Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Polly and her adorable puffin Neal now live in the lighthouse on the Scottish island of Polbearne with her boyfriend Huckle, the beekeeper. In the mornings, she wakes early and goes down to the cold bakery and starts up the oven for fresh bread and pastries the locals will devour. Christmas is no exception, with excessive orders, awkward visits with her mother, and all she longs for is a peaceful week off in bed with champagne and her boyfriend. But her best friend Kerensa who married the ludicrously wealthy American Reuben, has shocking news and a horrid secret that could ruin the nearly-perfect life she’s found. Comical and merry, Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery is an unexpectedly honest look at the motives in relationships and the misunderstandings that can occur when people fear to trust and love one another.

Similar Recommended Readings:

The previous two books in this series are Little Beach Street Bakery and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery. Other similar books by Jenny Colgan are Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe,  Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris.

Similar books about love and baking or chocolate treats are The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Riechert, Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, Charmed by Chocolate (Love at the Chocolate Shop #6) by Steena Holmes, Chocolate Magic (Love by Chocolate #3) by Zelda Benjamin, Raspberry Crush by Jill Winters, or Miracle Pie (Miracle Interrupted #4) by Edie Ramer.

Similar books for Christmas are Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, With Love at Christmas by Carole Matthews, and Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley.

Similar cozy romance by the beach books are Divine Interruption and Divine Connection by Amy Lyon.

The Recipe

Polly complained that she had “a million things to do and all anyone wants to order is gingerbread!” Although Huckle certainly enjoyed the smell. Also, Reuben insisted that he made the best hot chocolate and it couldn’t be made in a machine, “and brought Polly several tins of his specially imported Swiss chocolate” for the hot cocoa in the shop. To combine these elements, the following cupcake recipe is for:

Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Ginger Spice Frosting

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 sticks, plus 1 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 oz 60% cocoa chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/2 tbsp plus 2 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 2 tsp ground ginger, divided
  • 1/2 tsp plus 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Combine half a stick (one quarter cup) salted butter at room temperature with the brown sugar in mixing bowl on medium speed. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder, one half tablespoon of cinnamon, one teaspoon of ginger, half a teaspoon of nutmeg, and the allspice and cloves. In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and one tablespoon of butter for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating. It shouldn’t take more than two and a half minutes total.
  2. Allow butter and sugar to combine in the mixer about two minutes, then drop the speed to low and add the sour cream, molasses, and the eggs—one at a time until combined—followed by the melted chocolate chips. Then add half the flour mixture, very slowly. Allow to combine fully, stopping the mixer to scrape down the insides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if needed. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, half a cup of milk, followed by the rest of the flour. Mix until just combined. Scoop into a paper-lined cupcake tin and bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes in a standard oven.
  3. For the frosting: mix one stick of room temperature (one half cup) salted butter with the remaining one teaspoon of vanilla, two teaspoons of cinnamon, one teaspoon of ginger, 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg, and one cup of powdered sugar on medium-low speed using a stand or hand mixer. Then add the remaining milk and powdered sugar. Mix on medium speed until fully combined, stopping to scrape down the insides of the bowl if needed, to make sure all the powdered sugar is incorporated. Frost onto cupcakes that have been cooled at least 15-20 minutes. Top with Christmas sprinkles if desired.
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Discussion Questions:

  1. What were some of the challenges for Huckle relocating to the lighthouse instead of living at his bee farm (like his father said about not heating the houses like in America, or drinking beer at room temp)?
  2. Polly’s mother insisted that “you couldn’t miss what you’d never had” but was that true for Polly, especially about her father?
  3. Was Polly’s mother a bit sick, or mentally ill, or just extremely introverted and “quiet in a world full of shouting social-media extroverts,” as Polly said? How might that have affected who Polly was?
  4. How did Selina and Polly both have in common the fact that “some people stayed… But some just vanished completely, as if by being miserable I would infect their cozy, perfect little worlds”?
  5. When comparing Kerensa’s mistake with what could have happened between herself and Tarnie, Polly concluded that “maybe everyone was only ever two feet from disaster, and it was luck, not fundamental goodness, that made all the difference.” Was she right? What other disasters did she avert or encounter?
  6. Why did Polly and Kerensa want so desperately to stop the cycle of fathers wanting nothing to do with their children, or children being raised without fathers? How did it affect them both very personally?
  7. Though she didn’t have far to commute, Polly wondered, was it more difficult for her to commute on a mucky day or a beautiful one? For others, would it be the same, or does it depend on the type of job people have?
  8. What were some of the benefits of her “commute” and of working on the island she lived on? Would she have loved it as much if she’d had to cross the watery road as others, such as the mailman, did?
  9. Why was Polly torn about whether or not to tell Huckle Kerensa’s secret? Was it something only a woman could truly understand? Why?
  10. What happened between Polly and her father, and how did things turn out all right, even though they weren’t?
  11. What made Polly realize that she was wrong in thinking “you always thought you had time—time to fix the relationships that had broken; to do all the things you thought you’d get around to”? What things did she decide to go after as a result, or set aside?
  12. What was the wonderful, huge surprise Reuben and Kerensa had for Polly and how was it perfect for her?
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