Friday, 20 September 2019
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Homemade Birthday and Special Occasion Dog Cakes

Our current FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting mini-series is all about treats. We'll be diving into homemade cookie/biscuit dog treats when the mini-series resumes next week, but first we're talking cakes and pupcakes. Yum!

Homemade meatloaf dog birthday layer cake with mashed potato frosting and candles (number 11)

The first homemade pet "treat" that I can recall making was not for a dog, but for a cat. When I adopted scrawny little rescue kitty Tiger sixteen years ago (he passed away earlier this year), I started making him a little birthday cat cake every year on his vet nominated birthday. Tiger was always very picky about what he would and would not eat, so every year we would celebrate with dinner in the form of his favourite wet food in a round cake-ish shape decorated with his cat biscuits and treats. Oli's early cakes were homemade casserole dish dinners with a candle. Although I enjoy making my crazy cakes and the excitement our boys get from cake time, it's important to note that special celebrations don't require anything fancy, just lots of love and whatever makes you and your pet happiest.

Conventional Homemade Cakes and Pupcakes for Dogs


The process of preparing and baking a conventional dog-friendly cake is no different than baking for humans, and unless you're using stock or meat/fish, the batter and resulting cake will be very similar to making a no-sugar low-fat human muffin. With the right flavour combination, you might even decide to share!

When baking a conventional cake or cupcake/muffin pupcake treats, flour will likely be one of the ingredients. Instead of typical human white cake flour or all-purpose flour, wholemeal flour can be used as a healthier upgrade for dogs without grain/gluten sensitivities or you can opt for a gluten-free flour.  Tip: Ingredients like dog-friendly fruits and vegetables can be used to give the cake additional size without being an overload of low-value flour.  

Most conventional cakes and pupcakes use leavener(s) to give them rise, which may include eggs, self-raising flour, baking powder/soda, etc. Baking with yeast is not recommended for dogs.  Ingredients such as eggs, chia seed, flax, etc. as well as many of the flavoursome add-ins below act as binders. Binders are what hold baked goods together and assist with texture, and are extra important when using gluten-free flours. To give the cake a tempting scent/flavour, the recipe could include compatible combinations of stock, chopped cooked meat, chopped cooked or tinned fish, dog safe herbs and spices, peanut butter, carob, yogurt, cheese, coconut milk, dog-friendly fruits and vegetables, and more. These make the cakes yummy, of course, but can be used to make a somewhat healthier cake instead of just a pretty but low-value (especially for dogs) carb-loaded cake.

Dalmatian dog with a variety of homemade dog cakes and muffins (pupcakes)

Homemade Meatloaf-Style Cakes and Meatball Treats for Dogs


A meatloaf style dog cake can be prepared using a doggy recipe, or you can easily adapt your favourite meatloaf or meatball recipe to a dog-friendly version. Lean ground meat/fish is all that is required for a very basic baked "cake" (you may want to use a small casserole dish instead of a cake pan), but including some binder(s) and oats (and/or a suitable flour) can help substantially with moisture, texture, and holding shape once baked. Your imagination is the limit in creating a special cake with flavours and ingredients that your individual dog loves. Dog-friendly shredded vegetables and/or herbs and spices work well with meats and fish for additional texture, variety, scent, and flavour. 

Dense meaty/fishy cakes can be more difficult to remove from pans than conventional cakes, so choose your baking pan or dish with care and ensure it's well-prepped before use. I like using mini-spring form pans, but they still require careful removal.  If you want tiny bite-sized treats, meatballs are a good alternative to mini-muffins and fiddly tiny tins. Dog-friendly meatballs also make great treats in their own right. They're easy to make, bake, store, freeze, and use in small quantities, either as treats or as special meal toppers.

Dalmatian dog with a variety of homemade dog meatball treats

Dog-Friendly Cake Frosting and Decorations


Dog cakes and pupcakes can be frosted for extra special occasions, but use a dog-friendly frosting without all the sugar and fat of human icings. For savoury meat/fish cakes, my current go-to "frosting" is mashed potatoIt's easy to work with, looks good, and our dogs can have a little in moderation every now and then no worries. Some flavours, like yogurt, pureed pumpkin, and applesauce, can work for either meat/fish cake or conventional cakes.  You can also firm them up with some flour (coconut flour works well - it's very absorbent so only a small amount is needed) for a better layering/decorating texture. Depending on the cake flavours, peanut butter, cream cheese, or unsweetened whipped cream can work too. Tip: If preparing in advance, don't ice your cake/pupcakes until shortly before you're ready to serve. They be easier to store/handle, will store better unfrosted, and look better for the party. Freezing leftover cake for a future special snack works great, though!

Want sprinkles on that? Potential dog-friendly sprinkles include small/ground dog-friendly nuts and seeds, grated cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, dog jerky, or even ready-made treats/kibble. Feeling crazy? Tinted panko, coconut, or oats can be used as a dog-friendly rainbow sprinkle substitute. See some of our dog birthday cakes for ideas.  Other dog-friendly decorations include small (or small pieces of) fruits, berries, vegetables, or dog treats. The latter can be used to make special edible cake toppers that look cute and your dog can enjoy instead of icky old candles (which should only be used with great care around pets).

A variety of homemade dog birthday cakes with different decorations

Storing Homemade Dog Cakes and Pupcakes 


Meatballs and meatloaf-style cakes are no different than their human equivalents. They require refrigeration for the short term and freezing for extended storage. Shelf life is very limited, unless frozen.  Tip: Chilling? Pampered pups might like their meaty treats warmed before serving to enhance the scent and flavour. My boys will happily munch them cool (or even frozen) but warm and stinking is extra special!  

Conventional baked cakes and pupcakes are very similar to human muffins, and should be stored similarly for short term consumption. Shelf life will depend on individual ingredients and moisture content, but is very limited, unless frozen. Many stable baked goods can be briefly stored in a suitable container (or wrapped) at room temperature (see exceptions below), kept a little longer in the fridge, or frozen longer term. Allow them to cool thoroughly prior to container storage. Putting warm cakes into a contain will trap residual steam/moisture and can accelerate spoilage. Once cool, transfer the treats to a suitable container. Tip: If your cakes contain ingredients like meat, fish, or are otherwise unsuitable for ambient storage, handle with extra care. They should be refrigerated short term or frozen for longer storage. 

Check out the Homemade Dog Treat FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting mini-series for more information on treat making, storage, and more: 

Ready to hit the kitchen? You can use our DIY Dog Treat Recipes navigation page to start your explorations, dive straight into all of our homemade dog treat related posts in the blog archives (or narrow that down to just the gummy dog treat ideas), search the blog from our sidebar, or hop over to our Pinterest for more ideas. 

🦴 Remember, treats (bought or homemade) are for spoiling your pup in moderation. We share ideas here from treats that we make ourselves for our pets, but different animals will have different preferences (likes/dislikes) and dietary needs. Some pets may have special dietary requirements and/or food allergies/intolerances. If you are ever in doubt or have questions about what's suitable for your pet, have a chat with your trusted vet.

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