Been buying these cakes for years and use them all Winter. The variety of birds that you attract is greatly increased, as some birds do not really go for the dry seed in my tube feeder.
As long as you know the base proportions, to get the consistency right, the rest is very easy. I estimate that you can make your own for half what you would pay for bought cakes, which would be .69 to .99 per cake, plus tax, around here. Most of the ingredients that you buy to make your own cakes from scratch are not taxed in my state, but the pre-prepared ones are taxed at 8.7%, so I have already saved that much by making my own! (You see, the suet cakes are ‘bird food,’ therefore they are taxes at regular sales tax rates, but the actual raw ingredients, except the bought wild bird seed, are ‘people food,’ and are not taxed!)
The ‘grease’ component is either Crisco or lard. Lard is cheaper and the birds love it. The grease component that you use must be hard at room temperature. The other base component is peanut butter. Any kind. I use what I normally have on, Adams Natural Crunchy, but if you are buying it only ‘for the birds,’ buy the cheapest kind in the largest container to get the most for your money.
The recipe below is enough for 5 to 6 suet feeder size cakes. Read the technique all the way through before starting, please.
1 cup shortening or lard (If you eat bacon, save ALL the grease and use it instead of some of the lard or shortening.)
1 cup peanut butter
3 to 4 cups of Flours, cornmeal, oats, etc
3 to 4 cups Dry bird seed mix
Optional: Dried fruit of any kind; raisins, Craisins, etc.
In a metal bowl, slowly melt the shortening or lard on the stove. When it is melted, stir in the peanut butter. You must work quickly at this stage, as it will start to ‘set up’ right away. Have your ingredients all at-hand and at room temperature. This is a good time to clean out those odds and ends of flours and seeds in your pantry that you have not used in a long time. Add, 1/2 to 1 cup each of the following: flour, cornmeal, whole rolled oats, wheat or rye flakes, etc, to total 3 to 4 cups. Now you have a stiff batter. Add 3 to 4 cups of regular bird seed and stir it all up, one cup at a time. Now you have a very stiff batter.
Press the batter into shallow pans that are lined with foil or wax paper. This recipe makes two 6 by 8 pans, full, see photo at left. Make sure the cake is the thickness that will fit into your feeders; about 3/4 inch or less. (If the batter starts to stiffen up too quickly, just return pan to a low stove-top burner and remelt.) Cool, then freeze. Cut to fit in your feeders. I save and reuse the plastic trays that the store-bought cakes come in and use them to refill with this recipe. I also use the bottoms of 1/2 gallon plastic milk jugs and other ‘orphan’ plastic freezer containers cut to fit into the wire feeder cages. Sour cream/large yogurt/cottage cheese containers cut down to 1.5 inch trays also work well. If you use this method and pour the hot mix directly into the plastic trays, you have a more solid cake and it is harder for the birds to break it up. (Starlings and Flickers are adept at this!) If you are lacking these trays, line the back and sides of the feeder with foil, leaving the one ‘feeding face’ open.
’til next time,
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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