Can Dogs Eat Red Velvet Cake?

Photo by Dan Costin on Flickr

Many dedicated pet owners treat their dogs like children or best friends. Loving your dog is great, talking to him is OK, but treating him to all the yummy things you make is not always a good idea.

If you love cake, for instance, you want to share it with your furry friend and, yes, the dog will probably love it, too. However, anytime you feel like giving your dog a treat you need to consider if it is safe for him.

Just as you’d do with a child… Would you allow a small kid a taste of your cappuccino? Or some wine?

So, can dogs eat red velvet cake?

Unfortunately, red velvet cake is not OK for dogs. He will judge you if he doesn’t get a piece, but this type of dessert can be quite toxic for a dog so you wouldn’t be doing him any favor. On the contrary.

In this article, we’ll have a look at the main ingredients in red velvet cake and explain why some of them are dangerous for your dog. We also have a dog-friendly cake recipe which tastes so good you’ll be the one doing the begging!

What is red velvet cake?

The red velvet cake has a long and fascinating history. For most of us, a good dessert simply has to have some chocolate in it. However, for our ancestors, cocoa was a luxury item for many centuries. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus was the guy who first brought cocoa beans to Europe, back in the 1500s.

Yet, it wasn’t until the Victorian era that cocoa became a staple for cakes. Even then, few could afford it. It wasn’t just the irresistible chocolate flavour that made cocoa so appealing, but also the fact that it interacted with flour and made the cake softer.

Cakes were described as velvet, because of this smooth texture that cocoa gave them.

The red velvet cake as we know it today was only invented in the 20th century and it is hard to say who deserves credit for this exquisite dessert.

Some say credit goes to the Adams Extracts company who marketed this cake, while the Waldorf Astoria Hotel maintains it was their cooks who came up with the idea.

Either way, it’s a luxurious cake and its taste is only surpassed by its festive look.

What are the ingredients in red velvet cake?

Many believe the name of the cake comes from the red icing, but that’s not exactly true. The red food coloring many cooks use today came later, decades after the recipe was created.

Before food coloring, cooks obtained the special red color through the reaction between cocoa and vinegar.

Also, during WWII when there were many food shortages they used beets instead of sugar, and you know about beets, they’ll even stain your hands red when you touch them.

The cake will taste pretty much the same even if you don’t use coloring, but maybe it will look less impressive

In order to make a traditional red velvet cake, these are the ingredients you must use:

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Buttermilk
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Vegetable oil (canola, preferably)
  • White vinegar
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Cocoa
  • Salt
  • Baking soda
  • Red food coloring or beet powder
  • Some also use cream cheese  for the icing.
  • Strawberries, raspberries or walnuts for decorating the cake (optional)

Enough with the cooking lesson, let’s have a look at what really matters to us. Are these ingredients safe for dogs?

Some ingredients, like flour or baking soda (in small quantities), are not dangerous for dogs. Likewise, the amount of white vinegar used in a cake does not pose any risks. Buttermilk is lower in lactose than milk so it won’t harm your dog either.

Butter

While it’s not exactly toxic, butter is not good for dogs. First, it might cause problems to pets who are lactose intolerant. On the other hand, butter is just fats. If a dog has too many fats in his diet, this might lead to pancreatitis, which is quite dangerous. Obviously, if your dog eats just a little butter it won’t cause any problems, other than an upset stomach, maybe.

Cocoa

This is the most dangerous ingredient for dogs in the red velvet cake. Cocoa contains theobromine and caffeine and these ingredients are toxic for dogs. They can cause heart attacks, seizures or even death, so you’ll have to monitor your dog closely if he eats cocoa, especially in its powder form. 

Some recipes call for some 20 grams of cocoa, while the Martha Stewart one requires 1/2 cup, which would be around 60 grams, which is very much for dogs.

The level of toxicity depends on the dog’s weight. If a medium-size dog eats 20 grams of cocoa powder, this is a medical emergency.

This is the reason why you should never feed your dog chocolate or even give him a taste of it, as he might be tempted to steal your chocolate in the future. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous as it has the highest cocoa-content.

If your dog happens to eat chocolate, you can use this calculator to determine the risks and when you should head to the vet.

Some cakes require coffee, whether brewed or in its instant powder form. Those are not OK for dogs, under any circumstance. Caffeine, especially, is very bad for a dog’s heart and in large quantities it can even kill a dog.

Eggs

Now, eggs are perfectly OK for dogs, as they are a valuable source or protein, fatty acids, iron and vitamins A and D. One 50 g egg provided 72 calories,  and 6.3 g of protein, so you can include eggs in your dog’s diet.

Sugar

Sugar is not toxic to dogs so it won’t harm your dogs, at least not right away. The problem is the dog will develop a sweet tooth, or a sugar addiction, just as humans do. Long term, regular sugar consumption can lead to many health problems, including obesity, diabetes and hypertension.  Remember that 100g of sugar has 387 calories.

Vegetable oil

Cooking oil is good for dogs if served in moderation, but keep in mind that too many fats can cause significant health problems. And it’s highly calorific. The canola oil mentioned in the recipe has 884 calories per 100g, which is quite a lot for humans, let alone dogs.

Vanilla extract

This might seem an innocuous ingredient to you, but vanilla extract is quite dangerous for dogs. Vanilla extract has 35% alcohol and a dog’s system cannot break down alcohol.  If you use vanilla straight from the pod, that’s OK for dogs.

Speaking of alcohol, many cake recipes mention alcohol in some way, whisky or rum are used in various desserts and those should not be fed to a dog. It’s not about the dog getting drunk and behaving inappropriately. Alcohol poisoning can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, as well as body temperature. It can also lead to respiratory failure and seizures, so contact the vet immediately if your dog has ingested alcohol in any quantity.

Fruit

In most cases, red velvet cakes are decorated with fruit like strawberries or actually any type of berries, because they make a nice contrast with the cream cheese icing. These won’t cause any problems to your dog and can be quite beneficial to his health.

Although they are a bit high in sugar, strawberries are a great source of  vitamin C, vitamin B12 and mineral copper. They also have plenty of fibers, which can improve the dog’s digestion. However, keep in mind that strawberries should only be offered as a snack, preferably cut to pieces to prevent choking. Too many of them can cause diarrhea.

Raspberries, blackberries and cranberries are an even better option for dogs as they have less sugar than strawberries. All berries are also rich in antioxidants, which can prevent the damage caused by free radicals. And they are low in calories, which makes them an adequate snack. For a small dog, 10 blueberries are the perfect snack, while a large dog can eat two or three times as much.

Walnuts are full of healthy fats, protein and minerals, so used as an occasional snack they are quite good for a dog. However, you should examine the walnuts carefully as they are prone to a particular type of black mold which is highly toxic to dogs. This mold can cause tremors, in which case you should contact the vet right away.  100g of walnuts provide over 600 calories, so don’t let your dog have more than a few pieces.

Make your own dog friendly cake

As a proud pet parent you might want to celebrate your dog’s birthday with a cake and that’s perfectly fine if you choose safe ingredients. Most dog-friendly recipes use peanut butter and applesauce, which are quite appetizing, and not only for pets.

Here is a quick recipe you can use to make your dog feel special.

You will need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup  cooking oil
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup  peanut butter
  • 1 cup grated carrots grated
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preparation is super easy.

Put the eggs, oil, apple sauce, peanut butter, carrot, and honey in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Next, add flour and baking soda and stir a bit more.

Put the batter in two cake pans lined with cooking paper.

Cook for 30 minutes in the oven (preheated at 180 C).

To arrange the cake, stick the two parts together with a thin layer of peanut butter (preferably natural and organic). Decorate with just a bit of whipped cream and a few berries! Happy anniversary!

Closing Thoughts

Dogs can be very persistent when they want to, but before you give in to this emotional blackmail and offer him a piece of whatever you’re eating, think about the ingredients. Any chocolate-based desserts should be off limits for dogs. Cocoa is delicious, but quite toxic for dogs. Also, never give your dog anything that contains vanilla extract, alcohol, or coffee.  A fruit cake might be acceptable, but beware of too much sugar. If you really care about your dog, bake him a special cake, not as fancy-looking at the fabulous velvet cake, but safe!