Get Jack Horner out of the Corner with Treats from Children’s Cookbooks!

Set the butter on the counter to soften.  Rummage around the cupboards for mixing bowls in all sizes needed.   Arm yourself with wood spoons and electric mixers.  Run out to the store for parchment paper.  Invest in the latest in baking sheets.  And most important of all, don’t run out of sugar!  Still can’t decide what to make?  Take some inspiration from cookbooks for children in Cotsen highlighted in a previous holiday post.

In honor of little Jack Horner, here is a menu for a holiday dessert buffet concocted from children’s cookbooks in the Cotsen collection. The recipes, as prepared by some of the best-loved characters in children’s literature, have been edited for length, but were not tested in Cotsen’s curatorial or outreach kitchen.


From Easy Steps in Cooking, or Mary Frances among the Kitchen People, written and illustrated by Jane Eayre Frye. Oakland, CA: Smithsonian Co., c1912. (Cotsen 40860).



Inspired by Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking


From Astrid Lindgren, Kaenner du Pippi Langstrump? Illustrated by Ingrid Nyman. Stockholm: Raben & Sjoegren, 1947.

3 1/2 C. flour; 2 tsp. ginger; 2 tsp. cinnamon; 2 tsp. cloves; 1 tsp. baking soda; 1/2 tsp. salt; 1/2 C. dark corn syrup; 1 tsp. grated orange zest; 1 C. butter; 1 C. sugar, 1 large egg, lightly beaten; pearl sugar

Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl. In a small saucepan, warm the butter and sugar, stirring until melted. Cool to room temperature, then whisk in the egg. Pour over flour mixture and stir until blended. Form dough into ball, wrap tightly with two layers of plastic wrap and chill overnight. Preheat over to 375 degrees With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough on a lightly floured kitchen floor to 1/4 inch thickness. Using a star cutter, cut dough into cookies. Put stars on baking sheets covered with parchment paper and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake until edges begin to brown, about 7-8 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

Thanks to Epicurious for this recipe.


Blackberry and Apple Meringue

Arabella Boxer, The Wind in the Willows Country Cookbook (1983). (Cotsen 15424)


From Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows. Illustrated by E. H. Shepard. London: Methuen, 1970. (Cotsen 32085).

1 large cooking apple; 50 g. (2 oz) granulated sugar; 450 g. (1 lb. blackberries); juice of one lemon; 2 egg whites; 75 g. (3 oz) superfine sugar

Heat the oven to 150 degrees C (300 degrees F or Gas Mark 2) Peel and core the apple and cut into thinnish slices. Put the apples in a pan with 2 T water and the granulated sugar. Cook gently, covered, for 4 minutes, then add the berries, return to the simmer and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Tip into a pie dish. Beat the egg whites until stiff, fold in the superfine sugar, and pile over the fruit, covering the dish entirely. Bake for 30 minutes, then cool for about 30 minutes before serving with cream.


Hidden Window Dessert


Carolyn Keene, The Hidden Window Mystery. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, c1958. (Cotsen in process 7305311).

1 package EACH of cherry, orange, lemon, and lime gelatin; 1 C. pineapple juice; 1/4 C. sugar; 1 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter; 12 graham crackers, crushed; 4 C. whipped cream or other whipped topping

In a saucepan, boil enough water to make 1 cup. This means you must start with a little more than a cup. Dissolve the cherry gelatin in this. Stir well. Add 1/2 cup cold water and pour gelatin into a ice tray with no divider. Do the same with the orange and lime gelatin separately. (Use the same pan, but rinse it each time.) In the same pan again. boil the pinapple juice with sugar. Dissolve the lemon gelatin in this. Add 1/2 cup cold water. Let set in a large mixing bowl to the syrupy stage. Fold in the whipped cream. When firm, cut the cherry, orange, and lime gelatins into cubes. Fold them into the lemon gelatin mixture. Grease a springform pan. Stir melted butter into the crushed graham crumbs and spread on the bottom on the pan. Pour in the mixture. Chill 12 hours. You’ll have many colored windows in each slice of cake!

Mrs. Tiggy’s Tipsy Pudding

Margaret Lane, The Beatrix Potter Country Cookery Book (1983, c1981).


Beatrix Potter’s prickly little washer woman from The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle.

1 large spongecake; 125 ml. (1/4 pint) sweet sherry; juice of an orange; 75 g. (3 oz) superfine sugar; 250 ml. (1/2 pint) double cream; raisins; 100 g. (4 oz flaked almonds)

Cut a hollow on the underside of the cake, keeping the bit for later. Fill the hollow with the sherry and orange juice; pour the remaining wine and juice over the top. Refrigerate overnight, spooning the mixture over the cake from time to time. In the morning, replace the bit of cake in the hollow. Split the almonds into narrow bits and brown lightly in the oven. Stick them all over the cake. Use the raisins for nose and eyes. Whip the cream stiff and fold in the sugar. Pile in peaky dollops all around the cake and serve.


Treacle toffee from Hagrid


Christmas at Hogwarts as imagined by Mary de Grandpre.

75 g. (3 oz) Golden Syrup; 75 gg (3 oz) black treacle or molasses; 150 g. (6 oz) brown sugar; 75 g. (3 oz) butter; 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Line a 6 x 8 inch baking pan with non-stick parchment. Measure all ingredients into a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until the butter is melted and sugar dissolved. When the mixture is smooth and nicely combined, bring to a rolling boil. When the mixture reaches 140 degrees C/ 285 degrees F on the candy thermometer (analog or digital), pour carefully into the pan. For even pieces, wait until the toffee is cool enough to hand, but leaves a slight impression if poked with a finger (15- 20 minutes). Cut into the toffee deeply enough to leaves lines and when it has cooled completely, break along the lines. For toffee that will break your teeth, let it cool completely, then break into pits with a hammer or rolling pin. Store in an airtight container with parchment in between layers.

With thanks to BBC Food


Boston Cooler

Nika Hazelton, Raggedy Ann and Andy’s Cookbook (c1973). (Cotsen 28282).


Endpapers for Johnny Gruelle, Raggedy Ann in Cookie Land. Joliet, Wisconsin: P. F. Volland & Co., c1931. (Cotsen in process 0000).

12 oz. can root beer; 4 small scoops vanilla ice cream

Pour the root beer into two glasses. Carefully put two scoops ice cream in each glass. Serve with a long spoon and a straw.

And happy holidays to all!

For a stronger sugar rush, read junk food in picture books…

Welcome to the Shire!

Howard Pyle, “The Young Knight of Lea Overcomes the Knight of Lancaster.” In The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883, p. 157.

American illustrator Howard Pyle (1857-1911) was fascinated with Medieval and Renaissance history and costuming. He wrote and illustrated a number of original works set in Medieval Europe and England, and adapted classic ballads to narratives for young readers. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire is an example of the latter. Throughout this work, Pyle strove to maintain an historic aesthetic in both, visual depictions and the language used to weave the tale.

Howard Pyle, “The Mighty Fight betwixt Little John and the Cook.” In The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883, p. 72.

His insistence on depicting historic dress as authentically as possible in his illustrations led him to collect period costumes, costume books, and historic manuscripts for reference (“Howard Pyle”). His models and students would pose in the costumes, especially when depicting intense action such as the fight scene between Little John and the Cook.

Howard Pyle, “Robin and the Tinker at the Blue Boar Inn.” In The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883, p. 12.

Pyle’s illustrations and decorative designs for this tale are done in a linear style reminiscent of traditional woodblock prints. He uses lines of varying thickness to differentiate between objects and he indicates mass through the artistic techniques of cross-hatching and placing lines parallel to each other, as seen on the curved lines that circle Robin Hood’s leg in the illustration “Robin and the Tinker at the Blue Boar Inn.”

Howard Pyle, “Merry Robin Stops a Sorrowful Knight.” In The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883, p. 156.

This Medieval and Renaissance aesthetic can also be seen in the hand-lettered titles for each of the full-page illustrations. The text is meant to mimic the impression of 16th century typeface, going so far as to include the medial S — the letter that looks like an F without its crossbar.

Most strikingly, Pyle endeavors to recreate the feel of Medieval or Renaissance England in the language he uses for the characters’ speech. “Thou,” “dost,” and “thee” among other expressions are liberally used throughout the book. For example, in the story “Robin Hood Aideth a Sorrowful Knight,” Robin says to Little John:

Here is a fair day, Little John, and one that we can ill waste in idleness. Choose such men as thou dost need, and go thou east while I will wend to the west, and see that each of us bringeth back some goodly guest to dine this day beneath the greenwood tree.

To which Little John replies, “Marry … thy bidding fitteth my liking like haft to blade. I’ll bring thee back a guest this day, or come not back mine own self.”

Pyle’s modern reconstruction of Old English attempts to give authenticity to his retelling of Robin Hood through yet another level of aesthetic historicism.

His artistic interpretation of “Merrie Old England” is akin to the modern day Renaissance Festival, where you will surely find a lady dressed as an Elizabethan duchess linking arms with a Knights Templar, Robin Hood chatting with Shakespeare, and a young maiden pulling her little fairy child in a Radio Flyer wagon decorated with a silk flower garland. Like the costuming and setting of your local Renaissance Festival, the visuals and language used by Pyle simultaneously feel authentic because of their dependence on historical references and are fantastic interpretations of Medieval and Renaissance history. Both are meant to transport the reader-participate into a realm where historical accuracy is not as important as the story, itself.

As you plan for your next trip to your local Shire, let Howard Pyle be your guide through a world where Robin Hood and Little John once again escape the Sheriff’s grasp under the watchful eye Queen Elizabeth. Welcome to the Shire, one and all!

“Howard Pyle,” Illustration History, Accessed 7/31/19.