Hoffman's Houston
sally's big day

Ken Hoffman bakes up a perfect tribute for his puppy's big anniversary

Ken Hoffman bakes up a perfect tribute for his puppy's big anniversary

Ken Hoffman Sally puppy dog portrait
A giant portrait of Sally sits on Hoffman's mantle.  Photo by Ken Hoffman
Ken Hoffman anniversary cake
Hoffman's dog-friendly anniversary cake.  Photo by Ken Hoffman
Ken Hoffman Sally puppy dog portrait
Ken Hoffman anniversary cake

Here’s how I spent my Hard Rockin’ New Year’s Eve: baking a cake to celebrate the first anniversary of my dog Sally coming home. And with that, I have officially become one of “those people”: a weirdo for their dog.

Sally already eats more expensive and better nutritionally balanced food than I do. Sending her to Glamour Shots and entering her in beauty pageants can’t be far off. (Full disclosure: her portrait already sits over my fireplace.)

I do promise this, however, I won’t register Sally as a phony emotional support dog so I can take her on planes and pet her like a creepy movie villain. George Carlin once said of Joan Rivers, “she turned into one of the people she used to make fun of.” That’s me and my dog.

I adopted Sally on December 31, 2018 from Citizens for Animal Protection. (Editor's note: Read the heartwarming story here.) She has become such a joy and beautiful friend, the least I could do was bake a cake for her from scratch. I’ve done a lot stupider for dogs in my life.

At least I don’t cook a hot meal for her every night like some people I know. Sally eats dry dog food that requires a prescription from her personal physician, Dr. Mark Silberman, “Veterinarian to the Stars” at Southwest Animal Clinic on Bissonnet. Her food is $78 a bag. (There's no Dollar Menu at Chewy.com.)

Sally: the perfectly valued pet
While her dog food is more expensive per pound than movie theater Raisinets, Sally herself was the bargain of a lifetime. The adoption fee at Citizens for Animal Protection is usually $100, but I got her during one of CAP’s half-price promotions sponsored by West Houston Subaru. For $50, CAP threw in a medical exam, microchipping, grooming, and even a free Papa John’s pizza. (That’s one pizza, not the 50 pizzas in 30 days that Papa John’s nut job founder John Schnatter promises to eat in 2020. Revenge sure makes you hungry.)

I went online for a recipe for a cake that’s okay for dogs to eat. I’m not running to the doughnut store for a half-dozen glazed that’ll make Sally sick, like I do to myself on my way to work. I find that I tolerate co-workers better when I’m woozy, especially during my court-ordered visits to the Charlie Pallilo Show on ESPN 97.5 Radio. 

Doggie Cake 101
I found a recipe for a Doggie Carrot and Peanut Butter Cake. The ingredients: an egg, peanut butter (I bought 1/3 less sodium and sugar Skippy Natural Creamy, of course), cooking oil (imported extra virgin olive oil), vanilla extract, honey, shredded organic carrots, flour, and baking soda. Recipe said to use a greased “fluted tube pan.” Where’s that coupon for Bed, Bath & Beyond?

I was supposed to bake this cake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees, but my oven runs hot, so I took it out at 35 minutes. It was rock-hard around the edges, but I figured that Sally once ate a golf ball, which I didn’t mind, except it was a Titleist Pro V1 – a ball I would never risk on a hole with water.

I smelled the cake once it cooled — not bad, but I don’t eat vegetable-based cakes. Those shouldn’t even qualify as dessert. Put a few shots of whipped cream on top, stuck a big number “1,” like normal parents do for their human children, and served a slice to Sally.

She dragged it into my living room and ate the whole thing in one gulp. Total tab for this cake, including parts and labor, about $35.

It’s not the most expensive pastry I’ve made at home. Before I moved to Houston for my newspaper career — my long, hard climb to the middle, and sinking  — I worked in Phoenix. During a vacation, I went to New York for the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy. That’s when I got my first taste of zeppoles. They’re little, deep-fried doughnut balls all shook up with powdered sugar in a paper bag. Think beignets with an attitude. 

There was a woman who did cooking segments on TV in Phoenix back then named Jan D’Atri. I think her family owned an Italian restaurant. I called her and asked if she had a recipe for homemade zeppoles. By the time I bought all the ingredients, my $1 bag of zeppoles cost about $40, and I had enough flour, sugar, oil and lemon zest to make hundreds of Italian doughnuts, which I never made again. Mine didn’t taste anywhere near as fantastic as San Gennaro’s. 

That’s still pocket jingle compared to my buddy Reg “Third Degree” Burns’ $200-plus plate of plain spaghetti. Third Degree bought a Ron Popeil Home Pasta Maker off a TV infomercial. I told him, “that’s a smart purchase, especially since H-E-B sells a pound box of professionally made Barilla spaghetti (endorsed by Roger Federer) for $1.28 , or their just-as-good house brand is 78 cents." He made one batch of spaghetti that tasted awful, and the home pasta maker now resides so far back in a kitchen cabinet that it’ll never be seen again.