Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Smash Cakes are great!

This post was originally posted to my Crud Dad blog on 15th June 2016

Now, you might be wondering what a Smash Cake is. And, to be honest, I'd never heard of them until a few years ago. Well before I had a child of my own, I was visiting a friend in the States near Boston, and I arrived the day after his first birthday party. Not my friend because that would just be weird - no, my friend's son.

And, he's showing me some of the pictures that he'd taken of the party. And, his son, who has got very blonde hair like I used to have a long time ago, was covered in some sort of red goo and bits of blue all over his shoulder and just -- I couldn't figure out what had gone on. I assumed that they had painting at the party and some kid had just got wickedly overenthusiastic and decided to paint the baby, because we've all seen pictures like that before.

But, the reason his son was decorated in such a way is that they had given him a Smash Cake. I don't know if it's a tradition in all of America, but certainly it appears to be quite a "thing" over there that, for a kid's first birthday part, you have the nice cake for all the guests of take pictures of and go, "Ooh, aah," and then you queue up at the end of the day hoping to get a piece of the cake. And then, quite separately, you have something called a Smash Cake, which is a cake with tons of colorful icing that's quite soft and the kid smashes it up. That's basically all there is to it.

So, I really liked the idea of that. So, many years later when my own daughter was born, for her first birthday we asked a friend called Graham to make her a Smash Cake. And, I gave him quite a clear directive. It needs to be a cake that a one-year-old can easily pull apart and rub in their hair and just destroy for our own amusement. Because it looks cute when kids smash up cakes, and it's funny, and you’ll have pictures the rest of his or her life that you can embarrass them with in front of future boyfriends and girlfriends.

A side note for punk fans: I do wonder if this is where The Damned got the idea for the cover of their first album, Damned Damned Damned, from. That's an aside.

So, we asked my friend Graham to make a Smash Cake, and he didn't quite get it. He made a beautiful cake. It was a work of art. It was lovely, and the icing and the decoration was just a thing of beauty.

One way he went wrong, though, was instead of using a very soft icing, he put -- I don't know what icing is called. You get hard icing or soft icing. Anyway, it was very hard icing. So, when we gave it to my daughter she just looked at it. She had no idea. Obviously she was well used to smooshing things up with her hands. But, the concept of, "Hey, this is that day where we give you a cake you smash up and rub in your face," didn't really mean much.

Nothing much happened for a while, until my wife took action and plunged her firsts into the cake and pulled it apart and gave my daughter a big lump of it. It didn't quite pan out the way I thought it was going to because my daughter, being given a big piece of cake covered in really thick icing, did what most kids would do and she ate it. After a little while, with a bit of encouragement, she did start smooshing it up and whatever. And, we got some pictures of her with, you know, giant pieces of cake. So, as far as we were concerned, it was mission accomplished.

My own daughter being unimpressed with the concept of smash cakes

So, a couple of weekends ago, my little sister, it was her son's first birthday. So I thought, "This isn't a tradition over here yet, but it was quite fun and it was quite cute… Well, I'll try and make this a family tradition for my own family." I decided that each time someone has a first birthday, I'll make them a Smash Cake.

Now, I am not really much of a baker. I can follow recipes and have something come out at the end of the process that's just about human consumable. But, the idea of actually making a cake isn't going to work. So, when my wife was going off to Sainsbury's, I asked her to just buy a cheap sponge. I figure, if Sainsbury's and Waitrose sell things like ‘essential’ trifles, then buying an essential victoria sponge should be quite reasonable.

Anyway, my wife came back, and she didn't quite like the idea of doing something cheap, even though no one is going to really eat the cake, or they're not meant to. And, she came back with a top of the range, little victoria sponge, but that's fine. We also got a big tub of vanilla soft icing. It wasn't quite like butter icing, but it was soft enough that you could squish it between your fingers.

And, the day before the party, myself and my daughter, who is now four and a half, had an enjoyable hour of covering this cake in far too much icing and using little tubes of colored icing to make it all look -- well, it looked awful, really. And, we got a big bag of Maltesers and put them on the cake - some of them. We ate most of them. We got a big bag of marshmallows, and my daughter pushed the marshmallows into the soft icing. The ratio was about one marshmallow on the cake for about five into a gob - but that's all right.

The 'beautiful' smash cake we made for my nephew

And, the big day came. We took the cake to my nephew’s party, which was in a village hall, and my sister was well onboard with the Smash Cake concept. When the time came, she put her son, my nephew, on the floor on a waterproof blanket, and placed the cake in front of him. And, that's when we realized this whole ‘not smashing cakes up’ isn't necessarily a child not wanting to get dirty.

It appears that most members of my family don't like getting their hands dirty. I mean I don't. If I eat olives, I'd rather use a little stick. I hate eating meat off the bone. Anything that involves getting my hands dirty, blah, even though I've had to come to terms with that, you know, from being a parent. And, if you're not used to seeing that kind of carnage on the table, and if allow that kind of carnage to put you off your own food, then you're going to starve. You're never going to eat.

So anyway, the boy, he did not want to put his hands in the cake. He didn't want to smash it up at all. Even when my brother-in-law took his hands and drove them into the cake, the poor lad looked really shocked and everybody laughed because when the child goes [gasp] then everyone laughs.

It turns out my nephew doesn't like being laughed at. So, instead of pictures of him covered in cake, we have pictures of a screaming child. But still, there's a story behind it. What actually happened after the screaming was that several older boys and girls got interested in what was going on.

They asked me about the smash cake, so I asked my daughter to show them how treat the smash cake properly, and she went at it like a ferocious animal. She did smash it up. She didn't rub it in her hair, fortunately, or in my nephew's hair. But, she did start eating it. And, as soon as that happened, children descended on this pulverized cake like a pack of wild dogs.

So, I don't think other parents were massively impressed by the fact that me (well. my daughter really) was encouraging their children to eat--what looked like trampled on vomit--off the floor. But, all in all, I think the Smash Cake thing is quite fun. So, what lessons can I give you from my Smash Cake experience?

Don't use armor plated icing.
Probably don't expect your kid to actually do anything with it.

This might be one of those things that's more for the adults than for the children. But, all in all, it's fun. So, I just thought I'd share with you the marvel of Smash Cakes. If you Google ‘smash cakes’ I'm sure you'll find tons of fun stories.

But, I quite like things like this. I like new ideas for parenting. The web, and other parents with older children are helping broaden the whole parenting experience. So, there you go. I like Smash Cakes. Yay! Smart.

Say something in the comments box, please. Share this. Smash Cakes are good!

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