The trend has been huge in the US for several years and has now taken off around the globe. Picture: Flickr.com
The trend has been huge in the US for several years and has now taken off around the globe. Picture: Flickr.com

Let them smash cake! How a photoshoot trend is dividing parents around the globe

By LAUREN LIBBERT Time of article published Mar 2, 2020

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London - Once it was enough to celebrate a child’s first birthday by throwing a modest party for close friends and family, with a glass of fizz for the adults and a  slice of birthday cake for all - some of which would inevitably end up smeared round the face of the birthday boy or girl.

But while there’s still cake smeared over the little one, the difference now is that it’s highly likely the parents will have paid hundreds of pounds for the privilege.

Welcome to "cake smash" - a way of marking your offspring’s first birthday that involves letting them loose with a birthday cake, complete with lots of sticky icing, while a professional photographer captures the messy yet cute consequences.

The trend has been huge in the US for several years and has now taken off around the globe, with Coleen Rooney celebrating her son Cass’s second birthday with a professional cake smash photo session that she uploaded to her Instagram account last month.

Whether the cake smash is just a bit of silly fun, or a shameful example of wasteful over-privilege, depends on your perspective.

Sally Slack, a photographer based in Braintree, Essex, first had the idea of offering cake smash photo shoots in 2011 when she was living in the US. When she returned to the UK, she decided to see if the idea would go down well here, too.

"I enlisted a cake maker and was surprised at how popular it was," she says. "I’ve now photographed over 200 cake smashes!

"Pricing for digital packages starts at £270, including the cake, but the average spend is about £400."

Sally is now a dab-hand at doing shoots with babies. First, she takes some portraits of the child by themselves in their party best, plus family and sibling shots.

"Then, once the child is getting bored, we introduce the cake and that often gives  them a second wind. Some children are  more adventurous than others; some need a bit of encouragement from Mum or Dad. Most play with the cake and eat very little.

"There is a huge range of how much the children smash the cake. I’ve had children smash it completely to pieces, and others very little. For me, the most important thing is that they’re enjoying themselves. They’re never forced to do anything they don’t want to for the sake of an image."

For many, a cake smash is planned months in advance. "We did a newborn shoot with our youngest daughter, Phoebe-Rae, a few weeks after she was born," says Annee Halliday, 33, a stay-at-home mum from Southend-on-Sea.

"I thought it would be a lovely idea to mark the milestone of the first year." With her husband, 37-year-old IT consultant Mike, she has three daughters -Isobel-May, 11, Amelie-Joy, eight, and one-year-old Phoebe-Rae.

Not everyone is a fan, though. Sue Atkins, parenting expert and author of 'Parenting Made Easy: How To Raise Happy Children', admits: "I don’t like these cake smashes at all. It’s all for the parents’ benefit, not the child, and it seems such a waste.

"Children get messy anyway, but to deliberately set them up to get all messy with cake, and even having to push their heads into it, just for the sake of some photos, is very demeaning."

When it comes to the cake itself, it’s the look that’s all-important, not the flavour, says Sally Slack. "I’ll generally go for an iced cake with decorations. Parents often want a cake with characters from their child’s favourite book or a favourite soft toy that the child will be able to relate to. Any flavour will do."

Daily Mail

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