9 Alternatives to Cake for 1-Year-Old Cake Smash Portraits

Baby playing with cake during their cake smash portraits.

Milestone sessions for a baby are always so much fun.

A chance to showcase who your little one is at this particular stage of life (and when they’re small it feels like it all changes SO FAST!) One of the most popular milestone sessions celebrates a baby’s 1st year–and many people opt to do cake smash portraits.

A smash cake, for those who aren’t familiar, is a small cake that the baby…you guessed it….smashes. And, presumably, eats. It’s very cute and very fun but it’s not for everyone. Some people find it too messy or wasteful, aren’t into the idea of giving their tiny human that much-unfettered access to sugar, or they/their kiddo just aren’t that into cake! So I’ve got a few ideas for what to do if you’re looking for some alternatives. And the beauty of alternative cake smash portraits is also that they don’t have to just be for 12-month milestone sessions–you could do them for 6 months (to celebrate the start of eating solids!) or even 9-month sessions.

Baby sitting beside a messy cake during cake smash session.

Alternatives to Cake Smash Portraits

  • If you embrace the mess-a spaghetti smash can be absolutely hilarious and precious. Just make sure you don’t mind everything having the potential for being dyed reddish-orange! Or, on a similar wavelength, you could also do PIZZA. Bonus points if you dress the little one up like a ninja turtle or Italian chef.
  • Another option for the non-mess-averse person could be ice cream or popsicles: there’s something about the progression of the meltiness covering those sticky little dimples and rolls!
  • If you have no issue with sugar but just aren’t into cake, you can do pie, donuts, and cookies, there are so many fun possibilities. And, a potential perk, the donuts, and cookies are pretty low on the messy meter.
  • Fresh fruits (such as watermelon or strawberries) can bring a beautiful pop of color and are super fun and playful in photos.
  • Consider a PANcake smash! Imagine a cute little babe with a stack of pancakes (possibly covered in sticky syrup) just waiting for them to dive in. There are a ton of really creative possibilities when you incorporate breakfast foods.
  • Fast food can be super adorable and fun (and if you have an In-N-Out Burger near you there’s a cute 9 months in vs 9 months out pun there that you could do for a 9-month session!)-especially if your family has a particular affinity for a fast food chain.
  • A holiday-themed food smash is super sweet: like Christmas cookies (specifically gingerbread or sugar cut-out cookies), firecracker popsicles, and even a mini Thanksgiving feast!
  • Any favorite food (that’s not a choking hazard of course!) is fair game: tacos, bbq, it can be whatever makes sense for your family and your baby! If mom is mad about French pastries: let’s bring on the croissants and macarons. Dad’s super into Chinese food? Get those takeout containers and cameras ready!
  • And, if none of these food ideas really speak to you, you can absolutely skip it! Or do a non-food alternative like a paint smash or having bubbles or balloons or anything that seems fun and sweet.


Cake smash portraits with a minimalist style.

Your photos shouldn’t be approached with a one-size fits all philosophy, so the same goes for my cake smash portraits. Every baby is different, every situation is different, and every family is different! And your photographs should reflect that. I pride myself on having a collaborative relationship with my clients and we always make sure to get the session and finished photos that are perfect for you. If you want to try the trend-great! I’m always up for it! If you want to skip it or do something out of the box? I am so excited to work together on making your vision come to life. It’s part of the beauty of my job, bringing out the beauty of your family.

Hear from an Amanda Ellis Photography happy client, CJ Ress:

“Amanda is an absolute pleasure to work with and will make you feel comfortable from the minute you meet her! She’s so patient and understanding and will make your experience relaxing while also capturing incredible pictures of the moments you want to remember the most. I can’t recommend her enough!”

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