Give your neighborhood birds some Valentine love—right from your kitchen! Fight the winter blues and try these fun ideas for homemade suet cakes.
I used three fats to make my cakes. Suet, or beef fat, can be found at the grocery store (only about three dollars for a big ‘ole chunk). The fat must be rendered slowly (melted down) on low heat, then strain through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth. If you want to go vegan, use coconut oil and/or peanut butter. Just melt your solid coconut oil in the jar in the microwave.
You’ll also need mix-ins—I used black oil sunflower seeds, chicken scratch, and unshelled peanuts meant for wildlife (no salt). If you shop in bulk, you can just buy the amount you think you need. A pound of each is plenty, and you’ll have leftovers. Other good fillers include old-fashioned rolled oats, flour, and nuts. Edible dried flowers add beauty, scent, and flavor. Just make sure any floral ingredients are edible and pesticide-free. (I really wanted to use edible glitter too, but decided to save it for the rim of my cocktail glass…)
The best part is making the cakes pretty! You can use anything for molds: cookie cutters, muffin tins… I formed molds out of a lightweight cardboard shirt box and whoopie pie tins (never once used to make whoopie pies). You can also just roll the mixture into balls and string them together. There are endless possibilities!
Now to glitter my martini glass, sit by the window, and feast my eyes on some sweet lovebirds!
- 1 cup rendered suet (beef fat)
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 2 cups oats
- 1/2 cup flour, unbleached wheat (or all-purpose, if that’s what you have)
- 1 cup finely chopped nuts
- 1 cup chicken scratch or cracked corn
Using low heat, stir peanut butter into melted fat to make one mixture. In another bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Add the slightly cooled fat mixture to the bowl of dry mixture and mix thoroughly.
The mixture should not be too wet, so add more oats or dried flowers if needed. (I added a cup of dried chamomile to one batch and dried rose petals and black oil sunflower seeds to another.)
The mixture should be thick enough to pat into molds, but not too thick—there needs to be enough fat so it holds together when it solidifies. Stand cut drinking straws up in the molds to make holes for hanging. Once you fill your molds, you can decorate the top with orange peel, lavender, Craisins, etc. If you use cookie cutters or bottomless molds, some fat may seep out of the bottom; just trim it later. Put your filled molds in the freezer; take them out after an hour, add ribbon or twine, and hang them in your trees. Keep a stash frozen so you can replace them as they are eaten.
BIRDSEED WHOOPIE PIES
- Black oil sunflower seeds
- Chicken scratch/cracked corn
- Chopped nuts
- Edible dried flowers (lavender, roses, jasmine, chamomile, and marigolds are all options)
- Peanut butter
- Coconut oil (use the solid, white version)
- Thick orange slices
Fill your whoopie pie pan (or muffin tins filled halfway) with any combination of birdseed and other ingredients. Carefully melt coconut oil in microwave, stir as you go, then fill tins so seed is covered. Put tins in freezer. Once solid, pop them out (if you’re having trouble, run the bottom of tin under warm water, but don’t get cakes wet or they may start to dissolve). Slather peanut butter on flat sides of cakes. Place a thick slice of orange on one cake and top with another cake. Once you have your “pie” assembled, sprinkle dried flowers on the edges where the peanut butter is still wet (so pretty!). Pop them back in the freezer. When they are set, take them out, tie them with ribbon, and hang from a branch.
- Choice or combination of birdseed suet mixture
- Empty liter bottle
Combined any leftover suet mixture and press it into a stainless steel bowl. (For fun, I left a hole for a “window.”) Then, I filled a liter bottle with water (with the top cut off) to make the “stem” of the mushroom. I added layers of seed and some dried flowers, freezing it at intervals to prevent everything from floating to the top. Once frozen, released the seed top from the bowl, cut the bottle off the “stem,” and set the mushroom cap onto the stem. If you made a “window,” you can edge it with peanuts!