This past week, August 26th to be exact, my dog-son Dumpling turned 15 years old, almost 100 years old in human-years.

For small breeds such as the Maltese that he is, this may not be the most ground-shaking news, probably not even rare, but for my Dumpling, it is nothing less than a medical miracle.  About a year and a half ago, shortly after the departure of our Frenchie Bado (here’s a short bio on the family, so far), Dumpling was rushed to the hospital after fainting in my arms with a screeching cry, where we were told that he was developing a severe case of congestive heart failure.  It was ironic… really, for a borderline sociopathic dog loathed by almost everyone outside of his immediate families, to end up with a condition where his tiny angry heart, unstoppable and irreversibly, grew larger and larger by the day.  But unlike his fictional twin, the Grinch, who is the sole clinical case to have benefited from this medical illness, for my Dumpling, what this actually meant was that… Christmas was really fucked.


The condition crippled his kidney, flooded his lungs with fluids, depriving his body of much needed oxygens and sending a previously active-if-not-hostile senior dog into a state of chronic fatigues and coughing.  Then, the combatting medications, as if charging him for a toll for keeping him alive so far, have also distablized his digestive system and robbed him of the very few joys of living he still had… aka, honeydew melon and over-ripen persimmons.  As for me, his mom/slave-nurse, the following 20 months staggering with hospital visits, endless cycles of pills, roller-coastering anxieties and virtually total loss of freedom, was undoubtedly, the unhappiest time of my life.  I don’t like to talk about it too often.  I’m not sure how.  To wake up in the middle of nights, conflicted, not knowing if it was good or bad to see his little chest still moving up and down in darkness, is an emotion that I don’t know if you could understand.

I know there are people, many actually, who express disdain at the comparison between dogs and children.  Saying, they just aren’t the same.  Well, I agree.  This kind of love isn’t coded in genetics, isn’t withheld by future hopes and prospects.  It isn’t even a continuation of my existence, a glorified saying for animal’s instinct to procreate.  I am guaranteed with nothing from this love except for an expiration date and one certain heart-break, a deal-breaking condition well within reasons for many human-relationships, even parental ones.  It is, to me, truly unconditional, and an even more special kind of love.

So, for his b-day, I baked a cake.  And you know how I hate baking.  But I baked a cake.  For my wrinkly son.

It may very well be… the last time that I could have.  So I’m making it count.

It was a 3-tiered meatloaf “cake” designed with 63% good proteins like lean beef, chicken and egg, with 15% vegetables and 15% rice and oatmeals, and fortified with skin-friendly safflower oil, and a dash of toasted sesame oil to make it smell really good.  Then it was “frosted” with a creamy layer of lightly buttered mashed potato, delivering essential vitamins and minerals.   Despite what you may be thinking, it was, actually, extremely easy to make.  About 1:30 hours in the kitchen, maximumly 2 from start to finish.  If seeing your dog’s nose twitch and wiggle in ecstasy and his saliva forming a large bubble on the side of his mouth, isn’t worth this kind of time on your hands.  Then maybe, we’re just no the same people.

Then maybe, you can’t understand.








Yield: One 5 1/2" (18 cm) cake


  • 1 cup (75 grams) diced broccoli
  • 1/4 cup (40 rams) diced carrot
  • 1 shallot, peeled (PLEASE READ NOTE)
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed (PLEASE READ NOTE)
  • 9.2 oz (260 grams) skinless/boneless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
  • 9.2 oz (260 grams) lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup (86 grams) cooked white rice
  • 3/4 cup (82 grams) quick-cooking oats
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tbsp (20 grams) safflower oil, or flaxseed oil
  • 1 tbsp (14 grams) toasted sesame oil
  • 2 large (580 grams after peel) starchy potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 3 tbsp (42 grams) unsalted butter


  1. TO MAKE THE MEATLOAF CAKE: Preheat the oven on 350 F/175 C. In a food-processor, pulse and run broccoli, carrot, shallot and garlic until finely minced, then set aside in another bowl. Add the skinless/boneless chicken thighs to the food-processor, and pulse/run until it's evenly and smoothly ground and sticky (you may have to scrape the sides and bottom a couple times). Now add the ground beef and cooked white rice, then run the processor again for about 1 min until the mixture is paste-like and sticky again. This step strengthens the bondage between protein and water, reducing the amount of moisture the "cake" will lose during baking. Now add the quick-cooking oat and the large egg, and run for another min for the same effect. Then add the safflower oil (or flaxseed oil) and toasted sesame oil, and run for another min. Now add the minced vegetables back to the food-processor, and pulse until evenly combined.
  2. Line a 5 1/2" (18 cm) round cake-pan with parchment, then transfer the mixture inside, pressing it down gently and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 45 ~ 50 min an inserted wooden skewer comes out clean (or until the internal temperature reaches 160 F/71 C). Remove from the pan and set aside on a cooling rack for 30 min, or until cool enough to handle.
  3. TO MAKE THE POTATO "FROSTING": While the cake is baking, make the "frosting". In a large pot, add enough cold water until it covers the diced potatoes, then bring to a gentle boil, and cook until a pairing knife can be easily inserted into the potatoes, approx 10~15 min. Drain the potatoes and return to the hot pot for 10 min so excess moisture can evaporate. Transfer to a cleaned food-processor along with unsalted butter, then pulse/run until the potatoes are smoothly pureed. The food-processor will make the mashed potato a bit sticky and gummy, which is exactly the kind of support we want for the cake as a frosting. And guess what, dogs don't care about gumminess.
  4. TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: With a long serrated knife, cut the meatloaf-cake horizontally into 3 layers. Smear a thin layer of potato-frosting in between each meatloaf-layers, then stack them up. Then cover the exterior surface evenly with the rest of the potato-frosting. It can be as rustic or as refined as you like. If you want a smooth surface like this one, you can lightly oil the surface of a butter knife, then gently drag it across the surface to smooth it (apply more oil to the knife as needed). Decorate the cake with chive flowers like I did, or with doggy biscuits and whatever your dog loves. Then don't torture your dogs any further. Let them have at it immediately.


Because of my dog's special health condition, I've eliminated salt and organs from the recipe. But for perfectly healthy dogs, you can add a pinch of salt and a couple of chicken livers to the meatloaf mixture.

I changed the shallot and garlic as "optional" because dogs aren't supposed to eat them. But it does help with Dumpling's appetite and at this stage there's no point making something perfectly healthy that he doesn't want to eat. So I decided to add them, but for normal situations, please omit them.




    • Thanks for the very poetic (even if you didn’t intend for it to be) expression of love between humans and animals. What more explanation do we need for love? Love IS love and anyone who can’t grasp the profundity of that hasn’t experienced it, perhaps. Your dogs are so lucky to have a doting mom who makes scrumptious food for them! take a bow– and thanks again for expressing what many of us have been lucky to feel.

  • how lucky dumpling is to have such a feast on his birthday and lots of love/care! I hope things get easier for you and Dumpling, and his health improves. this is such a great gesture, recipe, and post. I never thought of the unconditional nature / lack of biological purpose of love for dogs until now, and it’s really heartwarming.

  • Happy big 15th to Dumpling! The love we share for our furry companions needs no explanation. I will definitely be making this for my senior Great Dane this month. Thank you for sharing.

  • I am sorry to hear about your Dumpling. I think he is so very lucky to have you as his mom for the past 15 years. I love your humors and witty sarcasm.
    and your scrumptious recipes. Hope he will recover for your shake and his.


  • This is amazing! I love finding treats to spoil my pup with. And, having grown up with dogs, I totally understand your story — there is nothing more heartbreaking than having to see your fur baby suffer and feeling helpless. So lovely that you get to celebrate Dumpling’s 15th! My pug’s birthday just passed, but I’m thinking this could be great for Thanksgiving since our dinner’s tend to be too rich for a dog’s belly. Thanks for sharing! I love your human recipes, so I’m sure this will be great too!

  • It’s so heartwarming to read about how much you love your pups, thank you for sharing this. Happy Birthday to Dumpling!
    My German Shepherd and my husband’s Shepherd mix are going to love this cake on their birthdays :)

  • Hey Mandy,
    Happy 15 to Dumpling! I’m glad to hear that he is still with us. I was worried after one of your recent posts mentioning a heart attack. I totally agree with you about dogs. Never having had children, I understand dogs a lot better and prefer them to humans, in general. What a great treat for Dumpling (and Shrimpy)! The cake really looks beautiful and I’m sure they loved it.

  • Mandy..This is the first time I’m commenting though I love love love your writing and your blog..Its my dog’s birthday today! He’s a great dane and he turned 8 today! Happy birthday to Dumpling too!! Just one thing..My vet specifically advised me to not feed garlic or onion to my dog..Pls check if its ok with yours..Wishing you and yours only the best always..

    • SJ DC, yes dogs shouldn’t eat onions and garlics in large quantity, but it’s totally fine in small quantity like this. One small shallot and garlic spread out into the entire cake adds flavours but the actual intake for every serving is actually very little :)

      • Thanks Mandy..I’m kind of a basketcase when it comes to my I eliminated them altogetther!! Hope Dumpling’s health stays strong

  • You puppies are so cute! My sibling is relocating to France and I cannot wait to adopt her two schnauzers when I return to China from US. My parents also have a fluffy samoyed at home. The only thing that bugs me is the internet there.. how do you manage to run your blog in China? Thank you!!

    • Huey, the internet sucks yes. you’ll definitely need a VPN to get through the firewall. but around sensitive times like this week (a military parade), even VPN doesn’t work… so…. be mentally ready

  • I just broke down into a sobbing mess after reading your eloquent words about the love you have for your dogs. I have a similar situation right now with two aging dogs; a Maltese with heart troubles and a Yorkie with kidney failure. It’s been a heart wrenching experience to say the very least but I’ve tried to take some comfort in all the years they’ve brought me happiness, companionship and unconditional love. Best wishes and happiest of birthdays to your little Dumpling. <3

  • Oh my god. This is a magnificent idea!!! This post is bringing tears to my eyes. I have such a soft spot for dogs, they are just the best creatures. Happy birthday to your doggie, he is so lucky to have a mama who made him such a big ass dogfood cake <3

  • just simply lovely. dumpling is so very lucky, as well as his brother/sister who just doesn’t care but is so very happy and fortunate to share in the love. I love your blog and every once in a while do one of your very ambitious recipes. don’t stop

  • This is amazing! I completely understand your love for your dog and it totally made me smile when I read that line =) He is the luckiest dog to have a mommy like you! Happy birthday to your little Dumpling!!

  • This touched my heart, Mandy — big hugs to you and to Dumpling for being such troopers. (And to Shrimpie, because I love him and his little face cracks me up every time.) Happiest of birthdays to Dumpling and thank you for sharing this with us. It’s the most gorgeous doggy cake I’ve ever seen!

  • Thank you so much for sharing, and Happy Birthday to Dumpling. I have a ten years old Welsh Terrier. He has kidney problem and has to be put on a low-protein diet. I can totally understand, and yes, we are the same people.

  • I love it! Happy Birthday to Dumpling! 100 years is a lot… I wonder if he realises just how lucky his is that his Mum baked him a meatloaf cake. And that he and his brother are now famous worldwide ;)

  • Oh my! Happy birthday to your pup. I have a 16 year old cocker spaniel and he was diagnosed with renal failure last year and it’s been a roller coaster ride of emotions for us. He’s on a restricted diet but we do try to incorporate home cooked meals for him. I think this cake is wonderful – we make super simple sweet potato cakes for our dog for his birthday :)

  • I am thinking of making this into meatballs and baking, and using as special meals. Just omit the oatmeal and used diced sweet potato.

  • Okay, that’s it. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, thinking that it just might be the best thing on the internet, and its author the craziest/cleverest, and this post has just gone and confirmed all my suspicions. Love it.

  • To Dumpling’s health and happiness!
    To a very special kind of love!
    To my very own kitty soulmate who’s already in kitty heaven after 13 short years on this earth(only 7 glorious years with me, I adopted her from a rescue)!

  • Thank you for the beautifully sweet story of Dumpling’s 15th birthday. You’re a fantastic dog mom for making him such a delicious treat–and I’d be fooling myself if I didn’t come out and admit that I may be craving a salty version of this cake for humans.

  • You’re writing is always absolutely entertaining to read. The meatloaf looks wonderful! I’m sure Dumpling enjoyed it very much!

  • This is amazing! I’m bookmarking it in the hopes we get to next February (our pup just got hit with a cancer diagnosis) because this is the best doggy birthday cake I can imagine. Really great photos here, too. Thanks for sharing!

  • Mandy, I had wanted to look up the recipe, but ended up sniffing and crying at your words. And it’s 10.05 am at my work desk :( I hope Dumpling had the best 15th birthday XD

    • Jessica, for such a tiny dog like Dumpling, it was more than enough for 1 weeks of supply. But we do have another bigger, medium-size dog Shrimpy, so it didn’t last that long :)

  • I noticed ingredients in your cake that dogs shouldn’t have such as garlic….white potatoes…..

  • So many people don’t understand how much a person can love a DOG (or even a cat!) but having grown up with them… Well, tears in my eyes reading this and the post (tea & honey cake) that had me seeking this one out. I don’t have a dog as I’m out all day at work, but I so miss my sister’s dog, Ben, who I used to holiday-sit and also borrow for weekends. Ben died 10 years ago, aged 12 – a good age for a lab-collie cross – and I *still* say goodnight to him, his picture is the wallpaper on my phone, and I have two photos of him on my sitting room wall.

    So I totally get it! Dogs just give unconditional love and don’t ask for much in return.

    Love your writing and recipes. Please don’t stop!

    Very best wishes,


    • Lori, it’s true if in large quantity, but in this amount. A tiny bit really helps with their appetite and in such situation, I have to weight my priorities. But you can certainly omit it if you want.

  • Love this cake, how it looks, how it must taste, I am thinking to make it and share with my dog. Sadly I don’t eat meat, but will make it to let her enjoy it!
    I do have a question, how do you keep this cake? In the fridge? Do you frozen by pieces? I see the ingredients are similar to my dog normal diet, so would you say this cake would be a good substitute for a normal meal?

    • Isabel, you can refrigerate the cake if you’ll finish in 3 to 4 days. Otherwise, I would freeze by pieces :). The cake can be a part of a normal diet, but your dog will still need extra nutritional vitamins and minerals!

  • My lucky little man had this cake for his birthday dinner tonight and he is so blissed out and food coma-y that he can barely keep his eyes open or his head up. I halved the recipe for my only-child Pom but he’s already finished nearly 1/8th of the cake. Homemade pet food seems daunting but it really was as easy and worth it as you said. I can’t wait to try out your chickpea meatball recipe.
    Thanks, Mandy. My little walking cottonball thanks you, too. :)

  • This is such a beautiful way to celebrate the lives of our furry loved ones. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe and heartfelt story with all of us. I’d like to take a moment to share some important info with your readers. Shallots or any kind of onion is poisonous to dogs. It causes their red blood cells to rupture. While I understand that it’s stated that small quantities won’t hurt, and I can appreciate that letting a dog lick a plate with some spaghetti sauce made with onions won’t kill them, it really boils down to whether or not we would want to give them something that can be so damaging. Any amount will cause blood cell rupture, so I’d encourage any reader to eliminate them from the recipe. Other than that, I’ll be using this one for my furbabies soon! Thank you!

    • Foxulla, thanks for your concern. I have stated in the recipe that this is a special situation where the small amount of garlic (which is too little to cause problems) helps with my dog’s appetite, especially at the end of his life.

  • Hey Mandy – did you eat this cake? How does it taste?

    My fiance doesn’t want a cake for his birthday but a meatloaf cake pique his fancy! Is it suitable for a human too? ;)

    • Ze, oh no your husband would not find this cake tasty! It doesn’t have much salt because it’s for dogs and flavor-wise would be weird. But you use the same technique with a human meatloaf recipe and thick mashed potato if you want a meatloaf bday cake :)

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