How to DIY a cake smash with simple, white decorations for boys and girls

How to Have a Successful Cake Smash Photo Shoot

7 Useful Cake Smash Tips from a Seattle Cake Smash Photographer

I can’t think of a more adorable tradition than babies shoving their fists into cake and going at it with no restraint! Cake smash photo shoots are ones that I absolutely LOVE photographing as a studio photographer here in West Seattle

After photographing numerous sessions, here are my best tips to guarantee a successful cake smash photo shoot! 

  1. Have your baby taste a bit of cake before the actual cake smash photo shoot

I know, I know, this sounds super contradictory because the tradition is that they don’t have sweets until they turn 1, and then they go all out on a cake, right? Well, I have learned that most of the time if they have never tasted cake, they end up being really timid for the majority of the photo shoot. If they have tasted cake, then they know what is coming and dive into it right away. This is what makes for the best photos!

  1. Make sure to time the cake smash photo shoot around their nap schedule. 

It probably goes without saying, but if they are tired then they won’t be as animated as you might be hoping for! 

  1. Avoid bright outfits. 

Any bright and bold colors you bring into the photos can potentially reflect that color into the skin tones of your child, which can’t be edited out! Particularly bright red, yellow, blue, and green. If you choose to bring color into your photos, I recommend keeping them muted as to not have that unfortunate side effect. Read my blog post here about where to find adorable neutral clothes for your baby!

  1. Invest in a good cake. 

This makes all the difference in your photos, especially when you have a minimal setup! I made the mistake with my son of trying to bake the cake the day of his birthday party/cake smash. Because I was frantic trying to get everything else ready, my cake did NOT turn out very beautiful and while it ended up being smashed and thrown on the walls anyway, those beautiful photos right at the beginning (before the cake is demolished) are the ones that people love to get printed and sent to family.

  1. Do your cake smash a couple weeks before their birthday. 

As mentioned above, I took my son’s cake smash photos AT his birthday party. This is fine, but I realized this time around with my daughter that I would love to have these precious photos printed and used for decoration at her birthday party. So that is what I am doing! 

  1. NOTE: If that is what you decide to do, make sure to print at a high quality print shop. I cannot emphasize this enough because printing at a place like Rite Aid or Costco will get you photos that don’t have colors true to how they really are. Whites look muted, blacks can have a purple-ish hue, and skin tones can have more of a red tone in them.
  1. Being 1 year old sometimes means painful teething. 

If you suspect that your child is teething the morning before your shoot, give them some infant tylenol an hour before the shoot to make sure they are comfortable.

  1. Get a few shots of the baby before you give them cake! 

All kids react differently and if for some reason, they despise their cake, it is nice to still have some professional photos of them without the agitation showing in their face haha.

Best Places to buy a Smash Cake in Seattle

The cake in these photos was made by the talented Chelsey Hancock owner of Treat Cookies here in West Seattle. If you book a cake smash with me, I can include one of her beautiful 8” layered naked cakes (similar to the one in the picture but without the sprinkles) in your photo shoot with a small extra fee so you don’t have to worry about picking up your cake!

Here are a few other amazing cake shops that I recommend buying from:

How to create a professional looking DIY cake smash photo shoot in 7 easy steps

Items needed:

Recently my daughter turned 1 and we got to do a cake smash for her! I have been waiting her whole life to see her stuff her face into a cake and it was pretty epic. This simple setup cost me $98. If you are wanting to set this up for your own child’s cake smash, or if you are a photographer looking to create a nice, minimal setup for your own photo shoots, this was a really beautiful way to do it! 

I love simple, minimal photography because it really keeps the attention on the most important part of the photo, the subject! I knew that I wanted to keep my daughter’s cake smash photos minimal so my eyes could be naturally drawn to her little expressions and personality. Keeping things minimal with this seamless setup is an easy way to make your cake smash photos look very professional. 

Step One: Find good lighting

The most important part of taking professional-looking photos is by placing your setup in good, natural lighting. I have an in-home studio that I use for newborn, maternity, and milestone photography that has really amazing natural light. I set these boards up with a window that brings in a lot of light to the right of the setup. There is also a window facing the setup, but that window doesn’t let as much sunlight in. 

Because the boards are white, light was reflected onto my daughter to result in beautiful, professional looking light.

Step Two: Set up your backdrop

These white boards from Home Depot are my favorite backdrop for minimal photos. I have used other backdrops (including a white paper backdrop + backdrop stand setup) and this is by far the best way to go. It wipes up extremely easily, can’t tear, and it has a much more natural, profession, and seamless look to it.  So if you are wondering what you would possibly do with these giant boards after your cake smash, they are perfect for all milestone photo shoots! I probably take photos of my kids every month with these as the backdrop because I love seeing the subtle changes as they grow older. Time flies too fast!!

Anyway, just note that these boards are large, kind of heavy (but I can easily move myself), and awkward to carry. You’ll definitely need a larger car to tow them home in. 

I just set one board lengthwise against the wall, and two boards right by each other on the ground so that there was plenty of board in front of her on the ground in case she started crawling towards me. 

Step 3: Use vinyl tape to cover up any distractions

Then I used white vinyl tape to put over the crease on the two boards on the floor, as place where the 2 boards met was pretty distracting in the photos. 

Step 4: Hang up garland

I ordered this beautiful eucalyptus garland on amazon and used tacks to pin them to the wall

Step 5: Spray paint letters white and set them against the backdrop

These large letters are from Joanns that I spray painted white so they wouldn’t be distracting or take away from my cute little model. 

Step 6: Blow Up Balloons

Just like any of the props (minus the cake), the white balloons are totally optional but I thought it added a subtle touch of birthday fun. There are also some fun variations you could do with balloons like blow them up with helium and have a bundle on either side of the cake smashin’ baby. 

Step 7: Set up your smash cake, cake stand, and cake decor

I already owned this cake stand from Marshalls, and since I was using a little bit of greenery in the background I knew it would be cute to use the wooden cake stand to go along with the earthy vibes. There are lots of cute and affordable options for cake stands at Marshalls! I also love this one from Crate and Barrel because of its’ sleek, simple design. 
And lastly, I had ordered this little eucalyptus flower crown from amazon ages ago to let my pregnant mamas wear for maternity photo shoots. When I was setting this cake smash up, I realized it would be an adorable addition to put around the cake! I was pretty happy with how it turned out!

I hope you have a SMASHING time (hehe) putting this backdrop together for your little one!! If you end up using my tips I would absolutely love to hear from you about how it went. And if you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below!


Courtney Wilde


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