When Carin Hilgeman’s beloved dog Ace was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2006, she decided to honor him with a farewell party, inviting 22 of his closest dog friends and their owners. The idea for her dog-friendly company, Ace’s Cakes, was born after she unsuccessfully searched for a locally made cake that Ace could enjoy at the event. Hilgeman ended up creating her own recipe that included flour, eggs, carob, and plain yogurt; the cake was a big hit with the four-legged party goers and led to a line of specialty products. Hilgeman, who grew up in Durham before coming to Chico, also makes and sells “Abby Dolls,” a cuddly corduroy dog toy named after one of the other dogs from her past. Ace’s Cakes products are currently sold at pet boutiques around Chico and can be custom ordered from Hilgeman’s Web site at www.acescakes.com.
How did you learn to make your cakes?
I did a lot of research for a month-long period. There were a lot of tests and rejects, and the first ones were a little ugly. I try to get the same spongy texture of a regular cake and use a frosting drizzle.
Are dog parties a lot of fun?
I would totally recommend hosting a dog party. We just had one for two bull mastiffs with a dog bone piñata and raffle prizes. There were 15 dogs that attended; it’s chaotic but fun. I think some people choose not to have kids and their dogs are their babies.
Tell me about your dogs.
Ace was a Springer spaniel and was the first dog I really had on my own. When he died, I started making cakes so that his spirit would live on. I also had a lab, Abby, and a miniature poodle who just passed away last fall.
Are you planning on getting another dog?
I went through severe withdrawals. I just got a 1-1/2-year-old Australian cattle dog from a rescue program in February. I see a lot of my other dogs in him.
Do you ever experiment with flavors for your cakes?
All of the products use human-grade ingredients. I started with carob because it smells like chocolate but it’s totally safe for dogs. I developed the peanut butter blueberry biscuit because they have antioxidants that help dogs fight cancer.
Is there a lot of demand for your cakes?
I bake one to two cakes a month, and that’s really all from word-of-mouth advertising. There’s somebody in town who buys the biscuits and ships them to New Mexico.