Baking cakes for dogs was not Anna Scala’s initial call into the world of niche desserts. She started with erotic cookies. Her artistic passion drove her to create things that other people would not normally do and Pornolicious Cookies, the short-lived business that preceded Dog Cakes for Dogs, was the creative outlet she had been searching for.
Anna hand painted each cookie and shaped her own cookie cutters to resemble various sexual positions. “It was fun delivering them to parties and seeing people’s reactions,” Anna said. The only problem? It was hard to advertise and even harder to pass out samples.
Anna described the process of coming up with the idea for Dog Cakes for Dogs nearly a decade ago as nothing short of fate. That year, feeling in need of a change, Anna planned to sell her house and move to Upstate New York. In the neighborhood, she stumbled upon a local “barkery,” or dog bakery, that sold everything from dog food to toys and accessories. As Anna spoke with the owner, her eyes were drawn to a tiny, 4-inch cake decorated with dog bones and icing that read “Happy Birthday!” She asked the owner about it, the owner answered that it was a cake.
“For a dog?” Anna asked, slightly amused.
“Yes,” the owner looked at her seriously, “for a dog.”
“It was like a light bulb went off in my head,” Anna said about the experience. “What if that store had been a dry cleaner? I would have still been doing porn cookies.”
Coming from a small family in Brooklyn, Anna’s passion to create was nothing out of the ordinary – her father was a machinist, using machines to shape metal, plastics and ceramics, and her grandfather made motorcycles and bicycles for a living. But taking freelance art jobs designing jewelry and t-shirts while waiting tables in New York City wasn’t exactly the career combination she had imagined when pursuing a fashion illustration degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Nor did she imagine working at a bakery, having never baked a day in her life at the time. But when a coworker suggested she work as a cookie painter in Hell’s Kitchen, the same job she saw listed in the Village Voice a day later, Anna simply took it as a sign.
The job paid $4 a cookie and the designs were beautiful, resembling paintings depicting people conversing or a page of Kay Thompson’s Eloise. Three months later, however, she grew tired of painting the same type of cookie over and over. Quite the fan of the Village Voice, her mind went to a weekly advertisement in the paper for Masturbakers, a business specializing in erotic cakes. Anna contacted the owner and paid her store a visit, located inconspicuously below her husband’s East Village bar and no sign indicating its existence. “I was convinced it didn’t exist,” she said. “I had to ask the mailman where the erotic cakes store was and he knew exactly where to direct me.”
This inspired Anna to create Pornolicious Cookies in order to combine her artistic passion with a unique spin. “At the time, bakers were only doing erotic cakes, so I decided to do the cookies,” she explained.
She worked hard to improve her baking, which she claimed she had no experience in prior to starting the business. “The cookies were beautiful, but they tasted terrible.”
When Anna began Dog Cakes for Dogs, it was like learning to bake all over again. Looking for the perfect combination of ingredients to make dog cakes that were both tasty and safe for dogs to eat, she worked with a food chemist in Wisconsin to create the icing, made of sugar-free yogurt. The cake itself is composed of flour, yogurt, eggs, peanut butter and honey; none of those ingredients contain sugar or preservatives. Although the cake tastes predominantly like peanut butter, Anna doesn’t recommend it for human consumption. “It wouldn’t taste good. The icing especially is very bitter,” she says. “It’s dog cakes for dogs. The owners have options.”
Her best sellers are the hand painted portrait cake, in which she uses food coloring to paint the customer’s dog on a 4- or 6-inch cake, and the “sculptured pup portrait” that looks like a 3-D version of the dog. The latter costs nearly $100 without shipping.
Other products include dog-shaped cupcakes, holiday-themed cakes and Bark-mitzvah cakes shaped like the Star of David. There are also a variety of puppy party packages for up to six dogs that include a cake along with party favors, a candle, hats and plates.
Anna works from a commercial kitchen in New York, which she rents hourly, and ships her cakes to anywhere in the United States. She says the shipping, combined with not having a physical location where customers can pick up the cakes, is the most frustrating part of the job. Anna believes that the problem lies in people being accustomed to immediate “grab n’ go” service. “People will forget about a party and order the cake last minute,” Anna says. “I try to explain that it’ll take a couple of days to get to them because it’s not pre-made, but they just don’t understand the term ‘fresh.’”
Anna finds herself working every day of the week trying to ship orders out as soon as possible with occasional help from a part-time baker. She will sometimes work 14-hour days and bake anywhere between 7 to 25 cakes a day. But Anna emphasizes that, no matter how long the workday is, she will never get tired of illustrating these dogs. “The hand-painted cakes are my proudest accomplishment. When it starts coming to life and you see details like eyelashes and pupils, that’s my favorite thing.”
Dog Cakes for Dogs continues to grow each year, with loyal customers and Instagram-famous dogs in the mix. Last year, Anna baked a hand-painted birthday cake for Tuna, an unusually cute chiweenie with an impressive overbite who has over 2 million followers on Instagram. Anna’s loyal following can be attributed to her dedication to fulfilling the customer’s every request, no matter how ridiculous. One customer requested a Bewitched-themed cake that displayed her Dachshund wearing a witch’s hat and flying over the skyline on a broomstick with the phrase “Happy Birthday, Witchy Bitch” written on the side.
“Anna is an amazing artist who applies her creative talent to create the most beautiful and tasty dog cakes,” says Lauren Capra, who has ordered birthday cakes for her two elderly dogs, Scottie and Sadie, for the past five years. Since Sadie’s 13th birthday is in December, Lauren will be placing yet another order for Anna’s hand painted portrait cake. “Her cakes are good for dogs of all life stages.”
However, possibly Anna’s biggest fan isn’t even a customer – her chiweenie, Dash, waits excitedly by the door when her owner arrives from work, hoping to get the scraps of the day. “She’s a bitch of a dog,” Anna says. “But she’s definitely on her best behavior when I get back from work.”
With so many customers flooding her inbox with pictures of happy dogs next to their look-alike cakes, it’s often hard for Anna not to get attached, especially if they are regulars. Since a large majority of her customers have older dogs, it can be painful to find out that they have passed away. “You feel an attachment. It makes me cry every time I hear that one of the dogs has passed away, even though I’ve never met them or the owner.”
Once in a while, Anna will receive a call that’s a little different from the rest. She will answer with her usual “Hello, Dog Cakes for Dogs,” but the other line will be awkward and slightly confused. “Oh, I must have the wrong number.” Anna’s phone number is still listed in a Time Out article for Best Erotic Treats in NYC.
“I’ll say, ‘cookies?’ and that’s usually what it is. It doesn’t happen too often, but it happens,” she explains. “Sometimes I’ll do them for fun.”