By Ashley Cirilli Farlow
Photos by Mary Fehr
A Little Something Sweet is in the business of tiny masterpieces. Yet, instead of using paint or plaster, these masterpieces are crafted from sugar cookies decked in intricate icing, making for works of art that appear (almost) too impressive to eat.
It’s Lisa Little who puts the “Little” in the custom sweets and family treats business A Little Something Sweet. A wife, mother of three, and Auburn graduate, Lisa is the sole owner and operator of the growing cookie business she runs out of her Cherokee Bend area home.
The talent for baking was passed down to her growing up in the North Alabama town of Hartselle. “My grandmother grew up on a farm with a lot of siblings, so she and my great-grandmother were always cooking and baking,” she says. Lisa’s mother, now better known as grandmother “Gia,” kept the baking tradition going, working during the week as a nurse and spending weekends filling Lisa’s home with the mouth-watering aromas of her homemade cookies and, Lisa’s favorite, her chocolate pies.
Lisa has always enjoyed cooking, but it wasn’t until she became a mother herself that she started baking. She was always dreaming up and executing creative birthday cakes for her family, but what she developed a passion for was the decorating part of the process. Then she realized cookies were the perfect blank canvases.
One glance at any of her cookie canvases and “artist” seems the most appropriate title for her—until you bite into one of her creations and find she’s as much an artist as she is an expert baker. “I have never thought of myself as an artist, so that’s the funny part of this,” she says. “I could never draw or paint growing up and always wanted to.” It just took sugar cookies and a piping bag in her hand to turn on her artistic flair. “Icing is a friendly material to work with, so there isn’t as much fear to me as painting a canvas.”
Lisa’s first attempt at cookies came with the familiar parent sign-up for her middle daughter’s preschool Valentine’s Day class party. “I thought kids will eat just about anything sweet, so if I mess the cookies up, hopefully 4-year-olds won’t mind,” she recalls. So, she proceeded, making a dozen heart-shaped sugar cookies decked in buttercream icing much to the class’s excitement.
By the time the Easter class party came around, she felt confident enough to attempt what would become her best-seller sugar cookies with royal icing – these designed to look like baby chicks in honor of spring, of course. She posted one photo to social media and the orders started rolling in. However, there wasn’t a business to order from. “I had just made some cookies for a class party and all of a sudden I had people requesting Easter cookie orders,” she says. “I had to turn them down and explain I didn’t feel right even entertaining the idea of taking orders since it was just a hobby, and it was only my first time using royal icing.”
But she started practicing with the help of online tutorials and giving away the practice-round treats to friends. Then those friends began saying they didn’t feel right not paying for the enchanting bakes that their family and friends were raving over. “I took a couple boxes of my buttercream hydrangea cookies to a women’s Bible study, and after that I was getting all kinds of calls for flower cookies,” Lisa says. “And that really was the first thing that sparked my passion—I just love making flowers with buttercream!”
Lisa’s cookies are her own recipe inspired by one from her family. “I took my great-grandmother’s recipe for tea cakes, which is more of a shortbread, and I adjusted it to a little bit more of a sugar cookie,” she says. As she tried to nail down her recipe, she had three “Little” taste-testers who were happy for the task. “My kids thought it was great…they always want to create their own masterpieces,” Lisa says. “They know whatever leftover icing and extra cookies I have are theirs to decorate.”
Only a few months after the baby chick cookies in spring 2019 had gained so much attention, Lisa’s cookie business had hatched. By August 2019, she was baking orders every single day of the week. That’s when she decided to give her business a name and make things official.
Lisa grew up visiting her dad’s parents, the grandparents she adoringly called Poppy and Dear, in Birmingham. They always took their granddaughter out to eat, especially after church on Sundays, and Lisa would witness the same conversation between them every time. “Poppy would ask Dear if she wanted to order dessert, and she would say, ‘I think I’ll just have some of yours,’” Lisa recalls. “He’d tell her he wanted his own and that she should order her own too. Then Dear would always say she didn’t want a whole dessert, she wanted just ‘a little something sweet.’”
Decades later, Lisa’s married name became “Little,” and she and her husband moved to Birmingham in 2011, the same year that Lisa’s cherished Poppy passed away. “It’s full circle for me—living where Dear and Poppy kept me all those years and having this business named after those memories. We had such a special bond,” she says.
And Lisa’s cookies are just the perfect size and portion to fulfill Dear’s need for just a little something sweet. So, baked into her business are familial generations before her with abilities and recipes passed down from her mom’s side and the sweet memories and inspiration from her dad’s side.
Over the past year, her orders have gotten larger and her decorating more intricate. She’s traded in her small white mixer that her husband gave her as newlyweds for a professional size Tiffany-blue Kitchen-Aid mixer that has been whirling nonstop. Most orders require a three-day process. The first day is for making the dough and baking the cookies; the second day is for “flooding” the bottom layer of icing and allowing it to dry for around 6-8 hours; and the third day is for decorating, drying, and packaging. Cookies with more intricate designs may take a fourth day.
Lisa is the baker, icer, decorator, packager, manager and marketer of the business with no outside help or employees. To perfect every batch, she tries not to have more than four orders to complete each week. By day she’s called Super Mom and by night, we may rename her the Bedtime Baker. Lisa only bakes at night after she tucks her three children, now ages 4, 6 and 8, into bed and they’re sound asleep. “In the beginning my daughter would wake up in the middle of the night and walk in the kitchen with sleepy eyes and say, ‘I can smell you’re baking cookies! Can I have one?’” says Lisa. Now, baking cookies is just the home’s signature scent.
For custom orders, Lisa can create just about anything you can imagine. From fuzzy tennis balls to glittery, slippery looking bass fish cookies, the textures and attention to detail of her icing work make them all seem lifelike. “I love to use invitations to get the exact colors and fonts on the cookies and can mimic the fabric of an outfit, match the color of the party décor…people really appreciate how custom the cookies are,” Lisa says.
In 2020, she added several new skills to her repertoire, including using a projector for making exact matches like company logos. For one order of more than 300 cookies for an orthodontics office that had undergone a renovation, she created boxes of cookies with designs of the company logo, a tooth with braces, a hammer and a construction cone.
And no matter the order, Lisa says, “I truly enjoy being a part of people’s special memories, and them knowing something was totally custom-made for them.”
A Little Something Sweet orders are taken through her social media accounts (@alittlesomethingsweet3 on Facebook and @a.little.something.sweet on Instagram). And for sweet-tooth cravings, after-school snacks or last-minute gifts, A Little Something Sweet now has a pop-up shop. Customers can stay tuned to social media for updates and swing by to make purchases from Lisa’s Mountain Brook home’s front porch.
A Little Something Sweet Offerings
Custom sweets and family treats for birthdays, retirements, graduations, baptisms, anniversaries, teacher gifts, back-to-school, baby showers galore, engagements, nurse appreciation, real estate agents’ open houses, church events, and beyond.
- Iced sugar cookies
- Sugar cookies with floral-design buttercream
- Frosted cupcakes
- Paint-your-own cookie kits
- Cookie decorating kits
- Hot-cocoa bombs
- Cookies with printed edible sugar paper
Pop-Up Shop Items:
- Pecan brittle
- Decadent fudge
- Chocolate dipped Oreos
- Chocolate covered Marshmallows on a stick
- Fudge pie slices
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Cheesecake brownies
- Confetti brownie blondies topped with icing
- Chocolate drizzled pretzel rods
- Little dippers (bite-size sugar cookies with buttercream icing dip)
- Blueberry lemon cake
- Cookie classes
- Private birthday parties/events