You can use all sorts of things when making your own fat cakes for the birds. I had quite a few empty Coconut Shells, the loops of string for hanging them still intact so it was an easy, no fuss option for me. After washing them out and letting them dry they were ready to fill.

I bought several large blocks of basic lard from the supermarket - I'm glad I bought extra as I used more than I thought I would. Yes, I have dripping left from cooking but it is most likely to have a whole load of other ingredients and seasonings melted down with it so it's safer not to use it. What we use for the birds mustn't have any salt in it.

The seed I regularly use in my bird feeders, All Seasons, was my other main ingredient but you can use any seed blend that your garden birds enjoy, for example Goldensong would also be perfect.

For me the real fun part is the toppings and I made sure that I had a selection of goodies to sprinkle on the top! You could say it's my 'Nigella' moment but it does add such an element of fun and luxury to the recipe. Dried Mealworms, Suet Treats, Peanut Granules and fruits like papaya, sultanas and cranberries - tasty, colourful and an extra delicious treat for the birds!

Because of their rounded bottoms I found it easier to rest the coconut shells on a muffin or little cake tray, this kept them stable when filling.

Everywhere I'd looked for recipes had recommended 1 part fat to 2 parts seed mixes so that's the measurements that were (roughly) used.

We've got the Aga on at the moment so I decided to melt the lard slowly in a saucepan on there, but you can obviously do the same on any hob or in the microwave, just be careful not to let it get too hot or reach boiling point.

While the fat was melting I weighed my seed mix and put it in a large bowl ready to have the melted fat poured over it. This done, everything was stirred really well until all the seeds were coated with the fat. I threw an extra lump of lard back in the same saucepan and put it back on the low heat to use later. Whilst that was melting, the seed and fat mixture was divided between the coconut shells.

Trust me; this bit was definitely nothing like a 'Nigella' moment; more reminiscent of queuing up for school dinners'! As with a flick of the spoon the mixture was plonked into the shells. We pressed each of them down firmly with the back of the spoon and levelled them off to just a little below the top edge, leaving room for the toppings.

The extra melted lard was tipped into a jug to make it easy to pour a small amount neatly over the surface of each filled shell. It was amazing how it soaked in and disappeared.

Then all that was left to do was to liberally sprinkle on the luxury toppings and lightly press into the seed and suet mixture before covering with cling film. Once wrapped you can apply more pressure to the surface to ensure your topping is securely bedded down.

Finally, they were put in the fridge overnight to set. Well, if I'm honest a few were put into the freezer for a couple of hours as we didn't want to wait until the next day to see if the birds liked them! Which, of course, they did or I wouldn't be telling you all about it!


Keep them wrapped in the cling film and find a cool place to store them until they are needed. The garden shed or garage is ideal. There they can stay until you want to put them out for your birds.

Making Fat Balls

Melt and mix suet and seeds as above. It's a good idea to leave the mixture for a few minutes so that it's a little firmer. We found that just using your hands to shape and squeeze the mixture into a ball was practically impossible, they just kept crumbling, so instead we tore off a section of cling film and laid it over my hand, placed a spoonful of the mixture in my palm and brought the cling film up and around to cover it, then twisted the ends and shaped the ball through the layer of film. Much easier!

Then they are all ready to pop in the fridge or freezer to set, and then store.

TIPS: You can use plastic containers like yogurt, or cream pots for fat food shaped like Buns. If you have a suitable holder (like our F1 Giant Snack Ball Holder, page 17 no. 5 or in the Fat Foods and Feeders section on the website, or for those bothered by Squirrels or Starlings the UP11a tough wire basket with lid), these are perfect as you won't have to fiddle with inserting pieces of string to hang them by.

To make your own Suet Blocks line a baking tray with cling film, fill with the mixture and press firmly down, cut into squares once chilled and set.

For a Fat Cake that will last for days, even weeks, use a butter or margarine tub. It's up to you if you choose to line them with cling film or not, but you will find that it does help when you need to get the cake out of the container. This can be offered to the birds as a whole or in slices.