We mark our seasons with celebrations and events, planning and enjoying parties, dinners and fancy food. But what about our friendly creatures in the wild? Do the birds at our feeders know that it’s time to celebrate? Here’s your chance to create a wild bird party for your feathered friends with delicious and nutritious snacks. Just think of yourself as the bird caterer!
For this recipe you can use animal lard or a vegetable based oil product such as Crisco. Bear in mind that lard is a lot harder when solidified than Crisco, and will form into cakes easier.
However, vegetable based oils are easier for birds to digest as they are closer to what birds naturally eat. Both can be found in your grocery store. There is also the option of buying ready made bird suet from birding specialty stores, then forming it into your own shapes.
Fancy Bird Cake Recipe
Suet Recipe for the base:
Animal lard or vegetable shortening
- Oats (optional)
- Cornmeal (optional)
- Plastic and metal forms such as muffin tins, cups, etc.
Prepping the suet: To create a solid cake shape you need to mix equal parts lard or shortening with dry ingredients (bird seed, corn meal or oats). Use a food processor to grind the bird seed and oats / cornmeal together into a flour-like substance. This will help your cakes to stay together, while also providing nutrients for the birds!
On very low heat melt the lard or shortening in a large pot. Once it’s liquid, add in an equal amount of the dry ingredient mixture. (When using lard, because it solidifies harder than shortening, you can use less dry mixture and still have the cakes form nicely.)
Creating the cakes: Pour or spoon your liquid suet into muffin tins and other metal or plastic forms. (Get creative! Plastic cups, egg holders, confectionary forms, paper muffin cups etc.) Try to vary the sizes so you can create multi-layered cakes. Place them in the fridge to harden quickly.
To release the hard suet from the forms, run the backs of the pans/cups under super hot water from the tap. Once you can see the edge of the suet has slightly melted (gone shiny) you can turn them over on wax paper and tap them until they pop out. (If they are really stuck, try bending the form slightly to pull away from the suet, or use a sharp knife around the edge).
Building Your Masterpiece!
Decide what platform you want to create the cakes on before creating your masterpieces. Old wood, plates (not your fancy china), terra cotta pot saucers and other bases will hold up well outside. Build your fancy cake by first stacking different sized suet shapes on top of each other.
The “icing” for the cakes is made from straight vegetable shortening such as Crisco. You can use a disposable cake icing bag with fancy tips to make swirls and rosettes. Or, you can also use a plastic freezer bag with one of the corners snipped off (start with a very small hole, as it can always be enlarged). Ice around the base and top of your cake, as well as where different bases are stacked. Get creative, this will make your bird cakes extra fancy!
Decorations for your bird cakes:
- Large bird seed varieties (sunflower seeds etc.)
- Nuts (unroasted, raw, no salt)
Dried fruit (organic, no sugar added)
(cranberries, raisins, apricots, strawberries etc.)
(cranberries, blueberries, apples, oranges etc.)
In the wild birds eat all kinds of seeds, flowers, berries and fruit from trees and bushes. We want to mimic this as much as possible in our cakes so that the birds get a healthy treat. Use organic fruit, nuts and dried fruits. Try to get raw as much as possible, as this is easier for them to digest. Larger nuts and fruit (such as cranberries) will attract bigger birds especially jays and sparrows. You may even get a squirrel joining the party!
Have fun decorating your cakes with a variety of colourful choices! Playing cake decorator for the birds is fun and guilt free (no human calories to worry about!). You can store your cakes in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer for longer periods.