Cupcake Cousins


By Kate Hannigan

Illustrated by Brooke Boynton Hughes

Cover design or artwork by Brooke Boynton Hughes

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Baking a fluffy pink cupcake is awesome, but wearing a dress that looks like one? No, thank you! Cousins Willow and Delia can’t wait to spend a week vacationing together with their families. Their aunt is getting married, and Willow and Delia are hoping their tasty baked goods will be enough to get them out of being flower girls in the wedding. But with a mischievous little brother, a bacon-loving dog, and a misbehaving blender in the mix, their treats don’t exactly turn out as planned. When a real emergency threatens to ruin the wedding, will their baking skills be enough to save the day? Join Willow and Delia in the kitchen by following their scrumptious recipes for whoopee pies, peach pancakes, and other tasty treats!


Also by Kate Hannigan

Cupcake Cousins, Book 2: Summer Showers

Text copyright © 2014 by Kate Hannigan

Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Brooke Boynton Hughes

Cover design by Whitney Manger

Cover illustrations © 2014 by Brooke Boynton Hughes

Excerpt from Summer Showers copyright © 2015 by Kate Hannigan.

All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney • Hyperion Books, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023-6387.

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9393-7


Publisher's Note: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written, under adult supervision. The Publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The Publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.

for cousins olivia & chloe,

and michigan summers


for mom, dad, christopher, and bill

and for the baukol cousins, who love a good wedding


The Wedding Party

Flower Girls Willow Sweeney,
niece of the bride

Delia Dees,
niece of the bride
Junior Bridesmaids Violet Sweeney,
niece of the bride

Darlene Dees,
niece of the bride
Ring Bearer Sweet William Sweeney,
nephew of the bride
Matrons of Honor Agapanthus Bumpus Sweeney,
sister of the bride

Gardenia Bumpus Dees,
sister of the bride
Groomsmen Liam Sweeney,
brother-in-law of the bride

Delvan Dees,
brother-in-law of the bride
Best Men Peter Baxter,
brother of the groom

Kevin Baxter,
brother of the groom

Willow scowled at the flower-girl dress like it was growing in a patch of poison ivy. Every time she looked at it, she had the same thoughts.

That it was pink.

That it was awful.

That it should not come anywhere close to her skin.

"You must be so excited for Aunt Rosie's wedding," her mom said as she stuffed more clothes into an already overflowing suitcase.

Willow was sitting on her parents' bed in a silent standoff with the pink gown. Sandwiched between pieces of oversized luggage, she glared at the wedding outfit draped over the chair across from her.

Her bubble gum–bright dress glared right back.

"This year's vacation is going to be so special," her mom continued, giving Willow's head a quick pat as she transferred swimming trunks from one suitcase to the other. "I can just feel it in my bones. Extra special."

Willow loved her aunt Rosie. And she loved their summer vacations to Michigan. But the thought of having to be a flower girl and wear that awful pink gown made her skin break out in blotchy hives.

"And Delia will look so adorable in her dress, too," her mother added with a pause that Willow considered a bit dramatic. "Just thinking of you girls leading the way down the aisle together…" Her voice trailed off.

Willow imagined her cousin Delia in the same poufy dress. At least Delia, with her black hair and dark brown skin, could wear the color. But pink clothes on freckle-faced, copper-haired Willow just made her look sunburned. And even if they could dye those frilly gowns green, nothing would change how babyish they were.

"Preschoolers would look better in these baby dresses than two fourth graders," Delia had grumbled when they talked on the phone.

Fourth-grade flower girls?

It was too much for Willow to bear.

Maybe Aunt Rosie thought the gowns came packaged with the cute little toddlers in the catalog pictures. Since Willow's family lived in Chicago and Delia's was in Detroit, Aunt Rosie had done the dress shopping on her own—picking the flower-girl gowns from a magazine without seeing how they looked on the actual flower girls themselves.

"I'll go finish my packing," Willow announced, suddenly eager to get away from the dress. She dashed down the hall and over the body of Bernice, their 117-pound Bernese mountain dog, who was delicately chewing the shoelaces of a blue sneaker like she was eating spaghetti. "You can help me, Bernice," she whispered.

Willow pushed a pile of clothes off her bed and into her open suitcase, making room for Bernice and the sneaker. Plopping onto a pillow beside them, she knocked the suitcase shut with a "Humph." Why couldn't she and Delia be junior bridesmaids and wear purple dresses like Violet and Darlene? Their sisters were only a few years older, but they were being treated like big shots, while Willow and Delia were stuck with frilly princess gowns, neon-pink shoes that could be seen from outer space, and flowery baskets for tossing rose petals.

"And Willow," her mom called down the hall, "bring me your pink ballet flats and that sweet little rosebud basket. They're the last things on my checklist for the wedding."

Willow's mom was a school librarian, which meant she thrived on order. And it meant she was never without a checklist.

"I don't mean to rub it in," chuckled Violet, who was standing in Willow's doorway now and clearly rubbing it in, "but your dress is pink like a dog's tongue. No offense to Bernice."

Bernice raised a furry black ear in Willow's direction, as if she couldn't believe the things Violet said these days either. Then, letting the slobbery sneaker drop, Bernice licked Willow's knee, and they both stared across at Violet until she got the hint to leave.

"Well, I'm out of here," Violet announced, snapping her gum and heading down the hallway to deposit her gown with their mom. "Hurry up and finish packing, by the way. Dad is already loading the car."

Willow tried not to focus on the bubble gum Violet was chewing. But it was hard to miss—blindingly pink, just like the flower-girl dresses. She and Delia had been fighting the gowns since July, when they had arrived in the mail.

"No way. Never. Uh-uh," they had repeated.

They'd already considered putting the dresses in the washing machine to shrink them so they wouldn't fit. Or leaving them outside to bake in the hot sun so the color might fade. They'd even plotted sending them to zoo camp with Delia and letting the penguins use them for nests.

But their moms had told them the same thing every time—that this was Aunt Rosie's wedding, so Aunt Rosie was the boss. "When you get married, girls, then you get to make all the decisions."

Get married? That thought made Willow itchy all over again.

"I'm still waiting, Willow," her mom called again from the suitcases. "I want to check those things off my list."

Willow wished she could feed that checklist to Bernice.

Flopping onto her stomach and sliding underneath the bed, all the way to the back corner, Willow dug out the neon-pink wedding shoes. "I'll surrender these," she told Bernice, "but I draw the line at the goofy basket."

Willow tossed the wedding shoes onto her mom's bed next to Violet's purple gown and bounced her suitcase down the stairs. Then she gathered up the last of her vacation essentials—her tattered notebook full of recipes, her favorite blue sun hat, and a lucky penny—and tucked them into her polka-dotted messenger bag. Throwing the strap over her shoulder, she headed with Bernice for the car.

"Now give it back," Violet was saying as Willow climbed into the backseat between her sister and their little brother, Sweet William. "I said you could wear my medal for a minute, and that's what I meant. Sixty seconds!"

"You count too fast," Sweet William complained. But he finally relented and passed the red-white-and-blue ribbon back to Violet. A gold medal the size of a pancake dangled in front of Willow's face for a few moments as it transferred from her brother's pudgy hand to her sister's long and graceful one.

"Why are you bringing your swimming medals to the beach house?" Willow asked, trying to hide her annoyance. She had been looking forward to a vacation from her sister's latest triumphs.

"Mom wants me to show Grandma, Grandpa, and everybody what I've won this summer," Violet said. Then she added, "I'm only bringing a few, since it would take practically a whole suitcase to carry all of them."

Willow reached into her bag and pulled out the lucky penny. It suddenly looked very small.

"What ya got there, Willow?" asked Sweet William, wriggling into his booster seat and hooking the straps.

"It's called a wheat penny," she said. "I picked it up off the sidewalk by the dojo just before karate class yesterday. I think it's extra lucky."

"A sweet penny?" gushed her brother, who was always mixing up his words. "It's named for me! Can I have it?"

"Wheat, not sweet," Violet said irritably. "You've got to listen better, Sweet William."

Willow patiently ran her finger over the etching on the face of the copper coin to help him understand. "This penny has stalks of wheat on it. It's really rare. So I think that makes it really lucky, too."

The back hatch to the station wagon was open, and their parents were hovering behind them, arranging the suitcases and the plastic bags that held all the wedding outfits. Willow rubbed the lucky wheat penny with her thumb and made a wish that Bernice would gnaw an enormous hole in her flower-girl gown during the two-hour drive to Michigan.

"Pennies are basically worthless," declared Violet, who as a sixth-grader was starting middle school and therefore always setting Willow straight. "And would you please strap in? We can't head for Saugatuck until you've clicked."

Saugatuck. Willow looked out the window as the car pulled away from the curb and imagined they were already there, beneath the thick canopy of trees and gazing back across Lake Michigan toward Chicago. She loved everything about the place, even how the name sounded on her tongue.


The word itself was summertime: cousins and grandparents, aunts and uncles, everybody sleeping all together in the old white house called Whispering Pines. They'd been renting there for so many summers that even the owner, Henry Rickles, was like family.

In her mind, Willow made her own checklist of how she would spend the week with Delia. Picking peaches at the orchards, boogie-boarding in the lake, catching fireflies in the moonlight. And just like last summer, they'd make pancakes every morning and desserts every night. Side by side with Delia in the Whispering Pines kitchen—that was probably her favorite place to be. Though baking cakes with her dad in Chicago, whisks in hand, ran a close second.

Or maybe it was the other way around. Willow couldn't decide.

"Great whoopee pies yesterday, Willow," her dad said, grinning and readjusting the rearview mirror so he could see her in the backseat. "That buttermilk trick worked, didn't it?"

"It was amazing," Willow agreed. "How did you know that mixing lemon juice and milk would be a good thing?"

Willow's mom said she had never heard of using sour milk in place of buttermilk in a recipe. "But then again, your dad would know. He's the family chef around here."

"Willow, too," he said with a wink. "We both are. She knows about as much as I do by now."

Willow grinned, turning that thought around in her head. Chef Willow Sweeney. She winked back at her dad in the mirror, careful not to whisper the words out loud. If she did, she'd never hear the end of it from Violet.

"I hope she knows not to add peppermint extract to the scrambled eggs anymore," Violet announced, shuddering at the memory. "That was a hard lesson—for all of us."

Willow gazed out the window at the passing billboards. "You never know how something will turn out until you give it a try," she said softly.

"Well, try again on that yellow cake you baked last week. Did anyone taste that thing?" Violet made a gagging sound and dropped her head to the side like she was dying. "Dreadful!"

Willow did her best to ignore her older sister. Again. But lately Violet and her comments were getting harder to brush off. Willow sank lower in her seat, fighting the urge to climb into the very back and ride all the way to Saugatuck with Bernice.

Willow Sweeney's Practically Perfect Whoopee Pies


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened but not melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk or sour milk*
  • * To make the sour milk, pour 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a measuring cup, then add enough nonfat or low-fat milk to equal 1 cup liquid.

For the filling:

  • 8 ounces (1 brick) cream cheese
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened but not melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar


  • 1. Make sure you have an adult's help.
  • 2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in one bowl.
  • 3. Using an electric mixer in a second bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly pour in the dry ingredients from the first bowl. Add the egg, vanilla, and buttermilk or sour milk. Beat until it's all combined.
  • 4. Drop the batter, about 2 tablespoons at a time, onto two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Make about 24 cookie-size cakes. Smooth and flatten slightly. Bake about 10 minutes. Cool about 10 minutes.
  • 5. Filling: With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, softened butter, and vanilla, slowly adding the powdered sugar. Beat on high until smooth and creamy. Add more sugar to taste.
  • 6. While the cookies are cooling, refrigerate the filling for about a half hour.
  • 7. Gently spread the filling across a cooled cookie-cake. Then put another cookie-cake on top, sandwiching the filling. Repeat until there aren't any cakes left.
Makes a dozen whoopee pies.

A short while later came the shout Willow was waiting for. "Look sharp, everybody!" her dad called. "This is the turnoff for Whispering Pines!"

By the time the car reached the final curve, Willow was too excited for their vacation to stay annoyed. She squeezed Sweet William's knee in anticipation and rolled down his window to breathe in the August air.

"Don't crush my crickets," he giggled, pushing her hand away from the pocket of his shorts. "They're on vacation, too."

Willow's dad honked the horn as the car bounced its way down the long, tree-lined drive. A dusty smell wafted in from the gravel crunching underneath the wheels. Willow scooted up in her seat, leaning between her parents' headrests to get a good look at the three-story house as it appeared through the thick pine trees.

She loved this moment, the way the pebbly driveway stretched out before them like a promise. It was always these seconds—just when the tall white Victorian came into view, the blue water of Lake Michigan fanning out behind it—that Willow replayed again and again in her head like a movie throughout the long school year.

She squeezed her penny and made a wish that they could stay forever.

"Aggie's here," came Grandma's shout from the porch. And Willow saw her grandmother waving at the car, both hands covered in bright green gardening gloves.

Violet flung her door open, and the girls were clambering out of the car before their dad had even turned off the engine. Their mom was already out of her seat belt too, dashing across the yard toward her two squealing sisters, Aunt Rosie and Aunt Deenie. Only Grandpa called the three of them by their real names, Agapanthus, Rose, and Gardenia. "By any other name," he liked to say, "my three flowers wouldn't smell half as sweet."


Willow smiled at the familiar smack of the screen door off the side of the house. It sounded like a cap gun announcing the start of a race. The best part of summer vacation was finally beginning.

Sweet William began pushing his way through the crowd of relatives toward Grandpa and Grandma, whose straw hats made them easy to find. Grandma's wide, floppy brim was ringed with sunflowers.

Bernice followed closely at Sweet William's heels, and Willow could hear her brother issuing noisy complaints about too many knees blocking his route. Willow felt herself pulled into the friendly chaos too, weaving her way through dozens of family members who were busy kissing cheeks and patting backs. Some of the faces were unfamiliar.

"Sweet William," Grandma said with a hug, "I'd like you to meet some of the groom's family."

Willow slipped past them, deciding to circle back later for her own introduction. Because just then, there was one person she wanted to find more than anyone else in the world.

Where was Delia?

She heard the shout first. "Willooooow!"

Then she saw a flash of black braids and brown arms just before she felt the impact.

"Delia!" Willow coughed. "I'm so happy—" And that's all she could get out as both girls tumbled onto the lawn, choking with laughter and flopping about like a couple of rainbow trout. Bernice raced over and began to bark and circle the two of them, licking Delia's face whenever she saw an opening.

"See what I have to live with?" complained Violet, who had already paired off with Delia's seventh-grade sister, Darlene. "It's like we have two five-year-olds in the family instead of just one."


On Sale
May 13, 2014
Page Count
288 pages

Kate Hannigan

About the Author

Kate Hannigan loves to test new recipes on her husband, three kids, and even the family dog. When she’s not creating disasters in her Chicago kitchen, she’s usually at her desk writing fiction and nonfiction for young readers. Kate is also the author of Cupcake Cousins, Cupcake Cousins: Summer Showers, and The Detective’s Assistant. Say hello online at

Brooke Boynton Hughes grew up in Loveland, Colorado, where she spent lots of time drawing cats, mermaids, and tree houses. Today, she lives in Washington and holds a BFA in Printmaking from Colorado State University and an MFA in Figurative Art from the New York Academy of Art. Brooke is also the illustrator of Cupcake Cousins, Cupcake Cousins: Summer Showers, Baby Love, and Henry Wants More! Visit her online at!

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