Smash Cakes, Hammer and Piñata Cakes

Going with the piñata theme, are smash cakes and hammer cakes. Both of these types of cakes are meant for destruction, in a good way! There is a difference though. Vocabulary is a bit blurred, so expect some interchange of terms for the same type of cake.

The smash cake is the messier of the two, targeted to small children. The piñata cakes come in two forms: slice open to find an inside surprise, or smash a hard side open to also reveal a surprise (the latter is more fondly called “hammer cakes”). These innovative cakes have so many, many possibilities for both gifts for youth, adults, and even corporate gift giving.

If you think this is a kids’ only page, hang on, because there are ideas for all ages!

Table of Contents

What’s a “smash cake?”

Smash cakes are miniature versions of birthday cakes that small children are encouraged to eat by hand. They also come in the version of a smash cupcake. This is very popular for the important 1st birthday, when parents pretty much expect and want the toddler to dive into the cake with both hands.

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Grocery store and bakeries have picked up on the marketing angle and offer free smash cakes for orders of 1st birthday cakes. I mean, if someone is going to throw in a free smash cake, then I am getting my tot’s birthday cake from them!

The cake inside the smash cake is really nothing special, they are just normal cake or box cake mix. The fun is letting the little toddler grab it, touch, and taste while completely immersing themselves in a sensory experience. One-year-olds will love a good helping of frosting smeared on their face!

The main birthday cake remains unmarred – the birthday guests can partake in that and remain neat and tidy.

Three toddlers with their birthday smash cakes.
Triple baby cake smash. Credit: Ryan Polei, Flickr.

The popularity of piñata cakes

What the heck? Someone dreamed up the idea to take the concept of a traditional piñata and marry it with a cake. What does this mean? It means that goodies are packed into the middle of the cake, spilling out when the cake is cut (or cracked open if it has a hard outer shell).

M&Ms, jelly beans, and similar candy types make good fillers for piñata cakes. They have the perfect spilling out affect, just like when a real piñata is busted open. Be sure to make a ceremony out of the cake cutting!

The popularity of piñata cakes seems to have originated in Mexico, land of the piñata (gracias, my southern neighbor!).

This is a spin-off of a piñata cake: a mini piñata on a cake!

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Traditional piñata cakes and hammer/smash cakes make a great gift idea or concept for:

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Example of pinata cake: opened with candy spilling out.
Sliced open piñata cake with candy spilling out. Credit: Pete, Flickr.

The act of smashing a cake can be a ritual act for a milestone event in one’s life. That’s why I love this type of cake for big life events. When you struggle to figure out how to acknowledge a special event for a loved one, why not try a hammer cake?

The term “piñata cake” throws people off. You’ve got to approach this differently. Think of all the representative objects you could stuff inside: words of advice, special notes collected from loved ones, and small trinkets that hold special meaning. Take this idea and really, really make it memorable for a special gift for a loved one!!

Hammer piñata cake

I must say, the hammer piñata cake is the most intriguing to me of all the cakes featured here. The gifting possibilities do seem endless, especially if you glance at the corporate gift idea or business marketing idea options.

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For those who still want the feel of wacking a piñata, there is a piñata hammer cake (or smash cake in its own right). A hammer cake is made from a silicone cake mold that is coated with candy melts (baking wafers) that harden into a shell. The filling is anything you wish, such as trinkets, treats, personal messages. If you were so inclined, you could even hide a ring in there for a marriage proposal!

The hammer in the photo below is probably overkill. You can actually buy piñata hammers online. Some of them come in sets, so you can hand them out to your guests.

If you fail to have a piñata hammer in your possession, a (clean!) carpenter’s hammer, meat pounding hammer, or ice mallet will do.

Example of hammer cake with hard exterior shell that require a tap of a hammer to break in to.
Hammer cake complete with hammer to break the hard, outer, chocolate shell. Credit: MIke Hauser, Flickr.

Make your own piñata cake

Sushma Iyer demonstrates nicely how she made her own piñata cake on her blog “Spices N Flavors” with the popular theme of the Disney movie “Frozen.” Great job, Sushma! Breaking open this hard-sided piñata cake is a ceremony in itself (but isn’t that what piñatas are all about?).

Enter the official piñata cake hammer.

Corporate piñata smash cake gift

A fun fact that I learned, is that smash cakes are popular for corporate gifts. Stephany Rasmusson, from her Canadian Piñata Smash Cake website, launched her online smash cakes business in 2019.

It’s when the pandemic hit, that her business really took off (as featured in this GoDaddy article). Corporate gifts are big business. Since everyone was shut down during the pandemic, corporations were looking for unique ways to connect with staff and customers at the end of the year.

Stephany’s smash cakes were a success. She didn’t have to think too hard, corporations offered plenty of unique ideas and pitched them to Stephany, who was able to make them come to life. Marketing departments even jumped on the idea to use the smash cakes for marketing campaigns.

Piñata Smash Cakes offer all of the other popular options for birthday parties and other events as well. It just was an accidental happy discovery that smash cakes are a great idea for corporation gifts.

Where to buy smash cakes, piñata cakes, and hammer cakes

It seems like cupcakes are a hot home business these days. If you don’t want to attempt making the cake yourself, check with a baking friend, a local bakery, a local small-business owner (yeah small business!) or an online company, such as featured in the above section.

If the business or person doesn’t make them, they might after hearing your brilliant idea!

In conclusion

If you’re looking for an alternative to the same old birthday cake, try a smash cake, piñata cake or hammer cake. It will be sure to make your event (or life milestone) memorable!

A piñata cake, opened and candy spilling out.
A piñata, smash, or hammer cake are fun ways to add some hands-on excitement for any party!
Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee brings over 30 years of gift giving experience to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, workplace and faith events. Every life moment is cause for celebration or those times in life when we need the "the gift of support". Her mission: Let's all be better in appreciating one another, put an end to meaningless gifts that clutter our lives, and give from a place of love and kindness. This midwest mom (and grandma) offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!