I am in quite a few groups on Facebook geared to photographers. In one of them, I recently saw someone ask if photographers' cake smashes were real or staged. Photographers weighed in. Some replied with comments along the line of, "Absolutely genuine. Nothing staged!" to "If I didn't stage it, the child wouldn't have touched the cake!"
The cake smashing event is a more recent thing, as far as I can tell. One-year old birthday parties used to be a mess anyway since the little ones had a lot of fun in their high chairs and it took a mop (or a dog) to clean up the kitchen around the high chair. And though I've heard some say it's ridiculous, wasteful and other stick-in-the-mud sort of comments, I say, let's do it! It's fun and silly and why not!?!?!
In fact, I think it's the "icing on the cake" of a one-year old's session. (Bad pun, sorry.) What matters most to me is to capture photos of a child at age one -- to take photos that show the stage the child is at. Some are not yet walking. Yet some are carrying chairs around the studio. Some sit nicely on chairs. Some can't figure it out. But they have these adorable baby teeth, are very drooly, smile up a storm, and seem to respond to any goofy thing their parents do, or any silly thing I stick on my head. (Though I have to say, Baby Shark is better than anything!)
I like to take portraits of the one year old first - before we have fun with cake. One never knows which children will actually have fun with the cake. Some have not eaten cake before. It's too sweet. It's too sticky. Some dive in. Some are wary.
So is it real? Yes...mostly. There are ways to encourage one-year olds to dig in. Mom or dad might show them it's okay to stick their hands in the cake. Or they might put a little frosting in their mouths. Sometimes an older sibling cheers them on. Sometimes they cry. And then there's that moment -- the moment in the photo session when they are simply done! (My secret talent is to recognize that expression because what follows is a child covered in cake crawling around the studio.) When they're done, they are done.
And for those parents that aren't into cake, there's always a spaghetti toss. Well, why not.