Sunday, January 04, 2009

And speaking of cake...

I have had several people ask me for the recipe for the peanut butter dog birthday cake, which is basically a yellow cake with peanut butter icing. In high school, the chief of the cafeteria was someone who attended church where we did, and she was a terrific cook. (When there were church potlucks, I would always ask to determine what dishes were hers, because hers were the only dishes as good as my mom's.) So I don't have the complaints of horrible high school food like so many people I know, because the food was always great. It was always a red-letter day when the dessert was peanut butter cake.

This peanut butter part of this cake is all about the frosting, but the best thing is that the cake itself is just the way I like cake: very dense and moist. It's not very yellow unless you choose to put some food coloring in it, which I never do, it's just barely yellow...but I can practically guarantee if you like peanut butter you'll love this. It's also great with chocolate frosting or banana frosting (and I am not talking from a can), but the peanut butter is my favorite, and the peanut butter is something I don't have to worry about with the dogs.

The other nice thing? You can mix this with a good hand mixer all in one bowl and dump it into the pan. And it freezes well so that if you're one person (hint, hint Pete) you can make it and not worry about the leftovers.

Fantastic (Semi-)Yellow Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp baking POWDER
1 1/2 cups milk (12 ozs)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 eggs

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients so that baking powder is distributed well throughout. Add milk, softened butter and vanilla and beat at low speed with electric mixer until ingredients are combined, then beat at high speed for two minutes. Add eggs, beat two minutes. Pour into 9 x 13 cake pan. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes for 9 x 13 pan, or 20-25 minutes for round pans (pans must not be touching), or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean; there will be some light browning. Cool thoroughly.

(Variation: you can also add a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest to the flour mixture, and you will frost with lemon frosting)

Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tsps vanilla
extra milk for consistency

Beat peanut butter with 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Slowly beat in milk and vanilla, and then gradually beat in remaining sugar. If mixture is too thick to spread, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time and beat in until desired consistency is achieved (not more than two tablespoons). Spread on cake. Cover tightly until ready to use.

This cake is best on the day after you make it, so if you can make this a day in advance, you should!

Friday, January 02, 2009

They had their cake and ate it, too...

So, yesterday being January 1, it was Bernice's and Dodger's birthday party. Bernice is 11 and Dodger is 8. In human years, that is. In dog years, that's anyone's guess, because different breeds have different lifespans, different co-morbidities, etc., that determine their lifespan.

Whatever. What matters is that every year, you give the dog the best you have to offer and treat him/her as you would like to be treated if you didn't have any way to communicate other than a raised paw, barking/growling, crying or running around like crazy. Oh yes, and one of the most important things, don't overfeed. That's especially cruel for older dogs who naturally have more difficulty getting around.

I learned the lesson on overfeeding at a very young and impressionable age from an aunt with a chihuahua named Trixie, whom she spoiled rotten. I suppose she thought that her spoiling was just puppy love, but Trixie was fed table scraps all the time. While she was well-behaved with company and food, it was only because she knew that my aunt was the one to go to for the food and not company. Trixie was so overweight that at 5, her hips started giving her problems, and by the time she was 7, she had such problems walking and breathing that she had to be put to sleep. Now that just isn't right. I never forgot that, and I always held that against my aunt. Jess is also extremely animal welfare-conscious and, as a result, we keep our dogs in excellent shape. The vet always compliments us on how trim they are. Table scraps are the exception rather than the rule, and they only eat dry foods, with biscuits for treats; no soft foods or treats that would cause dental problems.

But two times a year (on the birthdays), our dogs are spoiled. The doggie parties usually feature a peanut butter cake, and this year was no exception. The problem was that I gave them a little too much each. They attacked the bowls of cake and Bernice and Mandy managed to flop their cake out of the bowl and frosting-side down on the kitchen floor. It was a mess, but you've never seen happier dogs. Mandy was so enamored of it that she continued to go to everyone's bowl and see if she couldn't find some more crumbs.

Happy birthday, kids, and many more, okay? You're the closest thing we'll have to children and we hope we've given you great lives so far.