Little Women Dessert Buffet

More food from Little Women!

Last week, I gave you a great menu of Little Women Recipes a great appetizer party. But if you’d rather have a Little Women dessert party, here are some great recipes for that, too! All the recipes are in my book, The Little Women Cookbook: Tempting Recipes from the March Sisters and Their Friends and Family. Better yet, a couple of them can be found online (in which case, links are given).

Bonbons and Mottoes
Vanilla Butter Cookies with Mr. Bhaer’s Chocolate Drops
Jo’s Gingerbread
Black Raspberry Jelly Cake with Lemon Cream OR Fruit and Nut Trifle
Captivating Little Tarts


1. Bonbons and Mottoes

Bonbons and Mottoes from The Little Women Cookbook. Honestly, you could use just about any kind of candy or even a great cookie. Just don’t forget to attach the mottoes.

“Laurie drew up a little table, brought a second installment of coffee and ice for Jo, and was so obliging that even particular Meg pronounced him a “nice boy.” They had a merry time over the bonbons and mottoes.” — Little Women

Meg and Jo first meet Laurie at a New Year’s Eve dance, and at one point, Laurie and Meg have a fine time enjoying “bonbons and mottoes” together. Bonbons and mottoes were candies (bonbons) that were wrapped in papers printed with verses, wordplays, riddles, or sayings (those are the mottoes)—think of them a little like fortune cookies.

For your Little Women dessert party, simply wrap treats in treat bags, and attach a pretty gift tag with a motto (or perhaps a quote from Little Women!) to each bag. My cookbook offers a recipe for cake balls, but honestly, you could use any kind of sweet treat. And if you’re feeling splashy, pick up some truffles at your favorite chocolate shop. Those will work splendidly!

P.S.: Bonbons and mottoes are just a great all-purpose treat for any kind of party. The ones shown (above right) were for a Christmas party, but you can decorate the any way you might wish.

2. Vanilla Butter Cookies with Mr. Bhaer’s Chocolate Drops

Butter Cookies with Mr. Bhaer’s Chocolate Drops from The Little Women Cookbook

Professor Bhaer always brings chocolate drops to the March family when he visits. I was absolutely thrilled when I found that you can still by these simple, old-fashioned, button-shaped confections in the candy aisle of the supermarket (They’re called “Chocolate Drops,” just as they are in the novel). They top these butter cookies for a delightful old-fashioned cookie.

Yes, these are slightly like peanut-butter blossoms, but … they’re made with more true-to-the-time-period chocolate drops, and more of a butter cookie than a peanut-butter cookie (because I didn’t see peanut butter in any of the 19th century cookbooks I consulted!). P.S.: I’ve posted the recipe here.

Jo’s Gingerbread

“Don’t try too many recipes, Jo, for you can’t make anything but gingerbread and molasses candy fit to eat. I wash my hands of the dinner party.” — Little Women

Meg clearly doubts that Jo can possibly pull off the ambitious dinner party that Jo is planning for Laurie — but Meg does concede that at least Jo can cook gingerbread. And clearly, anyone can cook gingerbread! It’s one of the easiest cakes to pull off.

Gingerbread is also one of those great recipes that you’ve forgotten about. Try it again, and you’ll wonder why it’s been so darn long since you’ve made one. Mine has a sweet-tart lemon glaze that beautifully contrasts the deep flavors of the molasses and baking spices. This is a must for any Little Women food buffet.

The photo, at right, was taken by Alisa Joy Photography. She did a lovely spread of Little Women Recipes. Check out her Instagram page.

4. Fruit and Nut Trifle OR Blackberry Jam  Cake with
Lemon Cream

Hot Milk Sponge Cake and Trifle with Mr. Bhaer’s Fruits and Nuts, from The Little Women Cookbook

These two beautiful desserts start with the same master recipe for Hot Milk Sponge Cake. From there, the easiest option is to make a lovely old-fashioned layer cake, with jelly between the two layers and a whipped lemon cream as the topping. This spongy and light cake is very similar to the cake that Meg, Jo, and Amy serve at the end of the movie, Little Women.

Timothee Chalamet, James Norton, Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Louis Garrel, Bob Odenkirk and Laura Dern in Greta Gerwig’s LITTLE WOMEN. Presenting a beautiful cake to Marmee on the occasion of her 60th birthday.

However, my choice would be to make that Hot Milk Sponge Cake into an irresistible trifle. The recipe in my book calls for orange marmalade, dark fruits, and almonds in homage to the generous gifts of fruits and nuts that Professor Bhaer wishes to give the March family before he’s planning to leave for the American West (and minutes before he proposes to Jo).

I love serving trifles on a dessert buffet, because a) it serves so many, and b) everyone can take as much as they wish. However, you won’t be sorry with either choice — the cake or the trifle.

By the way — bloggiste extraordinaire, Ally at Ally’s Sweet and Savory Eats, posted my recipe for Hot Milk Sponge Cake. She made it in a 9 x 13 pan, but you can make it in an 8-inch round pan for a thick cake like the one pictured in the movie. Serve it simply topped with whipped cream and decorated as you wish. Or, slice it in half horizontally and fill it with a slather of black raspberry jelly before topping it with whipped cream spiked with a little lemon juice and lemon zest.

5. Captivating Little Tarts

Captivating Little Tarts from The Little Women Cookbook.

“They each whisk[ed] a captivating little tart into their tiny pockets, there to stick and crumble treacherously, teaching them that both human nature and a pastry are frail…” — Little Women

During the celebratory picnic at the end of the book, Meg’s twins (Demi and Daisy) have a fine old time stealing sips of tea, bites of gingerbread, and “captivating little tarts.” I did a lot of research as to what kinds of tarts might have been served in the late 1860s, and a very popular recipe indeed was for “Lemon Cheese Tarts.”

Come to find out, lemon cheese is an old-fashioned word for lemon curd. And it’s so easy to make. While the 19th-century recipes said to spread them into puff paste shells (i.e. puff pastry shells), for this recipe, I used phyllo dough shells. I wanted to have at least a few recipes that were easy-peasy for younger hands to make! (There are plenty of from-scratch recipes in the book.)

These “Lemon Cheese” tarts are always a lot of fun to put out on a buffet.

And More!

Your source for a Little Women-themed dessert menu.

Want more recipes from Little Women? While I think my menu offers a good variety of textures, flavors, and stories, if you’re seeking other Little Women dessert recipes, you’ll find these in my book (in addition to the ones above). Each offers a great way to indulge friends and family, March-sisters style!

• Amy’s “Pickled Lime” Sugar Cookies
• Blanc-Mange with Strawberries
• Dessert Crêpes
• Apple Slump
• Meg’s Plum Pudding
• Apple Turnovers
• Blackberry Jelly Tarts
• Pink and White Ice Cream Dessert
• Strawberry Sherbet
• Strawberries in Winter Dessert Sauce

Out of 50 recipes in the book, 18 are desserts. The rest include party foods as well as dinner and supper recipes I’ve been making again and again these past few months.

Thanks, as always, for reading Chez Bonne Femme.


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Perfect French Valentine’s Menu 2020

If you’re looking for a French Valentine’s Day menu or a romantic French menu for any day, you’ve come to the right place! Go traditional with a classic French bistro menu.


Steak with Brandy-Mustard Sauce. I know it sounds like a rank stereotype, but Men. Love. This. Recipe.

I love dining out as much as the next food lover, but for Valentine’s Day, I tend to avoid the crowds and dine in. And for some reason, I always go tout classique for the year’s most romantic meal, and star a beautiful Filet de Boeuf au Eschallotes, Moutarde, et Cognac (though any good brandy will do just fine here). This is the type of rich, luscious and traditional French recipe that made French cooking famous in years gone by—and I just love revisiting it once in a while, especially when I feel like cozying up and staying inside for the evening with Mr. Sportcoat. Serve it with simple pommes rissolées—French browned potatoes—plus some green beans, cooked French style.

Belgian Endive Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts. A great salad for winter. Photo by Richard Swearinger.

Belgian Endive Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts. A great French bistro salad.

Here’s my complete menu; the steak recipe appears below. You can click on the links for the other recipes. Enjoy!

• Appetizers: Keep in simple! Choose from My Happy Hour Crackers (when you get to that page, scroll down just a bit for the photo + recipe), my Pâté Canapés, or Gougères (which of course, you’ve made ahead because you’ve followed my great advice and have kept some ready to bake in the freezer, right?
• First course: Endive, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Salad. It’s one of the best winter salads you can make!
• Main course: Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Shallot-Brandy-Mustard Sauce (recipe below), plus Pommes Rissolées (French Browned Potatoes) and Green Beans, cooked French style.
• Dessert: Crèpes. Again, you did follow my advice, and you have some in the freezer, right?

To drink?: You know I’m a huge fan of blanc de noirs sparkling wines, right? Especially those from Alsace. They’re made with Pinot Noir, and they go with everything! Pour it with appetizers and through dessert (yes, including with the steak–it works!). But if you must have a good French red to go with the steak, I love this Chateau Blaignan Cru Bourgeois Mèdoc.

Enjoy, mes amis!


French Steak with Mustard, Brandy, and Shallot Sauce
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • 2 6-ounce, 1-inch-thick tenderloin steaks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallot
  • ½ cup low-sodium beef broth
  • ½ cup brandy, Cognac, or Armagnac
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  1. Season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper, to taste. In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and cook, turning as needed, to the desired doneness (10-12 minutes for medium-rare). Reduce heat as necessary if the meat browns too quickly.
  2. Transfer the steaks to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Add the shallot to the skillet and sauté briefly until translucent. Remove the pan from heat and add the broth and brandy, taking care not to let the liquid splatter.
  3. Return the pan to the stove and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring with a whisk to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil until the liquid is reduced to ⅓ cup, about 2-3 minutes depending on the stove and the pan size.
  4. Whisk in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Then, whisk in the remaining butter. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange the steaks on 2 dinner plates, spoon the sauce over the steaks, top with the parsley, and serve.

PS: Your Best Steaks Deserve the Best Steak-Knives. Laguiole are my favorite for serving anything French–chicken, pork chops, beef, and more.

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Little Women Recipes for an Appetizer Party

As soon as Little Women is available to stream at home (sometime in March!), why not invite friends in for a Little Women-themed gathering while you watch the movie? The film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (Greta Gerwig), Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Florence Pugh), and Best Musical Score. And it won an award for Best Costume Design.

So, here are my suggestions for a Little Women Menu featuring great party appetizers from Little Women. Enjoy them while you watch (or re-watch) this masterpiece with your friends.

A great menu for a Little Women Watch Party includes:

• Spice-Trade Deviled Eggs
• Hannah’s Turnovers
• Roast Beef Picnic Sandwiches
• Jo’s Shellfish Relish
• Amy’s Pickled Lime Sugar Cookies


If you’ve seen “Little Women,” you’ve likely fallen in love with Saoirse Ronan‘s “Jo” and Florence Pugh‘s “Amy.” You likely loved Greta Gerwig’s intelligent and moving adapted screenplay, including this thoroughly honest line from Jo:

And what a Jo she is!

“Women have minds and they have souls as well as just hearts. They’ve got ambition and they’ve got talent as well as just beauty. I am so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it! But—I am so lonely.

The costumes added depth and texture, and while I personally didn’t remark on it, the musical score was also highly acclaimed enough to snag an Academy Award nomination.

It all adds up to a “Best Picture” nomination (along with other “bests”). And a great reason to enjoy serve some appetizer recipes from Little Women as you watch this beautiful movie.

Here are the appetizers I suggest. I’ve also posted recipes for a Little Women dessert buffet, if you’d rather go that route.)

All recipes are in my book, “The Little Women Cookbook: Tempting Recipes from the March Sisters and Their Friends and Family”:

1. Spice Trade Deviled Eggs

These deviled eggs contain Sriracha in the filling and are topped with chutney. So, are they truly true to the 19th-century? You bet! The spice trade was in full swing during the time of Little Women (1868/1869). In fact, Laurie’s grandfather was a spice trader. Here’s what Laurie (in one of his more louche moments) says about grandpa’s métier:

“[Grandfather] wants me to be an India merchant, as he was, and I’d rather be shot. I hate tea and silk and spices, and every sort of rubbish his old ships bring, and I don’t care how soon they go to the bottom when I own them.”
Of course, Laurie might not have loved spices, but cooks at the time sure did! And the Sriracha? No, Laurie’s grandfather’s ships probably didn’t bring in the chile-vinegar sauce. But, the 19th-century recipe, from which I modeled these eggs, called for a chile vinegar … and that’s very Sriracha-ish and truly true to food of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy’s time.

Make-Ahead Angle: Make these up to one day in advance, but wait until just before serving to spoon on the chutney.

2. Hannah’s Turnovers

These will not only wow your guests, but they are absolutely straight from the novel. Hannah made turnovers every day for the girls to warm their hands on their way to school and work. While they made a great mid-morning snack for the March sisters, I prefer them as an appetizer with a cocktail.

The mostly savory handhelds feature a butter and cheddar-cheese crust with just a dot of sweet jam in the middle. They might be my favorite recipe from the book.

Make-Ahead Angle: You can freeze them a few weeks in advance; reheat in the microwave at 30-second intervals until hot, but be sure to let them cool a bit before serving, as the jam centers will be very hot. You can also make them two days in advance to refrigerate; again, reheat in the microwave, but cool them a bit before putting them out to serve.

3. Roast Beef Picnic Sandwiches

Copyright Columbia Pictures, Inc.

So … what do YOU think might have been in the picnic baskets for Laurie’s boating party? While the preparations for the picnic were a big deal in the novel, Louisa May Alcott didn’t tell us exactly what was in the baskets, darn it! I did a lot of research into the food of the 19th century, and found that these lovely Roast Beef Picnic Sandwiches would have fit right in.

They’re super easy. Just go to a deli and get some quality roast beef, chop it up, and mix with a few fresh stir-ins. I would, however, cut them into triangles for a more party-like presentation.

Make-Ahead Angle: Stir up the filling as directed in the recipe. Refrigerate up to 8 hours. Assemble sandwiches about an hour before guests arrive; refrigerate until ready to serve.

P.S.: Your vegetarian guests might like the Cheese, Celery, and Butter Sandwiches, also in the book.

4. Jo’s Shellfish Relish

Remember Jo’s ill-fated dinner party for Laurie in the novel? When planning it, she says, “Oh, there’s corned beef and plenty of potatoes, and I shall get some asparagus and a lobster, ‘for a relish,’ as Hannah says.”

Lobster was a big deal in the March family’s time! It was cheap food (so cheap, in fact, that Amy gets thoroughly embarrassed when a classy boy she knows sees her coming home from the market with a lobster).

A great lobster dip (or shrimp or crab, if you prefer) will fit right into the theme of a Little Women Party. Oh, and it calls for cream cheese, which was, indeed, a popular ingredient at the time. Consider this quote I found from a period cookbook:

“For cream cheese – the kind brought to market in Philadelphia, make it not from cream but of milk warm from the cow mixed an equal quantity of last evening’s milk.”

Pretty vivid and interesting, isn’t it? (I loved researching this book — it just gave me so many insights into the way people cooked, with things like “milk warm from the cow.”)

Make-Ahead Angle: Make up to 24 hours in advance; refrigerate until ready to serve.

5. Amy’s “Pickled Lime” Sugar Cookies

Yes! You  have to have a sweet recipe, and why not make it one that nods to Amy’s “pickled lime” fiasco at school. Remember how much trouble she gets into for bringing in those darned limes?

As I mention in my book, pickled limes at the time were made by treating limes with salt and letting them stand for a week. Then they were rubbed with turmeric and pickled in a mixture of garlic, onions, cloves, ginger, vinegar, and mustard seeds.

I tried very hard to come up with a true-to-the-time recipe, but honestly, they were an out-and-out fail. And  I didn’t want to put anything in my book that didn’t taste great. I also wanted to have a few recipes for “starter cooks” — easy recipes that young cooks could make. That’s why I decided to go with these cute sugar cookies, topped with lime frosting and a little lime candy wedge, that playfully nod to Amy’s “pickled limes,” but taste a lot better. They’ll be fun on a buffet!

Make-Ahead Angle: These can be frozen for up to 1 month in advance (yes, even frosted and decorated — I do it all the time). Thaw in fridge before serving. Or, make them up to 2 days in advance; keep in refrigerator until serving time).

I’ll leave you with a few more photos from the book:

Recipes in the book include (from top left): Hannah’s Cottage Pie, Amy’s Parisian Profiteroles, Fruit-and-Nut Trifle, Pink-and-White Ice Cream Dessert, Spice-Trade Deviled Eggs, Amy’s Pickled Lime Sugar Cookies, Hannah’s Turnovers, and Blanc-Mange.


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