As a child of the 90s, children’s birthday parties will always be synonymous with a few things: goodie bags of cheap, plastic favors, adults dressed as a Ninja Turtles and princesses, and, of course, character cakes.
You know the cakes I'm talking about, baked in specialty pans shaped like beloved Sesame Street or Disney characters, simple enough for the most novice of bakers to master.
But this trend has always made me wonder: Who are these cakes really for anyway? Most of the children receiving these cakes are sub-four-years-old. At such a young age, the child may or may not temporarily delight in seeing a beloved character in front of them (their smiles could just be gas, after all). And will they even remember it? Not likely.
Участвую в замечательном проекте). @Regrann from @viktoriablanche - Мамочки! Если у вашего малыша скоро день рождения, пусть и не первый, а вашему ребенку 2, и 3, и 4 годика, мы приглашаем вас на самую вкусную фотосессию☺ Smash cake! Тортик для вас приготовит @cake_n_baker Фотограф @kirillbelyj Ваше чудо сможет насладиться вкуснейшим тортом, а Вы получите яркие и живые фотографии!😍 #smashcake #cake #фотограф #фотосессия #скородр #скоро1годик #1годик #семья #дочка #сыночек #инстадети # #Regrann
A photo posted by Мария Иванова (@cake_n_baker) on
Recently, a new baby birthday cake trend has emerged. More and more parents are choosing to celebrate their child's birthday with not one cake, but two—one for the party-goers to enjoy, and one smaller, cuter cake created solely for the baby to smash. Yes, smash.
Aptly named "Smash Cakes," the idea is that because the child is so young and will probably make a mess regardless, you may as well let them have at the whole thing face-first.
Así quedó mi hija luego de su sesión de fotos junto a @natasharceu_photography haciendo las foticos de su primer año. #SmashCake. Me muero por ver el resultado final!!!!!!!!!!!! Les recomiendo con los ojos cerrados a Natasha. #TalentoVenezolano gracias por todo!!!!!!!!! 🎀
A photo posted by Valentina Olmos - KaKi✨ (@kakitips) on
They have become a near-phenomenon over the past few years, and a quick Google search yields thousands of articles on the topic. Posts range from tips (Don't use food dye! Be sure to lay down a tarp!), to popular Smash Cake recipes, to photos of cute babies and cake galore. In fact, it seems like the biggest motivation for serving such a chaotic cake is for the photo opportunity it provides. Some even choose to go the professional photoshoot route.
The whole thing has me begging the same questions of character cakes: Who are Smash Cakes for—the birthday boy or girl, or the guests (and their Instagrams)? Is this annual anomaly just another signal that our culture is increasingly focused on curating shareable food-based visual content rather than experiencing a cherished moment? Or are Smash Cakes just a light-hearted birthday tradition too cute not to flood our social news feeds? What do you think? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!