The Ultimate Healthy Baby First Birthday Smash Cake Recipe (No Added Sugar)

Looking for a baby’s first birthday smash cake recipe that is both healthy and delicious? Look no further! 

This healthy smash cake recipe is added sugar free, which means you can rest easy knowing your baby is eating something more nutritious. 

Plus, this recipe is pediatric dietitian approved, so you can be sure it’s packed with more nutrition than traditional sugar-filled cakes, and it tastes SO good your baby will be sure to love it!

So, are you ready for the best ever healthy smash cake recipe? 

Awesome! Because I have the best birthday cake suitable for 1 year olds that’s pediatric dietitian-approved!

But first, let’s chat all about my thoughts on sugar free vs. sugar included birthday cakes – or smash cakes – for your little one-year-old (If you’d rather listen to my thoughts on this, head over to the podcast!)

I just want to start off by saying that while I’m going to give you my opinion and thought process behind these two different options, at the end of the day, you make your own decision based on what’s right for you and your family. 

There is no judgment here, and it’s important to only do what works for you.

What is a smash cake?

baby eating first birthday smash cake

So let’s start by talking about what a smash cake is.

If you don’t know, a smash cake is basically that little, cutesy, small cake that’s offered to babies when they’re turning one. It’s sort of a personalized cake, because the idea is that they’re going to smash into it! 

They’re going to dig into it with their hands. They’re going to try and eat it. And yes…they’re going to make a mess all over. 

That’s the fun of it – watching the reaction to your baby’s first birthday cake! And hence the typical photo shoot that usually goes with it, it’s the cutest thing in the world.

So basically, it’s a really fun tradition that marks a huge milestone.

Now that we know what a smash cake is, let’s talk about the two different types of smash cakes: those with sugar and those without.

Should I offer my baby a sugar-free or a sugar-filled birthday cake?

There’s sort of two groups of people out there in the world. 

We’ve got the people who are offering a real, good ol’ traditional birthday cake…full of sugar and deliciousness! And you’ve got people who are really concerned about offering their babies something that’s so full of sugar and them eating lots of it…so they’d rather find a healthier alternative for their little one.

You might be wondering how a smash cake can have a healthier alternative…cake is cake right? 

Well, a lot of times I see baby smash cakes that are made out of fresh fruit or have sugar substitutes (like maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar) in them to boost the nutrition by providing other micronutrients that refined white sugar just doesn’t offer.

So which one should you choose? It’s really up to you and what you think is best for your baby. 

Here are the arguments for both sides.

Let’s look at offering a healthy smash cake first

More and more parents are skipping added sugar for their baby’s birthday cakes, but is it really worth the hassle? 

So many recipes I’ve seen online are complicated, and contain things that I wouldn’t have readily available for baking…or they require you to carve fruits into random shapes to create a cake tetris-style, like the one below. (That’s not happening for me, but if it’s your thing – go for it!)

First birthday cake made from watermelon, kiwis, grapes, and strawberries to be added sugar-free

All in all, it seems like a lot of work to make your own smash cake with no added sugar, and it might be hard to find a bakery that offers them ready to buy. But, there are definite benefits to opting out of added sugar for your baby’s smash cake. And since I’ve got a great recipe for your baby’s first smash cake for you, you don’t have to worry about using a complicated recipe!

Arguments For Added Sugar-Free Cakes

baby first birthday cake with no added sugar

Here comes the nutrition talk, okay?

Technically, it’s recommended by pretty much every organization out there, and definitely by me, to avoid added sugars before age two, if at all possible, when at all possible. 

And that’s pretty self-explanatory. 

I mean, we know that sugar isn’t adding any nutritional value to your baby’s diet, and it’s definitely something that could be harmful (especially in large quantities and in the long term) to be giving them a diet that’s high in sugar.

baby eating cake

And to be honest… it’s also just easy to avoid it when they’re babies. I mean, especially if it’s your only child (but even if you have another sibling at home)…until they approach maybe 18 months or two years of age, they’re not even really noticing, or realizing, the other foods out there, unless you present it to them. 

So don’t offer it, and they won’t be eating it!

And if there is something they notice someone eating and it’s full of sugar, I just kind of treat it like a choking hazard.

“No, you can’t have that.”

Take it away. Done and done.

Eventually we’ll want them to have a good relationship with sugar, it can’t be avoided forever, but the recommendation is to wait until after 2 years old to get there.

There’s also the fact that consuming unnecessary added sugar is going to shape their preferences, and their taste buds, to like and enjoy more sweet things. 

That doesn’t mean that if you waited to introduce it at 2 or 3 years of age rather than 1 year of age that their ability to love sweet things suddenly vanishes. It’s likely to happen anyway, ‘cause we’re all human and we all have this innate love for sweet things. 

However, the earlier you introduce it, the more tricky it gets because that’s when babies are really shaping their taste buds or taste preferences. We want them to have a solid foundation where they’re exposed to, and are frequently eating, tons of variety in flavored and textured foods that aren’t super sweet things (see my Baby Led Feeding course for all the help on that!).

That way, by the time they get to that almost inevitable picky phase, they have a really good foundation of non-sweet foods that they still love and can work with, and it will be much easier to come back to that foundation as they move through, and get past, that picky stage (using tactics from my Feeding Toddlers course…of course!). 

The other funny thing people inevitably say when you suggest going with a sugar free cake is….

  • “They’re going to be missing out on the fun!”
  • “Oh, what a sin! You’re not offering them a real first birthday cake
  • “It’s their birthday, come on, they’re going to want to enjoy themselves!”
baby first birthday cake photos

To which I respond…they don’t really know what birthday cake is supposed to taste like! Or that birthday cakes are even a thing!

So technically, they don’t even know what they’re missing out on, which means technically, it can’t really be a sad thing. Right?

So there is that perspective to take as well.

Why having a Baby first birthday smash cake that’s sugar-filled is also fine

What it comes down to is…it’s one day. It’s one “meal”…so do you really need to be that worried? 

I’ve heard it all before…from concerns about it leading to obesity, to creating a preference for only sweet foods. There’s no shortage of opinion or fear-mongering available on Google. 

So let’s go through the actual facts – from a pediatric dietitian’s perspective 😉

Arguments for Sugar-Filled Smash Cakes

Baby eating birthday cake on first birthday

To appreciate this side of things, you really need to think about this from a broader view where you’re not honing in on this one meal, but rather you’re stepping back thinking…okay, this is one point in time…just one “meal” that’s full of sugar.

And maybe it has some artificial dyes in it.

Yeah.

But is this going to ruin them for life?

No.

Is this going to affect their long term preferences after one time?

No, not really.

So as long as you’re not offering them added sugars without much thought on a regular basis, or you’re kind of getting careless with things and you’re letting things slip here and there, seriously…this cake is not going to make a difference. 

They will not be obese. 

They will not have diabetes. 

They will not have any serious sugar addiction because they had cake once when they were one. 

So that is the other perspective. And I think it’s a really valid perspective.

So, what did we learn about when babies can have cake?

baby first birthday smash cake

That it really just depends on you and your family because both sides of this argument make sense. 

What you think is important, what you want to do, what your family thinks, what your traditions are – those are all important to consider, and not something I can give you an answer for!

What did I do with my kids?

kids of a dietitian mom enjoying first birthday cake

I personally did give them real sugar cakes. We went to our local grocery store and I just picked up a first birthday cake from there. 

It was simple. It was easy. 

And my kids actually didn’t like it! 

Especially my youngest son, who never liked cake for years and years after that. I’m telling you, until he was about eight or nine, you couldn’t get him to have any kind of cake with buttercream or any kind of sugary frosting in general. 

So there you go. I gave him a real cake and then look, he still hated it years later!

And the reason why I did that is because, as mentioned above, I kind of took the perspective of a) I don’t have time to make a cake for this party. And that was a huge factor. And b) one time is not going to make any difference at the end of the day, in the grand scope of things.

Now that all being said, if I were to go back in time and think of what I know now, and especially with the recipes that I know of (that are actually quite easy to make), I would probably find a way to make a cake that’s a little bit more balanced.

Let’s learn more, shall we?

Technically sugar is sugar

natural sugar vs. added sugar in first birthday smash cakes

You’ll find cakes that are made out of regular white sugar, some with brown sugar, some with molasses, some with honey, (which by the way, at one year of age they can have). 

But at the end of the day, sugar is technically sugar. It’s going to cause the same long term effects, no matter what type of sugar you’re offering, when offered in excess. 

That being said, you do have some nutrients that are more present amongst those sugar molecules, depending on the sugar product.

So for example, if you have highly refined sugar, like white sugar or high fructose corn syrup, you might have bigger blood sugar spikes than if you had agave sugar, for example.

You can choose a recipe that has some sugar, that’s still sweet and other people will enjoy, that could be a little bit less processed in order to make a more healthy smash cake option. 

The best choice, in my opinion, is sugar from whole fruit used in a recipe, because that fruit is bound to tons of fiber and tons of micronutrients. Again, this is one meal, one time, and it’s not gonna make a huge difference in the long run, but it’s nice to choose a better one, if you can.

Balance it with lots of fiber, protein and fat

baby first birthday smash cake

The other thing I think is really important, that I’ve learned over the years, is balancing sugar with lots of fiber, lots of protein, and lots of fat. This is going to lower those blood sugar spikes. You’re not going to see this crazy crash and burn after having a lot of sugar when it’s eaten in conjunction with high amounts of protein, fiber, or fat. 

Therefore, you won’t need to be as worried that your baby’s going to be up all night not sleeping, and kind of cranky, because of a sugar crash from a healthy smash cake. 

So I think that finding a recipe that has a little bit less carbs in general is good, because you’re adding sugar to it anyway and that’s going to be your big carb source. 

Instead of finding a recipe that uses regular cake flour, find one that uses an almond flour (if your baby can eat nuts) because of the protein in it, or a coconut flour, because of the fat in it. This is always going to balance things out more against the sugar content of the cake.

slice of no added sugar first birthday smash cake

The one downside, I’d say, with using an almond or coconut flour base for your cake, is that it’s expensive. So I mean, that’s something to take into consideration, especially if it’s just for a baby to smash into it and chuck all over the floor! 

But I do think that, from a health perspective, that’s the way I would go now.

The Ultimate Sugar Free First Birthday Smash Cake Recipe

sliced baby first birthday smash cake

I will say I’ve tested TONS of recipes out there and so many are really bad (like really bad). They’re dense (because of the low sugar content), they’re dry, and really hard. It’s gross. 

Like it doesn’t taste good AND it doesn’t look good in photos because your baby can’t even get into it and smash such a hard, dense texture. Just a big X for me.

But do I have THE recipe for you! The perfect baby led weaning cake recipe!

And the best part is that I’ve now made this recipe tons of times, and I actually now use it as our staple cake recipe for EVERYTHING (adults and kids alike). It’s SO easy with just a few ingredients that I always have in my cupboard.

And you guys, the texture of this cake is perfect.

It’s moist. It falls apart easily. It actually makes it easy to smash into. 

Like if your baby goes and digs their hands into it, it’s going to fall apart, crumble, and get all over them. And that’s what you want for the pictures…right?! 

So this recipe, I stand behind. 

It’s also added sugar-free, it’s gluten and grain-free, in case that’s where you’re at with your baby, and it’s dairy-free.

And I actually had somebody make it a chocolate based cake by just adding some cocoa powder to the recipe. So you can totally change up the flavor!

The frosting is made of coconut cream. It’s a whipped coconut frosting that spreads around so easily and tastes delicious, with a light and fluffy texture. Genius and so yummy. 

You can also flavor that up if you want, but overall it’s as healthy as healthy can get, really.

I’ve actually included the recipe for you as a standalone freebie. Something that you’d usually only find within my courses or recipe bundles, but this one I’m giving to you for free. Download it now!

baby smash cake recipe

And if you make it, I would love for you to tag me in your pictures. Post it on stories, or send me a picture in my DM’s on Instagram, because I will die over pictures of your baby in front of a cake and smashing into it. It’s my favourite thing in the world to see! 

So I hope you love it. And enjoy that first birthday party with your little one. This is a huge milestone!

The Ultimate No Added Sugar Baby First Birthday Smash Cake

The Ultimate No Added Sugar First Birthday Smash Cake

The perfect added sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten and grain-free, first birthday cake for your baby's special day! Easy to make and so moist your baby will easily smash into it for those adorable first birthday smash cake photos!
4.72 from 7 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8

Equipment

  • 4 round baking pans (4 inches in diameter)
  • 2 round baking pans (8 inches in diameter)
  • Choose one or the other

Ingredients
  

Cake Batter

  • 1 cup Medjool dates (pitted)
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup almond or peanut butter
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt

Coconut Whipped Frosting

  • 4 x 13½ oz cans of full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • Place 4 cans of coconut milk in the fridge overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease round springform pans with coconut oil.
  • In a blender or food processor, combine dates and water and blend until smooth.
  • Add in the eggs, almond butter, vanilla, baking soda and salt and blend again until smooth.
  • Pour the batter into the cake pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake for about 25 min if using 8 inch pans, or for 10 min if using 4 inch pans, until lightly golden.
  • While the cakes bakes, remove the coconut milk from the fridge and turn the cans upside down. Using a can opener, open the cans from the bottom and discard the water that separated from the cream.
  • Scoop the thick cream into a small mixing bowl. Add the vanilla extract and whip with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Place in fridge until cake is done baking.
  • Remove cake from the oven and let cool completely. Remove them from the pans and stack each cake on top of another.
  • Immediately frost the cake, top with fruit if desired, and enjoy!

Notes

Store at room temperature for 2 days, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week.
Add in strawberry or raspberry chia seed jam between each layer for more fruity flavour!
Keyword added sugar free, baby first birthday cake, dairy free, gluten free, grain free, smash cake
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meet edwena

Registered pediatric dietitian, mom of two and lover of all things related to baby and toddler feeding!

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