Making and decorating a smash cake for your baby doesn’t require special tools or skills. I’ll show you how I’ve made and decorated each of the ones I’ve made for my kids!
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What is it about handing a baby a cake for the first time and watching to see how they react? Will they cry? Dig in? Throw it? Smear it all over themselves? You just never really know until you try. But it’s a fun moment to capture on video or with pictures. In my mind, spending a lot of time or money on a small cake that might not even end up in your baby’s mouth is a waste.
This is why I make and decorate each of my kid’s smash cakes for their first birthday pictures. It doesn’t require any special tools and if you know how to frost a cake, then you can do it too!
Here’s what you’ll need to make and decorate a smash cake:
- boxed cake mix (any flavor)
- frosting (store bought or homemade)
- food coloring (optional)
- ramekins in two different sizes (I used a 4″ round (8 oz) and a 5.5″ round (16 oz))
- offset spatula or knife (for spreading frosting)
- cookie sheet
Making and Baking the Cake
Preheat your oven according to the box.
Start by mixing up your cake batter. I recommend using with a white cake mix (so you can dye the batter), or a chocolate cake mix. Add all the ingredients together in a large bowl. If you’re adding food coloring, do it now. Once you’ve got it all mixed up, you’ll need to grab your ramekins and spray them with some non-stick spray.
*PRO TIP* When I want to make sure my cake won’t stick to the pan, I use the Baker’s Joy spray. It has flour in the spray and I’ve never had a problem with my cakes coming out of the pan when I use it. (I learned this from a baking class I went to from The Blonde Who Bakes who is an amazing wedding cake decorator.)
Next, I use a 1/4 measuring cup to measure my batter into each ramekin. For the sizes I used, the 8 oz ramekin required 1/2 c. batter. The 16 oz ramekin needed 3/4 c. batter. When it comes to choosing ramekin sizes, my advice is to stack them on top of each other and see if you like how it looks. This will give you a simple preview of how the cakes will look when they are stacked. Depending on the size of ramekins you use, you may need to adjust the amount of batter in each but the amounts listed above provide a good starting point.
*NOTE* If you can borrow ramekins from someone, I recommend that, unless you plan on using them for other food. I love mine and use them for a lot of different things, such as single serve desserts, but I know that buying them may not always be practical.
Put your ramekins on a cookie sheet and slide them into the oven. Doing this will keep the ramekins level and make it easier to get them in and out of the oven.
Bake time will be a little bit of a trial and error. For me, the 8 oz was in the oven at 350 degrees F for 21-24 minutes. The 16 oz was in the oven for 24-27 minutes. Always start with less time if you’re not sure how long to cook them for!
When the cake starts pulling away from the edges, it smells like cake and a toothpick comes out clean, pull them out of the oven. I like to put my cakes on a cooling rack because then it allows air to circulate around the entire cake, which cools it more quickly. Let the cakes cool completely before trying to remove them from the ramekins.
After the cakes are cooled, use a serrated knife to trim the domed top off the larger (bottom) cake layer. (I actually use a bread knife because it’s long enough to go all the way through.) This creates a flat surface for the top layer to sit on. You can choose to trim the smaller (top) layer or leave it domed. I’ve done it both ways and it’s really just a matter of preference.
*PRO TIP* Put your cake it the fridge or freezer prior to frosting. This will help the frosting go on more easily.
You do not need to layer the cakes yet. Keep them separate for this next step.
Frosting the Cake
To frost the cake, you can use a butter knife or a frosting spatula (also called an offset or angled spatula). I like to start with a crumb coat, which is basically a thin layer of frosting that helps any crumbs stick to the frosting and the cake so you don’t end up with little specks of cake on the outer part of the cake. Then I put it back in the freezer or fridge to firm it up a little.
For the second layer of frosting, I’m more generous with the amount that I put on on the cake. I start with the large (bottom) layer, putting a lot of frosting on the top of the cake, working my way around the top and then the sides, adding more frosting as needed. Put the second “tier” of the cake on the top center of the cake and repeat the process. I just use a big, flat spatula to lift the cake off the cutting board and onto the larger cake.
This is the part where I would recommend that you don’t need to make it perfect and smooth. Unless you are more skilled at cake decorating, you are probably going to end up frustrated that it doesn’t look like the cakes you see on shows or in store. I usually try my best to make sure I have a fairly equal amount of frosting on the top and sides and that no cake is showing through and then leave it at that.
Last is the decorations. I typically stick to really simple sprinkles and one other small cake topper for the smash cake. Obviously, it’s going to totally depend on the colors and style you are personally going for, but there are so many options available! For my first and second kids, I used the brightly colored sprinkles that came with the store bought frosting. For my third baby, I had some fun sprinkles from Sprinkle Pop that I used . (I used sprinkles from them as well when I made my daughter’s unicorn birthday cake.) As for a cake topper, I traced a 3″ one (1) out of coordinating card stock and taped it to a toothpick before sticking in the top.
Making and decorating your baby’s smash cake doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. As you can see from the pictures below, they are nothing extremely fancy, but the cakes looked great in the pictures and I felt happy knowing that I didn’t spend a lot of money on a cake that may or may not actually get smashed. *wink*
What do you think? Does this tutorial help you feel like making and decorating a smash cake is do-able?