More and more restaurants and cafés are opening their doors to canine customers and Derby even has a fancy bakery exclusively for dogs.
Taste Derbyshire’s Amanda Volley went along with her naughty pup Eddie to find out what would happen if you put a Jack Russell in a bakery.
My Jack Russell, Eddie, is typical of his breed in that he lacks any kind of self-control around food.
I say ‘food’ but some of the snacks he has enjoyed between meals include a clump of squirrel fur, an empty cake box, rabbit droppings and a hair bobble. Moreover, he has no qualms about stealing from shopping bags, picnic mats and the hands of old ladies trying to feed bread to birds. Which explains my trepidation when Eddie and I were invited to sample the culinary delights on offer at Ruffles; an upper-crust bakery on London Road, Alvaston, catering exclusively for dogs. Never mind sugarplums, I had visions of compensation claims dancing through my head.
Owner Donna Wakeman, (54), was confident the quality of her bakes would be enough to turn Eddie from a treat-seeking missile into a perfectly behaved pooch worthy of top-notch nibbles. “I’ve never had a problem with a badly-behaved dog,” Donna smiles as she puts a selection of deliciously decorated gourmet bakes onto her counter. “I organise private parties which means all the dogs tend to know each other and we can just lock the door, let them off the lead and everyone can relax. Most dogs are a bit nervous in a new environment but yours seems lovely.”
Remarkably, she is right. Subdued by the promise of free samples, Eddie looks ready to take his place in polite café society as Donna talks us through her morning’s baking. “The biscuits are made from healthy ingredients like wholemeal wheat flour, oats, and organic smooth peanut butter,” she says popping the odd morsel into the mouth of my canine companion. “They’re decorated with dog-friendly white chocolate or Carob and I only use natural colourings – the gold is turmeric which is great for doggies with arthritis and the pink is beetroot powder which tastes just like strawberry. They are delicious with no hidden nasties. The only things I ever add are natural ingredients like fresh herbs and grated carrot.”
As Eddie casts an approving eye over the delightfully decorated ice cream cones, cup-cakes and DogNuts (dog-friendly doughnuts), Donna explains why she began baking for dogs. “I started making homemade treats because my rescue dog Alfie, now four, was such a fussy eater,” explains Donna, of Boulton Moor. “We were trying to train him with supermarket treats but he’d either ignore them or go and bury them. I found lots of dog treats recipes on the internet but it took three months of trial, error and tweaking to get one Alfie loved.”
It wasn’t just Alfie who turned somersaults for the snacks. “My friend’s dogs liked them so much, they started putting in orders and it just snowballed from there,” she laughs.“I’m a web-designer so I decided to launch an on-line business. The bakery’s name was inspired by a visit to Raffles Hotel in Singapore. My logo is a dog in a top hat, monocle and bow tie and people love it so much, I’m thinking about putting it on a range of accessories like feeding bowls.”
The on-line bakery business was so successful, Donna soon out-grew her home kitchen.
“When I moved here in July 2018, I was attracted by the large kitchen and I knew the position on a busy, main road into Derby was useful for advertising to potential customers,” Donna says. “Last Christmas, they were queuing out the door. One chap, who was just working in the area, came in and bought ten doggie hampers which included treats shaped like fir trees, turkeys and puddings. This month (February) I’ll be making lots of love hearts for Valentines.”
There’s room in the bakery for doggy toys and accessories (Eddie was excited to find dog-friendly Prosecco ‘Pawsecco’ and beer on the shelves) and an enormous table for all the doggie events.
“I love catering for afternoon teas and birthday parties. I’ll make dog- friendly sandwiches like peanut butter and cream cheese and serve them from a tiered cake stand,” says Donna.“The selection will include biscuits like the bourbons and custard creams, eclairs, cup-cakes and DogNuts. The owners often bring hats and I play doggie themed music and I always make a special cake for the day.”
Donna is understandably proud of her occasion cakes and gives me a sneak preview of one smothered in pink frosting which she’s made for a lucky pup called Luna.
“The cakes are made from self-raising wholemeal flour, my homemade apple puree, peanut butter and grated carrot,” she explains.“They are made fresh to order and, if kept in the fridge, they should last up to ten days. Not that I’ve heard a dog ever taking that long to eat one.”
As if on cue, we are joined by loyal customer Ella Conway who is at the bakery to buy special goodies for her pet chihuahuas Alfie and Ziggy.
“They love coming to Ruffles. If I even mention the name, they start barking and run to the door,” laughs Ella Conway (20), of Shelton Lock. “You can’t buy anything like this at the pet stores. Donna even makes spongy treats for Alfie as he’s eleven now and only has a few teeth. Donna sells fish and chip and pizza shaped biscuits so we can all have a take-away night.”
In the long-term Donna would love to branch out into offering franchises as she’d love to see a Ruffles Dog Bakery in places up and down the country. For now, she is content with fulfilling her many orders, hosting canine celebrations and developing new lines including a dog-friendly cocktail called ‘Singa-paw Sling”.
“I do have people who think the idea of a dog bakery is a little crazy or that you shouldn’t have dogs in cafes but it’s each to their own,” she smiles. “Times have changed and dogs are part of our families and, just like with our children, it’s nice to spoil and surprise them. The success of Ruffles shows that a lot of people agree. The proof is in the pudding.”
N.B. I left the bakery with a paper-bag of goodies for Eddie to enjoy for ‘elevenses’ the following day. In his desperation to gobble up every last crumb, he took out a chunk of my best rug. I think that’s the canine equivalent of a five-star review.
Ruffles Dog Bakery, 1204, London Road, Alvaston DE24 8QL