the hole in the bag. Make sure the tip is inserted through the hole about half way. Secure it in place with a small piece of clear tape.

Then, fill the bag with THICK frosting. To test the frosting before filling the bag put a small dollop on your hand and make a point on top (like an ice cream cone). Flip your hand upside down and then upright a couple of times. If the frosting keeps its shape then it is ready to go. If not, add powdered sugar to it until it thickens and passes the test.

Helpful hint: To fill the bag easily and without mess, place the bag tip first into a large empty glass. Fold the top of the bag over the sides, creating a funnel. Then fill. Remove air, zip, then twist the ends of the bag to push the frosting to the tip of the bag.

Step 5. Time to make the roses. Make some test roses to practice. Make your rose starting in the middle and swirling counter-clockwise, squeezing the frosting bag as you go. When you get to the end of your swirl, stop squeezing and gently pull away. It takes practice, so make as many as you need. Hold the bag in the same position as you swirl. When you are confident and ready to begin, start at the bottom layer of the cake.

Helpful hint – If at any time you notice that some of your most recent roses are not holding their shape it may be due to the frosting warming up in your hands. Stick in the fridge for 5-10 minutes and then continue.

Birthday Smash Cake

Start your rose ½ inch up from the bottom of the cake. Make one complete swirl around your center point. Start your next rose ½ inch from the last rose and ½ inch from the bottom. Continue until you complete your first layer of roses.

Birthday Smash Cake

Use the same technique and spacing with the second and/or third layer. But this time, offset your roses so they are not directly above one another as shown in this picture.

Birthday Smash Cake
Birthday Smash Cake

On the top of the cake, start on the outside and make your way in. Finish your last rose in the very center. DONE!

Take it easy on yourself. And if you are indeed making this for a smash cake it WILL be smashed and mushed all over your baby's face in a matter of seconds and you won’t care how it looks.

If you finish your cake and don't like how it looks, you can always scrape it off and start over. Just avoid touching the actual cake when frosting it and repeat steps four and five.

Other Helpful Tips

Preparing anything for your child's first birthday can be stressful, but hopefully this article helped relieve some of that stress. Here are a few more tips to help you make this smash cake a proper success:

  • Consider making a second cake for your guests to enjoy. This smash cake is meant for your baby to smash and eat if they want, not for everyone else to eat!
  • Don't feel bad about using boxed cake mix. After all, this cake isn't really going to be for eating. It would be a waste of time and effort to make a cake from scratch just so it can be destroyed.
  • On that note, consider buying the cheapest cake mix you can find. No reason to spend extra money on a smash cake!
  • Have baby wipes ready. Consider changing your child into clothes you don't mind seeing ruined before the smash takes place, since they'll likely get covered in frosting.
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