I don’t really remember “The Cake Smash” being a thing when I was younger. I mean, maybe I got to stick my hands in my 1-year-old birthday cake, or maybe my parents gave me a piece – my first full piece of cake, because it was my birthday, after all – after stripping me down to my diaper, because they inevitably knew it would end up everywhere from my ankles to my earlobes. But I don’t remember “The Cake Smash” being a 1st birthday rite of passage like it seems to be today.
I blame social media for this. Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram have made the 1st birthday Cake Smash a Thing.
And I’m sorry to say, I’m totally bought into it.
I love it.
I think it’s so much fun to watch a little one-year-old baby affronted with an entire cake and have no idea what to do with it. Some just poke it with their finger for a while, some pick off pieces of frosting or sprinkles, and some dive in head-first – literally. The photos are always priceless, and it’s just a fun memory to have and share.
So naturally, I’ve been thinking for weeks about what kind of cake to make for Liesl’s first birthday. When planning cupcakes for my brother’s wedding and suggesting summery flavors, I mentioned strawberry as a possible flavor, and gave him a couple ideas for strawberry cupcakes. They chose the strawberry lemonade ones (stay tuned, I’ll share that one next), but I couldn’t get this strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting out of my mind. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to try it out.
The cake recipe comes from Taste of Home. I cringed a bit as I poured the boxed cake mix and box of gelatin into my mixing bowl. I’ve made plenty of cakes from cake mixes before, adding ingredients to dress them up, but not in the past year or two since getting really into baking! But I was making this cake after 9 pm at night, while creating mock-ups of our internal HR webpage to send to my web developer so he could work on it the next day while I was off celebrating Liesl’s birthday, while simultaneously listening to a free “Positive Discipline” Webinar about how to not suck as a parent and not do everything wrong and totally screw up your kids. #prioritiesman #multitasking #winner
So – this time, boxed cake mix and gelatin would have to do.
I was pleasantly surprised. The cake had a nice strawberry flavor with an ideal cake texture – moist, light, but still dense enough to hold its structure and be perfectly satisfying. I chose to top it with a super smooth cream cheese frosting. The secret to this one is: the longer you beat it (on high), the lighter and fluffier it gets. I let this one go in my Kitchenaid Mixer (how would I survive without this thing?!) on high speed for 1-2 minutes. It was like a cream cheese frosting cloud. Yum.
The real draw for me? It’s gorgeous. What’s half the “wow” of red velvet cake? The striking deep red of the cake contrasted against the pure white (off-white) of the frosting. This cake is the lighter, happier, summery-er version of that. Pink + white is striking and light and fun, and makes cutting into it a fun surprise for guests (ie. would be PERFECT for a gender reveal, another rite of passage popularized by social media).
This was also my first super-fancy cake frosting job. Ok, so it was mostly just the borders around the edge that were fancy, but don’t they look good?? (Yes, looking for overly-enthusiastic positive reinforcement here. Remember, this is the girl who couldn’t even frost her own cupcakes 6 months ago. #booyeah) If there’s hope for me to learn how to frost cakes and cupcakes, there’s certainly hope for you in your challenges.
Not wanting every bit of edible cake to be decimated by her, I ended up making a smaller (6 inch) cake for Liesl, and made cupcakes with the left-over batter for the rest of us. These look great as cupcakes as well, and you can pile on the cream cheese frosting as much as you’d like (always a benefit to making cupcakes in my book!).
Apologies for not having many (read: good) cake photos. Most of them were taken post-smash, and they’re definitely not the most appetizing. 🙂 I’ll share them in Liesl’s birthday post later this week, because they’re just darn tootin’ cute. But for now – enjoy!
- 1 package white cake mix
- 1 package (3 oz) strawberry gelatin
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup oil
- 4 egg whites
- ½ cup pureed strawberries
- 1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- In a large bowl, combine dry cake mix, gelatin powder, water and oil. Beat on low speed 1 minute or until moistened; beat on medium until smooth and combined (2-4 mins).
- Puree strawberries in a blender.
- In another bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form.
- Fold egg whites and mashed strawberries into cake batter.
- If making a cake, pour into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick entered into the center comes out clean. (If making cupcakes, pour batter into cupcake tins, lined with cupcake wrappers, filling ⅔ full. Bake 15-20 minutes, until toothpick entered into center comes out clean. Makes 20-24 cupcakes.)
- Beat cream cheese and butter on high for ~2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add in 3 cups powdered sugar and vanilla, and mix to combine. If you want a stiffer, thicker frosting, add in most powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time. Continue to beat frosting on high for 2-4 minutes for a lighter, fluffier frosting.
- Frost cooled cupcakes or cake as desired.