beatrix part two: of guinea pigs, nursery rhymes and cupcakes

Today we are honored to welcome a very special guest to Alphabet Soup: the one and only Amiable Guinea-pig!

After reading and reviewing Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson and Charlotte Voake (Schwartz & Wade, 2016), we felt a tasty homage to this dapper little fellow was definitely in order.

Peter Rabbit gets a lot of attention, as does Miss Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Jeremy Fisher, Tom Kitten and Squirrel Nutkin. In fact, they all have their own little books written about them. But not the Amiable one, who was actually the first guinea pig in Miss Potter’s work. She wrote a clever limerick about him that appeared in Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes (1917).

But one limerick does not a book make. Wouldn’t you feel a little slighted? To add insult to injury, initially Miss Potter’s publisher Frederick Warne & Co. wasn’t that keen on the Appley Dapply rhyme collection, which she had hoped to publish following the release of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902.

So the Amiable Guinea-pig, along with his other Appley Dapply friends, were shelved until more than a decade later, when the book was finally published to save Warne from financial ruin. Seems Harold Warne (brother to Beatrix’s late fiancé Norman) was convicted of forgery and sentenced to 6 months of hard labor in a London prison (tsk, tsk).

Since Miss Potter was their greatest creditor and artistic property, she was asked to help. Instead of taking on the intense labor of creating an entirely new book, she suggested they select some of the rhymes from the 1904 Appley Dapply dummy and publish them in a small book format. Luckily, the book sold well. So, yes, the Amiable Guinea-pig helped save the day!

Now, we’re happy to share his limerick, along with several other verses from Appley Dapply and its companion book, Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes (1922). The Amiable Guinea-pig is proud to note that the guinea pigs in the gardening picture are likely his relatives, also owned by Beatrix’s neighbor Miss Paget of the aforementioned Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig. Mr. Amiable hopes the guinea pig in that story wasn’t used as a model for him. 🙂

More of Miss Paget’s guinea pigs (1893).


~ from Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes:


There once was an amiable guinea-pig,
Who brushed back his hair like a periwig —

He wore a sweet tie,
As blue as the sky —

And his whiskers and buttons
Were very big.



If acorn-cups were tea-cups,
what should we have to drink?
Why! honey-dew for sugar,
in a cuckoo-pint of milk;
With pats of witches’ butter
and a tansey cake, I think,
Laid out upon a toad-stool
on a cloth of cob-web silk!



Appley Dapply, a little
brown mouse,
Goes to the cupboard in some-
body’s house.

In somebody’s cupboard
There’s everything nice,
Cake, cheese, jam, biscuits,
– All charming for mice!

Appley Dapply has little
sharp eyes,
And Appley Dapply is so fond
of pies!


~ from Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes:


Cecily Parsley lived in a pen,
And brewed good ale for gentlemen;

Gentlemen came every day,
Till Cecily Parsley ran away.



We have a little garden,
A garden of our own,
And every day we water there
The seeds that we have sown.

We love our little garden,
And tend it with such care,
You will not find a faded leaf
Or blighted blossom there.

*    *    *


Of course the Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers were all thrilled to meet the Amiable Guinea-pig. As it usually happens around this time of year, whiskers begin to twitch and we inevitably crave carrots.

Peter Rabbit suggested we make some carrot cupcakes in honor of our special guest, so we called upon Hoppy Vanderhare, a.k.a., Le Lapin Rotund, to take the lead. Special guests call for special equipment, so Hoppy borrowed Peter’s spatulas, because they magically make any food extra delicious, and she also wore her hand-knitted carrot ear warmers instead of her toque.

The recipe is a family favorite. Years ago, Aunty Ella sent it to me while I was living in London. Whenever I make it, I think about England, which seems quite fitting since we’re all about Beatrix Potter this week.

As with any good recipe, this one can be tweaked according to preference. I do like the addition of crushed pineapple (keeps things very moist), but you could also add golden raisins or shredded coconut for even more texture. If using sweetened coconut, I would use half white sugar and half brown sugar. The cream cheese frosting is pretty standard; I rarely add an entire pound of powdered sugar to the butter/cream cheese mixture. I simply add the sugar gradually, tasting as I go, until I deem it sweet enough.

The only tricky part to making these is preventing any rabbit helpers from eating the carrots while you’re trying to grate them. 🙂




  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2-1/2 cups grated carrots
  • (1) 8-oz can drained crushed pineapple
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • l pound powdered sugar (1 box)
  • 8 tablespoons soft butter (1 stick)
  • 8-oz. cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two muffin/cupcake pans or use paper liners. Set aside.

2. Beat together the sugar, oil, eggs and one teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

4. Add the flour mixture to the eggs/sugar/oil in the large bowl, mixing until the dry ingredients are well incorporated into the batter.

5. Mix together the grated carrots, pineapple and walnuts, then add to the batter, stirring just until blended.

6. Fill cupcake pans 3/4 full and bake at 350 degrees for about 18-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes up clean. Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting:

1. Soften the butter and cream cheese. Sift the powdered sugar.

2. Beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat well.

3. Add the chopped nuts to the frosting mixture or sprinkle over the top of the frosted cupcakes as a garnish.

~ Makes about two dozen cupcakes.

Hoppy even made some mini cupcakes — perfect size for little animals.


The magic spatulas worked! The Amiable Guinea-pig LOVED the carrot cupcakes. He appreciated all the extra attention and felt much better about not having his own book. It was when he and Peter were trading Miss Potter stories that Peter remembered the blackberries. You probably know that after his close call with Mr. McGregor, Peter’s mother put him to bed with chamomile tea, while lucky Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper.

Well, even though it’s been well over one hundred years, Peter is STILL jealous (and likely, still as naughty). SO, Mr. Cornelius made some of the stuff just to satisfy him. We recommend it whenever you’re craving a simple bowl of comfort — the combination of fresh blackberries, cubes of bread, brown sugar and warm milk speaks of British nurseries, cuddly bunnies, and cozy afternoons.



Ingredients for 3 people:

  • 3 thick slices of white bread
  • brown sugar to taste
  • about 1/2 pint of milk
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of blackberries 

Cut the bread into small squares with a knife and put into three bowls.

Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Warm the milk but do not let it boil.

Pour the milk over the bread in the bowls, then sprinkle the blackberries over the top.

~ Adapted from Peter Rabbit’s Cookery Book, compiled by Anne Emerson (Warne, 1986).

*   *   *


With that, we wish you a very HAPPY EASTER!

*whisker twitch*


♥ To read all about Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig (you really should), click here. 🙂

*hippity hop*


“Not only am I amiable — I am uncommonly handsome, wouldn’t you agree?”

♥ Special Treat: Read this cool article, “The very best of Beatrix” by Matthew Dennison from the January 27, 2016 issue of Country Life Magazine. 



We have two lucky winners to announce today — extra reason to twitch our whiskers and do a hippy happy hoppy bunny hop.

Are you ready?


The winner of a brand new copy of






Danzel of Silver Shoes and Rabbit Holes!


The winner of a brand new copy of






Bev Morse!!

🎉🎉🎉 Congratulations Danzel and Bev!!! 🎉🎉🎉

Please send your snail mail addresses to receive your books!

Thanks, everyone for reading and commenting!

*    *    *


Once again, I’m collecting links from any poetry-loving bloggers who are doing special projects for Poetry Month. Please send your info to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, and I’ll happily add you to the Roundup. Also, please help spread the word via your social networks or any relevant listservs. The post will go up next week and I’ll continue to update throughout April. Thanks so much!!


poetry fridayHeidi Mordhorst is hosting the Roundup at My Juicy Little Universe. Hop on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodies being shared in the blogosphere this week. Hope the Easter Bunny brings you lots of tasty treats!


wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your aprons and bunny ears, and come join the fun!



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


60 thoughts on “beatrix part two: of guinea pigs, nursery rhymes and cupcakes

    1. Thanks, Jill. I’ve been collecting English china (esp) for years and years and it’s fun to take things out and play with them once in awhile. Glad you’re enjoying them.


  1. Oh, Jama, whisker-twitch back at you! Of course that guinea loved the carrot cupcakes… I do, too! I also adore the idea of acorn caps as tea cups. Peter Rabbit was a huge favorite of mine as a child… your post makes me remember those days and want to pull out my old Nutshell set. Thank you! And Happy Easter. May you feast! xo


    1. Good to know you’re another PR fan, Irene. Potter’s characters and books are just so timeless — something I’ve never outgrown :). Happy Easter to you!


  2. Overwhelmed by all the goodness here, Jama! Beatrix Potter history is always a pleasure, and I adore the carrot ear-net being sported by Hoppy Vanderhare.
    I have the duck-feet cream and sugar set that goes with your egg cup…do you? I would happily contribute it to your collection, as it doesn’t get as much use here as it would at your house.


    1. I didn’t know there was a cream and sugar set. Quack quack! They are telling me they want to live with you, and that you and your family should play with them more :).


    1. I haven’t seen the movie in such a long time — thanks for reminding me about it. This is definitely the year to watch it again!!


  3. I was researching Randolph Caldecott’s books yesterday for a bookstore donation & came across that story of the Warne brother nearly making the company fail, with Miz Potter saving the day. Warne had taken over the Caldecott books. “Bad eggs” happened even then! I’ve read several bios of Potter & loved them all. I need to return to your earlier post, too, Jama. I imagine I will love your carrot cupcakes, and do love these little poems, but the delight is those carrot ear warmers. They are darling. Thanks for all and Happy Easter to you, too.


    1. There are so many interesting things to learn about Potter’s life and work. I was surprised to hear about the fraud scandal. What a coincidence that you just read about it yesterday.

      Hoppy is happy that you like her ear warmers. So far, no one has tried to bite them. 🙂


    1. Hi Mary! Potter is an endless source of fascination for me. Just wish I had more time and patience to plow through a couple of the thicker biographies of her I have here. No shortage of information available, that’s for sure.

      I only recently learned about those guinea pigs thanks to Deborah Hopkinson’s book. 🙂


  4. Another Jama-riffic hunger-inducing post of sweetness. Love the Beatrix Potter rhymes and the smidgeon of history. Children’s authors can be heroes and save the day! I love all your photos and the magic spatulas. The whole post is always magnificent, a proof of the gestalt theory, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I’m digging your gestalt. 😉


    1. You are too kind, Brenda. No one has praised my gestalt before. 🙂 Hooray for Beatrix saving Warne from financial ruin. Girl power was there when they needed it most. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wish I had read this before braving the grocery store. I don’t think I have the right ingredients for the carrot cake that I am now craving. Have a sweet and hoppy Easter Jama!


  6. It cracks me up that bread, milk, and blackberries suddenly sounds so eminently … reasonable as a meal. I imagine telling my mother, “Well, the guinea pig ate it!”


    1. If it’s good enough for Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail, it’s good enough for me. And yes, the Amiable Guinea-pig ate and enjoyed it too. It’s surprising there’s even a recipe for it!


  7. Beatrix Potter was one heck of a world builder, wasn’t she? I had a set of her books growing up. Perfect for little hands. 🙂 Thank you for putting me in the Easter mood, Jama… I wasn’t sure I was there yet. Now I am.


  8. The carrot ear warmers put me right over the edge into squealing — rather guinea piggish of me, isn’t it? I love all your posts so much, Jama! Your attention to detail and the narrative arc of each post is a joy to read. Thank you!


    1. Squeal away, Keri — Hoppy is happy to hear it! Glad you enjoyed the post. Between your chicken interview and this guinea pig one I think we made a fair amount of noise for PF this week. 🙂


  9. I never knew you lived in London. Do you have postings about your life story? If not, isn’t it time? You’ve let a fey life and your blog is a delightful view of the person you are. Hey, did you ever see Colin Firth in England?


    1. I lived in London for about 3 years — sorry to say I didn’t see Colin Firth there. Bits of my life make their way into many posts. Anything more would be beyond the scope of this blog (and probably boring). 🙂


  10. Jama,
    Your posts are so distinctive and so you. Of course you’d try adding pineapple and coconut to the cupcakes. How lovely. You’ve quite put me in a mood for Easter. I’ll have to get out my duck and lamb ware–egg cups all around.
    Thank you for another delicious post.Hoppy Easter to you.
    Have you seen the knitted cat warmers (they look like cat feet) to put over table legs to protect wood floors? It sounds like something Mr. Cornelius needs.


    1. I just saw those cat table leg protectors — Lee Wardlaw shared hers on FB. Very cute!

      I love egg cups too — yours sound wonderful. Didn’t take mine out this year. Thanks for visiting, Joy. Hoppy Easter to you too!!


  11. I didn’t know there was a guinea pig in the Beatrix Potter books. How a-DOR-able! *swoons* *loves guinea pigs* And he is such a handsome little fellow, too! As are all Beatrix Potter’s characters. Your blog always brings a joyful smile.


    1. The Amiable Guinea-pig is beaming from ear to ear. It’s about time he got some attention. As much as I liked the limerick, I do wish he’d gotten his own book. But as we learned from Deborah Hopkinson’s book, Beatrix wasn’t so lucky when it came to guinea pigs.


  12. Great post! How fun to learn about the guinea pigs–they are new to me too! Love your photos with your fun dishware and wonderful helpers. Those carrot ear warmers are too cute. I am a big fan of pineapple in my carrot cupcakes and in zucchini bread or muffins–it pairs so well and adds such great flavor. Yum! 😉


  13. Wonderful post! Always fun to meet new characters and I’m a big fan of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. The little figurine of Amiable Guinea-pig is adorable, or as he would probably prefer…very handsome.


  14. Jama, every time I visit your blog site, I walk away with feelings of warmth, coziness, and peace. Of course, I also want to run to my baking corner and whip up one of your delicious delectables. The carrot cupcakes that you and your friends whipped up are quite good looking with their little carrot sprinkles. The little carrot warmers for the ears are adorable. I thank you for the article and now off to prepare for an post-Easter gathering. All my bunnies are out for the occasion.


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