Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes is a cosy heartwarming tale of friendship, family, putting the past behind, and embracing the future.
It’s Christmas in Whitsborough Bay. With fairy lights connecting the shops and cafés on either side of the cobbles, Castle Street seems magical. And in such a magical place, surely Christmas wishes can come true.
Carly Travis, owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, has two Christmas wishes this year. Her first is for her younger sister, Bethany, to focus on the positives in her life, including her Christmas wedding, instead of writing herself off as a failure. Bethany’s attempts at cake-decorating aren’t going to win any awards, but she’s certainly great with customers. Carly’s second wish is for her best friend, Liam, to come home for Christmas.
When Liam calls to say he’s been granted leave from the army, Carly makes a third Christmas wish. It’s the one she’s made every year since she was a teenager and, if she’s really brave, could this be the year when it finally comes true?
With Liam coming home, the shop having its best year yet, and a wedding to look forward to, it’s shaping up to be the best Christmas ever for Carly. But for Bethany, things are starting to unravel …
‘Argh! Carly! Help!’
Heart racing at the anguished cry, I dropped my bookings diary on the counter and dashed into the workshop at the back of my shop. ‘What’s wrong?’
My younger sister looked up from the table. ‘It’s awful. I’ve killed Santa.’
I looked into her mournful blue eyes and couldn’t help laughing.
‘It’s not funny,’ Bethany protested. ‘I’ve killed a snowman and a reindeer too.’ She folded her arms and pouted like a petulant child. She looked and sounded more like she was ten than twenty-three. ‘I’m so rubbish at this. I’m rubbish at everything I do.’
I moved round to survey her handiwork. ‘Oh,’ I said, unable to keep the disappointment out of my voice.
‘I did warn you,’ she said defensively.
‘Erm… well, as I always say, it takes patience and practice.’ I could hear the lack of conviction in my words.
Bethany shook her head, picked up the Santa cupcake, peeled off the messy wrapper and took a large bite. ‘I don’t have any patience, as you well know,’ she mumbled through a mouthful of sponge. ‘And I’ve been practising for months now. I’m getting worse instead of better, aren’t I?’
I’d have loved to give her some reassurance but she was right. After four months of working in my shop – Carly’s Cupcakes in the North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitsborough Bay – Bethany had perfected the ability to bake beautiful, light sponge cakes but she had zero talent when it came to decorating them. She hadn’t even mastered a basic buttercream swirl and her iced figures were unidentifiable. If her task was simply to attach one of my figures to a cake I’d prepared, she somehow managed to squash the figure, flatten the swirl and smear buttercream all over the wrapper and the table.
Today’s attempts were so squashed and out-of-shape that they resembled roadkill – not exactly the jolly festive vibe I was aiming for.
‘I’m a liability,’ Bethany wailed, wiping buttercream off her chin. She released her long blonde highlighted hair from its ponytail and shook it out as she stepped away from the table. ‘I told you that you shouldn’t employ me.’
‘You are not a liability.’ I handed Bethany a damp cloth so she could wipe her sticky fingers. ‘It’s just going to take more patience and practice than we might have hoped.’
‘There you go again. Patience and practice. How long does it take?’ She narrowed her eyes at me. ‘I bet you could do everything perfectly on your first attempt, couldn’t you?’
I grimaced. Maybe not first attempt, but I’d never found any of the cake decorating techniques a challenge. From the moment I picked up a piping bag and created my first swirl, I knew I’d found my talent.
‘I knew it!’ Bethany cried. ‘You’re a success at whatever you do whereas I fail at everything.’
I raised my eyebrows at her. ‘Ooh, I think someone’s being a little overly dramatic, aren’t they?’ Taking the cloth from her, I wiped the table.
She folded her arms across her chest. ‘Name one thing I’ve done better than you,’ she challenged.
‘Easy. What are you doing on 22nd December?’
She shrugged. ‘Getting married.’
‘Exactly.’ I stepped into the small kitchen next to the workshop and rinsed the cloth. ‘I might be sorted with my career but my love life’s a disaster,’ I called to her. ‘You’ll find a job that suits you eventually but you know there’s a role here for as long as you want it.’ I wiped my hands and stepped back into the workshop. ‘You’re brilliant with customers and you can’t deny that. And you know I love you being here. It’s my fault for putting too much pressure on you. Maybe you should stick to baking cakes and serving in the shop for now.’