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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