As some of you may know, I gave up my 9-5 office based job last year in order to put my time and energy into K9 Services Plus not the dog training side as that is best left to Phil but more the admin and social media side (hence the increase in Facebook and Instagram photos of 3 very special spaniels!) I have no regrets and can happily say my new role beats office life paws down!
Being at home has meant I have more time on my hands and what with Busters 8th birthday and Daisys 10th birthday fast approaching I decided to have a go at making cakes and treats for dogs. Not that unusual you might think; however if I tell you I am the person who on our first date made Phil a coffee with onion gravy granules (and milk) as opposed to coffee this might give you an idea as to why the kitchen is Phils territory in our house. Why I had onion gravy granules in my cupboard in the first place remains a mystery.
I cannot emphasize enough how limited/non-existent my cooking/baking skills were. It is a bit of a standing joke with friends and family and whilst I begged my brother not to mention the onion gravy incident in his speech at my wedding, I have never been bothered by the fact my nickname was cant cook wont cook! Apparently cooking cheesy beans on toast doesnt count, but that was literally the full extent of my abilities in the kitchen!
Keen to begin making something the dogs would love, I did a bit of research into different recipes for homemade dog treats and cakes and as many of them include peanut butter I knew our 3 peanut butter loving spaniels would be more than happy to form a judging panel. I was also encouraged by the fact the dogs are not opposed to eating horse and cow poo so anything I served up would have to taste better right?!! As you can probably tell, I wasnt overly confident in my ability to produce an edible cake!
For my first attempt I deliberately picked a recipe that was both human and dog friendly as I didnt want to feed something made by my own fair, but inexperienced, hand to the dogs that I hadnt first tried out on Phil!! (Well he did survive the onion gravy and milk incident!) Needless to say, I didnt own any baking equipment so I headed off to the shops in order to buy both the equipment needed and the ingredients carrots, baking soda, flour, vanilla extract, honey, peanut butter, soft cheese etc and for the first time ever I found myself in the baking aisle. Who knew that this handy little measuring gadget even existed? Certainly not us!
I hadnt told Phil I was planning to bake a cake as I was convinced the end product would end up in the bin (and not the dog!) so with Phil and the dogs out of the way I began my quest. The first instruction was to pre-heat the oven. Simple enough you would think. I kid you not, it was only when I went to put the cake mixture in the oven that I realized I had turned the wrong dial. Oops. Anyway, aside from that minor gaffe, the preparation went without a hitch and after I had put the mixture in the now correctly heated oven I prepared the frosting soft cheese, cinnamon and banana.
I peered through the oven door to check on the cake at regular intervals. I wasnt really sure what I was checking for, but after satisfying myself that the cake wasnt 1) on fire 2) spilling out of the tin or 3) doing nothing at all, I sat back and allowed it to bake.
This was the final result.
To say I was pleased with my first attempt is an understatement. The first thing I did was send a photo to my mum, niece and mother and sister in law. I did check if they were sitting down before I sent the photo as I didnt want them to keel over in shock! What I didnt tell them is the cake looked better than it tasted! That isnt to say the cake tasted horrible and in fact Phil was very complimentary about the consistency and the texture; it was just the flavor that needed a bit of tweaking.
As already mentioned, although the spaniels are not what you would describe as food connoisseurs, it was their opinion of the cake that mattered to me the most and I think it is fair to say the judging panel were impressed with my first effort.
With my confidence boosted and after being invited over to some dog owning/dog loving friends for dinner I decided rather than take the hostess flowers or chocolates I would take their dogs a homemade cake. I followed the same recipe as before but used my previously undiscovered artistic talents to decorate the cake slightly differently. This is actually the bit I enjoy the most as this is where you get to use your imagination a bit. I have been told the cake was woofed down so another success.
Whilst decorating the second cake, I thought I would try and replicate a paw print, but it turned out I was getting a bit ahead of myself. The K9 symbol was the easier option! My desire for a perfect paw print led me to look at cake and biscuit molds hence the next treats to be served to the judging panel were these made with oats, apple sauce, coconut and peanut butter. Another big hit with the spaniels. I enjoy choosing the different shapes, ingredients and toppings and they enjoy eating the results!
Phil is wondering when I am going to bake a cake that isnt for the dogs, but I still have no interest in making anything that isnt dog related. If I cant decorate it with gravy bones or make it in a paw shape then it isnt happening!
If, after reading this, you have been inspired to get baking for the first time or to have a go at making your first dog cake (and gain massive brownie points with your four legged friend), then have a look at homemade dog cake and biscuit recipes on the internet. I wont repeat a recipe here as there are so many to choose from. It goes without saying, if I can do it anyone can! Just dont forget to be aware of any specific dietary requirements your dog might have. I definitely recommend giving it a go as you get to bake but without the calorie intake!
My love of baking has come as a complete shock to me (almost as much as it was to my family) and for the first time in my life I am the proud owner of a rolling pin, a cake tester, dog shaped cookie cutters and molds, measuring cups and cake tins. In fact I am enjoying my time in the kitchen so much I have asked for a food processor for my birthday(!?) as my plan is to try and make liver cake, although before tackling raw liver (the dogs are worth it) I need to come up with a couple of show stopping cakes for Busters and Daisys birthdays.
That said, it is safe to say I wont be appearing on The Great British Bake Off anytime soon; however I am happy to just bake cakes for spaniel scoffing as show stopping might be a bit too ambitious at this stage!