Today is Yuki’s first birthday! I find it hard to believe that we’ve had her for seven months because I feel as if Yuki has always been a part of our lives. This little girl came into our home as a shy and timid puppy and has since blossomed into a happy, bouncy adventure dog. Wrapping my arms around Yuki when she jumped onto the bed this morning, I whispered “Happy Birthday, Baby Dog” and held on a little longer than usual. She looked me in the eyes and lifted her nose to mine, then gave me several soft kisses. I typically make a big deal out of my dogs’ first birthdays, but this one seems extra special, because Yuki’s path into our lives hinged on the kindnesses of so many good people and great organizations.
introducing a 5 month old yuki to our local mountain trails
i made her a birthday cake (and got her a stuffed doughnut toy)
How do we know Yuki’s birth date? When we adopted Yuki, Linda, her foster mother, handed me a folder with a couple of documents. These few sheets of paper contained all of the information Rezdawg Rescue gathered on Yuki’s first five months of her life. I spent a late night looking through the pages and searching the web to piece together her journey. From what I could tease out, Yuki had a vet appointment at about 2 weeks of age in western New Mexico with her mother in February. Around mid-May 2018, Yuki boarded her “freedom ride” transport with Rezdawg Rescue, leaving Ramah, New Mexico for Colorado where she was lovingly fostered for several weeks until we brought her home. That’s all I knew until late October.
After our Guess the Yuki contest, I posted Yuki’s DNA results and was contacted by K in Arizona, who said she had Yuki’s brother, Dakota. I assumed she was mistaken because I see A LOT of pups on rescue pages that look like Yuki. But K patiently shared details about Yuki and Dakota that matched up and filled in the blanks.
Yuki and Dakota’s pregnant, feral mama approached a stranger near Ramah, New Mexico in the winter of 2018. The kind-hearted man took her in and she gave birth to eight puppies on February 1. The man’s housemate and owner of the trailer lost patience and kicked the mama and her litter out into the snow. Distraught, our dear stranger contacted Black Hat Humane Society and another compassionate individual came to collect the family and fostered them on her small farm 10 miles away. At three and a half months of age, Yuki traveled north to Colorado. Dakota remained in Ramah and was adopted by K around the same time we adopted Yuki. And we are familiar with the rest of Yuki’s story (to date)!
handsome dakota (courtesy of k)
This time I went all out and created a special birthday cake for Yuki because I knew Neva would help her finish it. I made everything from scratch except for the little party toppers which I purchased because WHY NOT?! The cake is made with applesauce, banana, whole wheat flour, egg, and coconut oil. It tastes like sawdust with hints of banana and coconut, but the dogs LOVE it. The frosting is whipped cream cheese with just a bit of powdered sugar to make it more spreadable. The colored dollops are cream cheese with raspberry powder (pink) and blueberry liquid (purple). The decorative dog biscuits are a mashup of apple bacon cheddar dog treats and chicken sweet potato dog treats (I used pumpkin instead of sweet potato). And the sprinkles are homemade naturally-colored dog-safe sprinkles.
yuki’s 4-inch, 4-layer birthday cake
it’s a naked cake because the dogs don’t need that much frosting
yuki wouldn’t let neva any closer to the cake
waiting to eat their slices
It all started when I was looking for sprinkles at the store. Being a child of the 70s, I consumed my fair share of artificial colors and flavorings, but I thought I could do better for my pups. So I put the cute and brightly colored sprinkles back on the shelf and decided to tackle those homemade sprinkles I had bookmarked the recipe for months ago. Those recipes also call for food coloring, however it is an easy enough tweak to substitute homemade natural food coloring. The basic concept is to make an icing with powdered sugar, egg white (powdered or fresh), and water. You can add a little extract to make the sprinkles taste good to humans, but my dogs couldn’t care less about the flavor. I started with a dry color (pink) and a wet color (purple).
powdered sugar, powdered egg whites, water, freeze-dried raspberries, thawed huckleberries
For the dry color, I pulverized freeze-dried raspberries. I think any freeze-dried red berry could work and it must be FREEZE-DRIED and not simply dried. Once it’s been powdered, sift it through a fine-mesh sieve. The reason for this is that any tiny bits of seed or fruit will clog up your piping tip when you pipe the icing and it’s maddeningly messy to unclog. For the wet color, I smooshed my huckleberries and strained the juice only to remember that it comes out hot pink in icing and not so much purple. Luckily, I had some blueberries on hand. Upon mashing them, I realized that blueberries give up their color when heated. I put them over medium heat until the juices turned purple and strained that liquid.
smash the freeze-dried raspberries
sift out the larger particles
giving up their purple juices
My first test run on the pink sprinkles worked quite well, which gave me the incentive to expand on the color trials. I opted for green sprinkles from parsley juice, which tasted weird to me, but the dogs didn’t care. If you want green sprinkles that don’t taste like Italian parsley, you can use matcha as a dry coloring. And I went for some blue sprinkles made from steeping red cabbage in boiled water, straining the tea, and stirring in baking soda. Yay for chemistry! The color was gorgeous, but unstable. Over the course of an hour, the leftover coloring turned teal. This may have been a result of me adding too much baking soda (base) because the color didn’t turn blue right away. To reverse the over-greening of your blue coloring, you can add a drop of white vinegar (acid) to turn it more purple/back to blue. When mixed into the icing, the color was just fine and remained a pretty sky blue. The sprinkles stayed that color for three days and then turned a pale teal in the jar, however the blue sprinkles that were mixed with the other colored sprinkles were still blue after three days.
bring water and red cabbage to a boil
steep the cabbage to create a purple tea
strain the tea and reduce over heat
stir in baking soda to turn the tea blue
For dry colorings, I sift those powders with the powdered sugar first. Reconstitute your powdered egg white with water or use fresh egg whites (measurements are listed in the recipe at the end) and stir that into the sugar. This results in a thick paste that is too stiff to pipe. Start stirring in 1/2 teaspoon of water at a time to thin the icing to a pipeable consistency. If you are using liquid colors, add the liquid color in place of the water until your desired tint is achieved. If the icing is still too thick, switch to adding water instead of the coloring. The final icing should be smooth and not too runny. Make sure to get any lumps out to avoid clogging your piping tip.
whisking raspberry powder into the powdered sugar
reconstitute the powdered egg white with water
whisk until frothy
add the egg white to the powdered sugar-raspberry mixture
whisk until smooth and add more water as needed
a quarter batch of purple icing (blueberry)
Fill a piping bag fitted with a Wilton No. 2 tip. This is a plain tip with a 1.5 millimeter diameter (I just measured it with a bright light source and an 8x magnifier and got a second verification from Jeremy). Pipe straight lines of icing on wax or parchment paper until the icing runs out. Allow the icing to dry for 24 hours or until the lines break cleanly rather than smearing. Gather the dried icing lines together. I find it easiest to lay my knife flat and run it under the icing strips to separate them from the wax paper. It’s okay if they break because you’re going to chop them up anyway.
fill a piping bag with your icing
pipe the icing in straight lines
let the icing dry for 24 hours
chop the icing into pieces
A full batch should fill an 8-ounce jar, but makes about 4 ounces by weight. I made half and quarter batches. The raspberry sprinkles taste the best – they taste like raspberries. The blueberry sprinkles have a more subtle flavor, but still good. The blue and green sprinkles were a bit odd to eat, but you may be able to mask their flavors with some almond, lemon, or peppermint extract if these are intended for people rather than dogs. Overall, I was delighted with the results and positively thrilled to get such a beautiful array of colors from natural food sources. And they gave Yuki’s birthday cake that extra special touch.
pink (raspberry), purple (blueberry), blue (red cabbage and baking soda), and green (parsley)
mix together for rainbow sprinkles
basic recipe for white sprinkles
2 cups (4 oz. or 115g) powdered sugar
1 tsp powdered egg whites*
1 tbsp warm water
more water as needed
1/4 tsp flavoring such as vanilla, lemon, or almond extract (omitted if making for dogs)
pinch of salt (omitted if making for dogs)
*You can use 15g of egg white (about half of an egg white from a large egg) in place of 1 teaspoon of egg white powder and 1 tablespoon of water.
Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white powder and 1 tablespoon of water together until frothy. If using fresh egg white, whisk until frothy. Stir the egg white (reconstituted or fresh) into the powdered sugar. Add more water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until the icing is thick and smooth. It should be thick enough to hold a shape but thin enough to flow and be piped.
Lay a sheet of wax or parchment paper down on a flat work surface. Scrape the icing into a piping bag fitted with a Wilton No. 2 plain piping tip. Because the tip is small, it will clog easily, so be sure that your icing is smooth and without any lumps. Begin piping long straight thin lines of icing on your paper and repeat until you use up the icing. Allow the icing to dry for at least 24 hours.
When the icing is completely dry (it should be brittle and break cleanly versus smearing because it is still wet), lay a sharp knife flat and run it under the icing lines to separate them from the paper. Gather the icing strips together in the same orientation and cut them into small pieces. Store in an airtight container. Makes 4 ounces.
To make pink sprinkles: Crush 1/4 cup of freeze-dried raspberries or freeze-dried strawberries into a powder. Sift the powder through a fine-mesh sieve. This should yield about 2 tablespoons of powder. For a lighter pink, use less of the berry powder. For a darker pink, use the 2 tablespoons of powder. Sift the berry powder and powdered sugar together and proceed with the rest of the recipe.
To make purple sprinkles: Crush 1 cup of fresh blueberries and place in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the berries turn deep violet. Remove from heat. Strain/press through a fine-mesh sieve. You should get about 1/2 cup of thick liquid. Make the basic sprinkles recipe, but instead of using water to thin the icing, use the blueberry liquid until desired color is achieved, then add any additional water to get the right viscosity.
To make green sprinkles: Wash 1 1/2 cups of fresh parsley leaves. Freeze the leaves for 1 hour. Mince or purée the leaves and squeeze as much liquid from the leaves as you can. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve (any little bits of leaves WILL clog up the piping tip). You might get 2 tablespoons of liquid. Stir the parsley liquid into the icing instead of water to thin it. This yields a light green color. It tastes very weird. Dogs won’t care, but humans will. If you are making green sprinkles for human consumption, try using matcha powder instead of parsley and add 1-2 teaspoons to the powdered sugar before sifting (and proceed with the rest of the recipe).
To make blue sprinkles: Place 2 cups of shredded red cabbage in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring the cabbage to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into a vessel and discard the cabbage. Return the liquid to the pan and bring it a boil. Reduce the liquid to 1/4 cup volume. Stir in a pinch of baking soda. The liquid should turn from purple to blue – give it a minute or so if it doesn’t happen right away. If it isn’t blue enough, add a little more baking soda. If you added too much, it will start to turn greenish. To reverse this, add a few drops of white vinegar. Let the liquid cool completely. Use the blue liquid to thin the icing instead of water until you reach the desired shade. I used most of the liquid to get a sky blue color (before that, the icing looked grey), but after an hour I noticed my remaining liquid had turned teal. The sprinkles turned from blue to teal after a couple of days in a sealed jar. For something more stable, you might try butterfly pea powder.
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