Written by: Lizzy McMillan

Celebrating your little one’s first birthday is big milestone! Congratulations on the monumental achievement of keeping your tiny human alive (and keeping most of your sanity) for 365 days!

Documenting your child’s first birthday with a portrait session is a great way to preserve the memories for generations to come. Over the past few years, photographers have been capturing first birthday sessions with a fun “cake smash” set up. The idea is to provide the birthday boy or girl with a mini-cake and photograph the process of him or her enjoying and destroying the cake in the process. The sets range from a simple cake outdoors to elaborate decorations in studio.

Traditional cake smash sessions usually go one of two ways: the baby loves the cake and does not want to stop eating, or the baby wants nothing to do with the cake, resulting in tears! Both scenarios result in adorable images of your little love bug.

A new trend in first birthday sessions is the cake smash “alternative.” Your baby is unique, and your photographer is constantly striving to create custom images that showcase that. A cake smash alternative is a fun spin on the traditional cake smash. The cake is replaced with another fun, messy food that baby enjoys.

Here are a few unique concepts to consider as an alternative to a traditional cake smash:

Watermelon Smash

(Images courtesy of: Cortney Talbott)

The watermelon smash is a cool, refreshing and healthy alternative to cake and is perfect for summer birthdays. It is also a great option for babies that have milk or egg allergies. Photographer Cortney Talbott Photography added extra watermelons to the set create the perfect scene for this birthday girl.


(Images courtesy of: Momento Studios)

Who needs a birthday cake when you can have tacos or burritos? The mix of beans, rice and all the fixings are a fun and messy way to celebrate. Momento Studios captured this little one’s first birthday “Chipotle-style”. Don’t forget the sour cream and guacamole!


(Images courtesy of: Momento Studios)

Donuts are a fun, sweet alternative to the traditional cake.  There are many options available, as donuts come in an assortment of shapes and colors. The donuts can be used to decorate the set, but it’s also fun to watch as your child moves around to “taste” little bites out of all of the treats.


(Images courtesy of: Mary Kriss Photography)

Not a fan of cake? How about a huge bowl of spaghetti instead! Babies love digging in to the fun, and messy texture of a bowl of spaghetti. Photographer Mary Kriss captured this little guy’s first birthday, Italian heritage, and his love of spaghetti perfectly. If your little one has a favorite food that relates to your heritage, incorporating that in to his or her first birthday session is a great way to customize your portraits.

Yogurt Paint

(Images courtesy of: Momento Studios)

Who says you can’t play with your food? The yogurt-paint idea knocks that old idea out the window! Yogurt is another healthy alternative over cake. In this series, Momento Studios used food coloring to dye Greek yogurt, and set the stage for a perfectly messy (and edible) painting session.

Cake smash alternatives are all the rage, and it seems the only limit is your creativity. Babies love exploring their world, especially when a variety of colors and textures are involved. These are just a few fun ideas to get the creativity started.

Lizzy McMillan is an APNPI Certified and PPA Certified Professional Photographer with a boutique maternity and newborn studio in Downtown Mesa, Arizona. She has specialized in newborn portraiture for nearly a decade and has photographed over 1200 newborns. Her extensive work with newborn twins, triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets has set her apart in the photography industry, garnered international acclaim and has earned her the apt moniker “The Multiples Whisperer”. Lizzy is passionate about documenting family history and preserving the important moments in her clients’ lives. When she’s not snuggling newborns or teaching the art of photographing multiples, she and her husband are usually busy wrangling their three children or watching The Office on Netflix.

For more about Lizzy McMillan and her work, visit www.momentostudios.com