DIY Baby’s 1st Birthday Smash Cake & Photo Shoot

  • Level of Difficulty: ***
  • Cost: $10-$50 (depends how elaborate you get with decor)
  • Preparation Time: 1-2 hours
  • Helpers: 1 (suggest two people for the actual photo shoot)
  • Material list: Included at bottom of the blog

Why do it? Oh my, this is so much fun to do! It creates life lasting memories and some pretty cool photo’s too! My husband and I made a date out of this. I suggest having a wine and coolers/beer on hand and making this an event. Consider inviting your parents or closest friends to share this experience with you. This is fun for baby and fun for you. Here are the easy 5 steps for doing the smash cake yourself and avoiding a $400-$600 professional photographer price tag.

Step 1: Pick colour theme, decor and baby attire.

  • Pick colours. It’s time to put your creative hat on. Pick 2-4 colours maximum and only a few objects for the photo shoot otherwise things will get crowded. Go with your favourite colours. For boy’s my favourites are blue and green. Even a touch of red or grey may be nice. For girls I love pinks, mint, grey and cranberry. Use a lot of white. White works well for home photo shoots.
  • Pick your baby’s outfit. For your babies’ attire, I love to see my baby wearing just his  diaper and a birthday hat. You can also go with a tie or bow tie for a boy or suspenders. For girls, a cute headband, birthday hat and/or tutu looks adorable and adds texture to the photo shoot.

Step 2: Create photo backdrop and the right lighting.

  • Select location and lighting. For the backdrop, you need to pick a location close to real light such as a window. If you have a white wall with great lighting – use that! If you want to do this outdoors, that works too! For us, I picked our kitchen nook which has a large window and is west/south facing. We moved all the furniture out of the way so we had an open space to work with.
  • Set up backdrop. For our backdrop, we used one of our Costco plastic folding table’s. We opened the legs up and placed it on it’s side (long side down obviously as doing it the other way would be a safety risk). Make sure it is stable and will not tip. You now have a backdrop to work with for decorating. On the side opposite to the window, stand up a white foam board. This helps contain the reflection and lighting of your overall shot.
  • Dress up your backdrop. I love white. I took a white bed sheet and ironed it really good, then taped it with masking tape very tightly to the backdrop (plastic table). I took test photo’s to make sure I got out the wrinkles, if not, I taped it more. If you already have a white wall, your a step a head. Use painters tape when putting up your décor so that you do not ruin your paint job.
  • The bottom layer/floor. Fabric doesn’t work great for the bottom layer. Either use your existing flooring if it matches the theme, or consider using a glass table top. I took a glass table top (I already had this) and layered it on top of the white sheet fabric. This gave a very smooth and glossy look for the photo’s. If you go fabric, consider embracing the texture and make that part of the theme.
  • Dress up your backdrop/wall. I went with 4 Balloons (I tied them together, similar to that of a Mario Cart – 3 balloons on the bottom and 1 balloon on top) this allowed them to be self standing and easy to move out of the way if my baby took interest in it too soon. I used PowerPoint to create circle paper patterns to match the overall theme for the backdrop. I got a big green pompom from a nearbye party store. **Tip: Put dark objects furthest away from the window side, otherwise your photo’s may turn say BLUE for example due to reflection. Be sure to leave a spot for your baby and the cake!
  • Take test photo’s, select your camera and make adjustments as you see fit. If you have a professional camera, lucky you! Personally, I love my iPhone for baby photos and that’s exactly what I used for the photo session.

Step 3: Bake the cake and decorate.

  • Pick your cake pan and recipe. I used the Michaels Giant Cupcake pan and a chocolate recipe. I baked the cake the night before, and put the bottom layer in the freezer. You need to do this so that the top layer is supported by the bottom layer.
  • 1st birthday cake diary/soy allergy. My baby was not allowed diary or soy so he didn’t actually get to eat this cake, I had separate dairy free coconut cupcake for him after. I could have made this dairy free, but I knew he wasn’t going to eat it and personally I felt the chocolate cake fit the photo the best. I did however, give him dairy/soy free coconut whipping cream on top! He loved it clearly. If your interested in the recipe, please contact me.
  • Decorate…minutes before photo shoot. I had my husband playing with our baby, making sure he was fed and once we determined that baby was in a good mood…it was cupcake decorating time! This literally took me 2 minutes to decorate. I went with coconut whipping cream on top with circle pieces made of fondant (which was already made for his other birthday cake). The circles went with my overall theme. I kept the fondant pieces at the front only so that my baby didn’t eat them. I left the bottom of the cupcake without icing for two reasons. The first, because it would get very messy very fast, second, I love the textured look of chocolate cake. Yummy!

Step 4: Dress baby for photo’s.

  • It’s go-time! One last diaper change, add on any clothing/attire for the photo shoot. My husband did this, while I did last final touches on the cake, backdrop and of course making sure camera was ready. I also did a couple photo’s of just the cake and the backdrop. 

Step 5: Start taking photo’s and have fun!

  • This is the best part! With the camera of your choice, start clicking (you should have selected a camera previously). When it’s photo go-time, there are no second chances so enjoy. I suggest having two people for the photo shoot.   My husband was helping me by entertaining our baby to keep him smiling and also making sure he didn’t eat any of the cake parts that may have had diary in them. Our son loved playing with his cake and the balloons. It was such a treat.

Step 6: Photo editing.

  • Wow it’s over. All the fun and excitement and now it’s time to turn your photo’s into pieces of art to add to your memory collection. I used Google Photo’s from my iPhone to edit the photo’s I took. I usually brighten the photo’s to get more light on the photo, and I also tend to hike up the contrast setting. There are many photo editing software and apps available that you can pick from. You can also use Instagram from your iPhone/smartphone.

Materials I used: 

  • Plastic Costco table
  • White sheet
  • Masking tape
  • White foam board
  • iPhone 6s
  • 4 balloons
  • Green pompom
  • 4 sheets of printed paper
  • Birthday hat
  • Diaper
  • Cake mix
  • Giant Cupcake Pan
  • Coconut whipping cream
  • Cupcake topping
  • Glass table top
  • Cake tray

I hope this blog helped you to create lasting memories and a super fun experience for you and your baby.