No Melt Suet Cakes For Birds
If you’ve followed my blog for a while you may know that almost every winter I share some new homemade birdseed cake recipe that I’m trying. And in most of the pictures (like my homemade birdseed bells) you’ll be able to see it’s usually snowy and cold when I put them outdoors too. But that’s prompted readers to often send me questions saying things like, “I live where it’s kind of warm, are these bird cakes going to melt??”
And I usually I have no good answer for them and say something vague like “Ummm, probably . . . I’m not sure . . . . I always hang my bird cakes out in the winter when it’s freezing up here in Michigan . . . I’ve never tried it in warm weather.” Yeah, I know, that’s a really unhelpful answer.
So I decided it was time to finally learn more about this question and to try a no-melt suet cake recipe for the birds so that I could have an option for summer weather and could share it with all of you living in warmer places too.
How Do You Make Suet That Doesn’t Melt?
I’ve had a recipe bookmarked for a while now that I’ve wanted to try. It’s in an older book I have called Ortho’s All About Attracting Birds and the recipe was titled No Melt Peanut Butter Suet. The recipe had some familiar ingredients (like lard) but was also missing some familiar ingredients (no birdseed!)
But once I stirred the recipe together I could see how they were making suet that doesn’t melt. They were basically making suet dough. Rather than birdseed being held together by a solidified fat which is the case with many homemade bird cakes, this strategy is to make a crumbly type of dough, let it harden up a bit in the refrigerator, and then put it out for the birds. In the sun or the heat it can get softer, but it doesn’t have enough solidified fat to liquefy and melt away.
Mixing Together DIY Suet Cakes
When I mixed together this no melt suet recipe I used the same method as I use for my other cakes. I first combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, and then add any softer ingredients, and finish by pouring the melted lard over the top. For this recipe the dry ingredients are oats, cornmeal, flour, and a bit of sugar (which provides helpful calories for the birds). Then some chunky peanut butter is used along with some melted lard.
When all these ingredients are mixed together you will have a crumbly dough-like mixture.
The method I liked best for forming this dough into cakes was to use the recycled plastic container from store bought birdseed cakes. Some other square shaped container to use for a mold would work too such as plastic sandwich-size storage containers. I had better luck molding the cakes individually than putting the whole batch of dough in a pan and cutting it into blocks as the cakes wanted to crumble apart when I cut them.
BUT – the good news is I discovered that if the cakes crumble apart, it’s easy to just start over! You can just press the dough back into a mold again, let it harden a bit in the refrigerator, and you’re back in business.
So now when folks ask me about birdseed cakes melting, I think I’m ready with an answer. If the recipe is primarily held together with solidified fat, then it will probably melt if it hangs out in warm temperatures and direct sunlight. However if the recipe is primarily a dough, then I think it will be OK.
If you like to make your own suet cakes for the birds too but live where it’s warm, perhaps this recipe can be a creative solution and give you a way to provide the birdies with some homemade goodness.
Here’s how to do it:
No Melt Suet Cakes For Birds
- 2 cups Quick Cooking Oats
- 2 cups Cornmeal
- 1 cup Flour
- 1/3 cup White Sugar
- 1 cup Chunky Peanut Butter
- 1 cup Lard
- Combine the oats, cornmeal, flour, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the peanut butter on top of the dry ingredients.
- Melt the lard in a microwave safe container (I use my glass measuring cup). It should take about 30 to 45 seconds to melt the lard. (I usually stop microwaving before it's totally melted and just stir it to melt the last remaining bits).
- Pour the melted lard over the ingredients in the mixing bowl and stir to combine everything together.
- Press the mixture into individual molds (Recycled containers from store bought bird cakes work well). Put the molds into the refrigerator to harden a bit more. This recipe makes about four suet cakes.
- Once hardened the cakes can be removed from the molds and put into suet cage containers outdoors for the birds to enjoy.
You may also like to read:
- Where To Find Lard In The Grocery Store
- Homemade Birdseed Bells
- Homemade Birdseed Cakes (4 Cake Size Batch)
This is an interesting way to make suet cakes for birds where the weather may be a bit too warm at times for the lard-based ones to hold together! BUT, leave the sugar out. They don’t need it and its not good for them. As for calories, the peanut butt offers LOTS of calories plus protein.
Thank you for the recipe, I’ve been wondering how the birdseed Bell was made. Thank you again for saving me some money in the future.
Thanks for posting this. I’ll give it a try, using sandwich-size plastic slide -lock bags instead of cans, and forming patty-cake burgers before freezing. My Dutch heritage ($)) keeps me from using gelatin, which probably does not earn a spot in the lineup, with its total lack of nutrition.
I doubled the recipe, added cracked corn, sunflower seeds, raisins, dried berries and 1/2 cup of cayenne pepper and got 10 full size squares! It looked good enough to eat!!! Good thing I added the cracked corn and shell intact, sunflower seeds!! It was fun to make and hopefully they will attract some feathered friends.. 🤓 but so far, the birds are hitting the store bought junk that is hung directly above it 🧐. Just like the family, no one appreciates a home cooked meal apparently…
How do I make it spicy hot, so squirrels do not eat it?
Add a lot of cayenne to your mixture. I don’t have a specific amount but I add about 1/4 cup to my mix. If the squirrels still eat it , next time add more.
When making suet cakes, I use fat from cooked meat (instead of lard or Crisco); beef is especially good, as it hardens well & does not melt if the temperature rises. Dried mealworms are a tasty addition (for the birds, not me!), & will attract a wider variety of birds, including (here in Southeast PA) Carolina Wrens, Nuthatches, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, & several types of Woodpecker. A feast for the eyes!
Can you suggest a way to transform store bought suet blocks of to a spreadable form. My neighbor gave me a bunch. Thanks
I think to do that you would have to put a cake in the microwave to soften it first. Then I think you would need to add additional peanut butter and/or lard to make them softer. Many spreadable suets (often known as bark butter) have some flour or cornmeal in them too, so you may want to try adding that ingredient as well to see if you can end up with some kind of a soft crumbly dough when you done that is spreadable.
I used shortening (Crisco) instead of lard, as well as the peanut butter and other ingredients you added. I have not noted a problem, though some softening when temps went up to 70 deg on one day. Are there any problems that I should be aware of from using shortening instead of Lard?
I think the crisco is OK to substitute as they harden up the same way. Lard is often used as it is thought to be more attractive to birds.
I live in very hot weather in summer. I add my crunchy peanut butter to my 1 and 1/2 cups lard to melt together. I add to dry ingredients after it’s melted. I add dried fruit chopped or raisins and bird food at last minute. Place into my containers and press down to flatten it. Place in fridge for an hour. I then put mine in foil for freezer until needed. The extra half cup of lard keeps it from being crumbly.
I made this recipe today but I did add bird seeds and pecans. It was quite easy and can’t wait to see if it doesn’t melt (as I live in warm weather country) and if my birds will like it. Will get back to you. 🙃
I use a nonstick loaf pan for my 2-suet cake recipe and the shape turns out as perfect as store bought!