Beaverton Bird Watch: DIY Suet Cakes for Birds

By Anne Harrisbrg_logo_stacked

Uh-Oh.

In spite of coupons from the Beaverton stores that carry them and my affection for our avian diners, I ran out of suet cakes recently. Fortunately, I’d heard they can be made at home using pantry staples most people already have. A little research taught me a lot.

A perfectly suitable suet cake requires just three ingredients, fat, protein and grain, in a ratio of one part rendered beef fat, one part chunky peanut butter, two parts instant oatmeal and two parts yellow cornmeal. Other nutritious odds and ends like fruit, nuts, vegetables, seeds, and even cheese may be added unless they’re so far gone you wouldn’t eat them yourself.

Warm the fat and peanut butter in a saucepan, stir in the other ingredients gradually, knead well, press the “dough” into a container and freeze until firm.

  • Tip #1: The plastic trays from store-bought suet cakes hold one cup.
  • Tip #2: Coat your hands with non-stick cooking spray before kneading.
  • Note: Sodium and preservatives make bacon fat a poor choice. Beef is better. Drippings and skimmed fat are ready to use and will keep in the freezer indefinitely.

I can’t promise my birds a homemade meal every day, but their feeder will never be empty again.

Anne Harris is a local author who finds watching her avian neighbors quite fascinating as they loudly inhabit a mixed stand of conifers and broadleaf trees behind her home. “Provide food and they will come,” is what she discovered, and has been avidly studying their diverse habits ever since.