Being stuck inside with two small people on freezing cold, miserable days can be nothing short of horrific. Especially if they have as much energy as mine. I have two boys and any craft project I attempt with them has to be quick to do and have immediate results. These bird cakes are perfect. Easy to make, fast and if they do their job of bringing winter birds to our garden educational as well.
This project came about following a very in depth conversation about Jack Frost, they whys and where fors of his job, what colour his pjs are, whether he takes a cuddly to bed with him at night and if he has a mummy. We also got round to the fact that he makes the ground too hard for the birds to dig up worms.
Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remembered an old Christmas Storyteller tape (anyone else remember those?) that included a story about an old man who made a special Christmas tree decorated with food for the birds. So out went the ugly old bird cakes in yogurt pots and in came the biscuit cutters and the bakers twine.
Please note: It's obvious to us grown ups that bird cakes aren't for human consumption (they smell vile), but they contain a lot of things that children like to eat so please be sure to impress on them that they shouldn't try the mixture or eat the cakes. The recipe for my cakes is approved by the RSPB.
1 Block of lard (at room temperature) A bag of bird seeds Two handfuls of grated cheese Two handfuls of raisins A small handful of dried cranberries to decorate (optional)
You will also need biscuit cutters and bakers twine or string
Chop your lard into cubes and pour in about half your bag of bird seed, the cheese and raisin. Mix it all together until everything is well distributed. Unfortunately the best way to do this is with your hands. My children weren't willing to get sticky so I ended up doing this bit.
Line a baking try with baking paper. Fill your chosen cutter half way up with the cake mix and press it down firmly. Make a loop with a piece of bakers twine and lay it on top of the mixture in your cutter. Be sure to leave a decent sized loop hanging over the side of the cutter. Add another layer of mixture and press it down firmly to secure your twine. We used a few dried cranberries to add a bit of extra colour to our cakes - just press them into the cakes.
Using the back of the spoon gently press down on your little cake and with your other hand ease up the biscuit cutter to remove it. (This bit can take a bit of patience so may be best done by a grown up.
When you've made all your little cakes pop them in the fridge to firm up. I think this took us 15-20 minutes max from start to finish.
When they're firm hang them on the tree and wait for the birds - I'm hoping our cats don't provide too much of a deterrent.