the little bitty bakery: sweet talk with leslie muir and betsy lewin

Dark Chocolate Coconut Eclair via Ang

Roll out the pink carpet and fire up your ovens! Put on your best dress aprons and fill your pastry bags with vanilla buttercream frosting! Bakery babes Leslie Muir and Betsy Lewin are here!

*licks chocolate off éclair*

We are thrilled to be the third stop in The Little Bitty Bakery Blog Tour. It’s no secret that when it comes to bakeries I go a little insane. I think in a past life I must have lived in a French pâtisserie, where I had pain au chocolat for breakfast, cherry clafouti for lunch, and an apple tarte for dinner. Of course there were plenty of macarons for elevenses and madeleines for afternoon tea. Le yum!

So you can imagine how giddy I was to read The Little Bitty Bakery, a thoroughly charming tale of an elephantine pastry chef who bakes away her birthday. How her heart aches when she realizes it’s too late to celebrate. She’d worked so hard making treats all day long, but now there would be no birthday cake for her. She climbs into bed and in the middle of the night is awakened by the aroma of scrumptious “swirls of sweetness.” When she goes downstairs, she discovers a delightful surprise — a Crumble Jumble Cake prepared by the mice! “They had a celebration and nibbled cake till dawn./ When they set their napkins down, every crumb was gone.” Such heartwarming goodness!

Since we’ve already learned a bit more about Betsy’s gorgeous, iced-in-moonlight illos at 7-Imp and Leslie’s poetics in a totally awesome rhyming interview at GottaBook, I thought it might be fun to focus, um, on the pastries ☺, and find out about Leslie’s and Betsy’s favorite baked goods. The book is brimming with French treats like brioches, éclairs, chocolate macaroons and crème brûlée, as well as mouthwatering ingredients like sugar, cinnamon, raisin, candied lime, and rainbow sprinkles. *licks lips* In the world of The Little Bitty Bakery, there is joy in hard work, kindnesses are reciprocated, and newfound friendship turns out to be the tastiest treat of all.

Leslie and Betsy with Leslie’s son

Hungry minds want to know:

What’s your fondest cake memory? What was your favorite kind of birthday cake when you were little?

Leslie: My fondest cake memory is creating a “donut cake” at the request of one of my sons. I’ll never forget his face when I unveiled it! It’s now a Muir family tradition.

When I was little, I loved any kind of birthday cake. The only stipulation: it had to have a horse decoration on top. I was gaga for horses throughout my girlhood.

The famous Muir family donut cake.

Betsy: For my 60th birthday party my husband, Ted, got an Italian Rum Cake, my favorite, which I hadn’t seen in years. It’s a fluffy white cake soaked in rum with whipped cream topping and studded with maraschino cherries. YUM!

When I was little, I loved a cherry cake with cherry flavored icing.

Rum Cake via Peggy Conway

Did you do any especially tasty bakery “research” for this book? 

Leslie: I googled up a lot of French pastries and desserts. It was sooo taxing.

Betsy: I visited many bakeries, and photographed the decor as well as the fare. I also ate something in every shop. 🙂 I also did a lot of photo research online.

What kind of desserts did you like as a child? What’s your favorite guilty pleasure these days?

Leslie: My favorite dessert as a child was my mom’s runny chocolate pie with meringue. The flavor was marvelous, but she could never get it to hold its shape. As kids, my brother and I couldn’t understand why other people’s chocolate pie “stood up so straight.” It became a longstanding family joke. My mother passed away about a year and a half ago. What I wouldn’t give for a taste of that pie.

Hmmm, my favorite guilty pleasure… I’d have to say my grandmother’s bourbon laced pumpkin pie with a dollop of real whipped cream and a sliver of cranberry jelly. I’ll definitely indulge in a slice this Thanksgiving.

Betsy: I’ve always loved vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce (not hot fudge sauce), and today I cannot resist a profiterole if it’s on the menu no matter how full I am from dinner.

Profiteroles via spicyicecream

Do you like to bake? If so, do you have a specialty?

Leslie: I’m at home in the kitchen. I come from a long line of wonderful, intuitive cooks: my mother, grandmother, and grand aunts were all amazing home cooks. They seldom used recipes. I don’t make a lot of desserts, but I adore baking bread when I have the time. And with three guys in the house, a crusty loaf is gone as soon as it leaves the oven.

Leslie age 4) baking cookies with her mom.
Leslie’s homemade bread. Yum!

Betsy: I love to cook, but I don’t bake. My pie crusts look like a 5-year-old did them, and my cakes fall.

Leslie, please tell us more about the Crumble Jumble Cake.

The Crumble Jumble Cake was totally dreamed up for The Little Bitty Bakery. In the story, it’s a cake of mixed-up crumbs baked by a team of five industrious, big-hearted mice. When my wonderful editor, Tamson Weston, suggested we put a recipe in the back of the book, I was jazzed — but then I had to come up with one.

Basically, I gathered together tried and true recipes, then mixed and matched ingredients (kind of like the mice). I also tried to incorporate ingredients that would appeal to kids, like chocolate syrup and marshmallow fluff. The first prototype (pictured here) was a very vertically-challenged, but tasty little cake. I’m hopeful that kids will come up with their own “jumbled up” versions and send me lots of photos!

Betsy, did you have a specific bakery in mind when drawing the pictures? Did you use live “models” for the pastries?

My little bakery is a composite of the decor and delectables in the bakeries I visited, plus the photo reference I found online.

Chocolate Macaroons via Eat and Talk: Kelly

Finally, what’s your favorite food scene from a children’s book?

Leslie: One of my favorite food scenes is from King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Don and Audrey Wood. I adore the spread where King Bidgood is feasting in a bubble bath with his exasperated queen. I mean, that’s one mouthwatering spread! “Today we lunch in the tub!” says King Bidgood. What a great idea. Shouldn’t we all lunch in the tub at least once in our lives?

Betsy: I loved Winnie the Pooh hugging his pot of honey.

Shepard’s preliminary drawing for The House at Pooh Corner (1928)


Kids will definitely eat this book right up. Long after they’ve turned the last page, they’ll still be dreaming about those crusty baguettes, raisin bread, frosted cupcakes, and cherry pies. They’ll likely want to make a Crumble Jumble Cake of their very own, maybe even share it with an unsuspecting friend. Little people are capable of doing big things — a generous heart is the best ingredient for any recipe.♥

Thanks for creating this deeeee-licious book, Leslie and Betsy!!

written by Leslie Muir
illustrated by Betsy Lewin
published by Disney/Hyperion, 2011
Picture Book for ages 2+, 32 pp.
Cool themes: Bakers and Baking, Friendship, Resourcefulness, Birthdays, Kindness.
*Includes recipes for Crumble Jumble Cake and Moonlight Frosting with suggestions for tasty crumbles.


Tuesday, 11/1: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Wednesday, 11/2: GottaBook
Thursday, 11/3: Jama’s Alphabet Soup
Friday, 11/4: Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s blog


Leslie Muir is a writer, painter, and poet from Atlanta, Georgia, who’s published two other books this year in addition to The Little Bitty Bakery: Bary B. Wary (illustrated by Carrie Gifford, Disney/Hyperion) and Gibbus Moony Wants to Bite You! (illustrated by Jen Corace, Atheneum). She’s an adventuresome amateur chef who likes to include great food, an offbeat sense of humor and good friends in her stories. A 2006 recipient of the Barbara Karlin Grant, Leslie twice took First Place in the SCBWI Southern Breeze Writing Contest, and was a Grand Prize Winner in the Smartwriters Write It Now! Writing Competition. Her fourth picture book, C.R. Mudgeon (illustrated by Julian Hector) is forthcoming from Atheneum in Spring 2012.

Betsy with Sophie, a rescue cat

Betsy Lewin is an award winning, New York Times bestselling author/illustrator who lives in Brooklyn with her husband and sometime collaborator, children’s book author/ illustrator Ted Lewin. Her many accolades include a Caldecott Honor for Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type (by Doreen Cronin), the first ever Theodore Geisel Honor Award for Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa (by Erica Silverman), and a Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators. She and Ted are world travelers who like to write about their experiences. Some of their collaborations include Gorilla Walk (Lothrop), Elephant Quest (HarperCollins), and Balarama A Royal Elephant (Lee & Low). They are currently working on Adventures with Ted and Betsy, inspired by 40 years of world travel.


*Spreads from The Little Bitty Bakery posted by permission, text copyright © 2011 Leslie Muir, illustrations © 2011 Betsy Lewin, published by Disney/Hyperion. All rights reserved.



Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


14 thoughts on “the little bitty bakery: sweet talk with leslie muir and betsy lewin

  1. I love the question, “what’s your favorite food scene from a children’s book?” (I always love that John Burningham usually has a big wordless spread, center of book, where folks are eating.)

    I really have to actually make the Crumble Jumble Cake. The donut cake is a WONDER.

    What a fun read. Thanks to you all!


    1. When she mentioned the donut cake, I thought of you. I think your girls would have lots of fun with that one.

      Now you’ve made me want to pick up every one of Burningham’s books and give them another look.


  2. I am going to have to come up with a dessert based plot so I can do the type of research required. And Jules – I was thinking of the spread in Mr. Gumpy’s Outing, too.

    Yummy post!


    1. Oh, hadn’t seen Mr. Snitzel before. Must investigate :).

      I think both you and Julia Anna will enjoy this book. The icings on the cover are glittered to look like sugar sprinkles. Leslie’s rhyming text is perfection, and when Julia Anna gets a little older, the two of you can make the Crumble Jumble Cake.


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