It was a second stage win in this year's race for the world champion with the Team Sky sprinter beating Matt Goss and Daniele Bennati to the line at the end of the first road stage in Italy.
The 26-year-old Manxman also took his total of Grand Tour stage wins to 32 as Lithuanian rider Ramunas Navardauskas retained the leader's pink jersey.
Cavendish celebrated the ninth Giro stage win of his career with a hug and kiss for his girlfriend Peta Todd before cradling his baby daughter Delilah as he stepped on to the winner's podium.
"I think there's no feeling in the world better than holding your baby in your arms; the only thing that comes close is holding your baby in your arms after winning a stage of a bike race," Cavendish said.
"It's the first race she has come to see me at, and it's the first race I've won (with her here), so I'm happy and proud that she and Peta are here."
Cavendish's victory came three days after he gashed his leg and shoulder in a high-speed crash caused when Italian rider Roberto Ferrari switched lines close to the finish.
"I didn't feel great, I haven't slept properly since Monday," Cavendish said, "but I still have a job to do."
"I got a perfect leadout, the team did their job, but I spent a lot of time changing gears in the last 600 metres because it wasn't such a fast sprint."
The stage saw the riders travel 209km from Modena, and the Lotto duo of Brian Bulgac and Olivier Kaisen - plus home riders Pier Paolo De Negri (Farnese Vini) and Alessandro De Marchi (Androni) - escaped after 24km
They built up a lead of six minutes as they travelled south east to the Adriatic Sea with the Belgian Bulgac in the virtual maglia rosa.
Their advantage was still 5:30 with 65km left but Liquigas hit the front of the peloton and, when De Negri led the escape group over the only mountain of the day - the category-four Gabicce Monte - with 35km remaining, the advantage was hovering at little more than a minute.
De Marchi attacked on the descent and, as his fellow breakaway riders were swallowed up, his brave bid ended with 20km to go.
The sprinters' teams kept a lid on proceedings over the final kilometres as they headed towards the finish ancient in the Roman city of Fano where the Team Sky lead-out train set up another victory for the Manx missile.
Tyler Farrar could have taken the overall lead with a top-two finish but he lost contact with the main peloton on the climb and finished over nine minutes down so Navardauskas heads the overall standings by five seconds from South African Robbie Hunter.
"I had a stressful evening yesterday after getting the lead and didn't get to bed till midnight, but today it was my team who had all the pressure, not me," Garmin-Barracuda rider Navardauskas said.
"I was surprised at how hard they had to work."
Friday's 210-km stage from Urbino to Porto Sant'Elpidio takes the Giro into tougher terrain, with the peloton tackling several steep climbs in the Apennine hills.