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"The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane" Book Discussion and Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes Recipe

I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.

Join our discussion of "The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane" and enjoy the chocolate peppermint cupcakes recipe that follows.

Join our discussion of "The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane" and enjoy the chocolate peppermint cupcakes recipe that follows.

The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane Summary

Emmy’s mother is a psychologist in Connecticut who has just been asked to do a tv show which will take up all of her spare time, so she decides to send her only daughter to a boarding school in England. But this isn’t just any boarding school; it’s where Emmy’s parents met, a place filled with mystery and secret Order with connections to the Latin society Emmy is to be part of.

Soccer-loving Emmy couldn’t care less about the boring Latin society where arrogant boys debate each other on the classics. Still, there does seem to be something odd, even suspicious, about the professor who leads them and the strange “accidents” that keep happening. Emmy’s main focus, however, is trying to uncover what happened to her dad, who left when she was a young child. Before coming to England, she found a mysterious silver box with a cryptic note from him about keeping its contents safe.

With her two best friends, Jack and Lola, Emmy will uncover some of the secrets of the Order of Black Hollow Lane and their connections to her father and his disappearance. The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane is a fun mystery for fans of English boarding schools, secret societies, and friends who band together against bullies and lies.

Perfect for fans of

  • English boarding schools
  • Secret societies
  • Friendship stories
  • Mysteries
  • Soccer
  • Young Adult/Middle School fiction

Discussion Questions

  1. How many medallions did Emmy find? What did they create when put together?
  2. Why did Emmy’s mother send her away to boarding school? Why did she choose Wellsworth? Do you think her mother cared more about her own career or her daughter’s education?
  3. What was the one thing about school that Emmy looked forward to and where she felt like she belonged? What had her mother said about it at Wellsworth?
  4. What was the Order of Black Hollow Lane? What was their symbol?
  5. Who was definitely a part of the Order, and how was it associated with Latin Society?
  6. How did a soccer player named Melina Bakas breaking her ankle affect Emmy not playing soccer?
  7. Did Emmy’s mother care what Emmy wanted? Should Emmy have cared what her mother wanted and obeyed her? What would have been a better way for Emmy to deal with the situation than trying to hide things from her mother?
  8. Who took the blame for breaking into the office to look at Emmy’s dad’s record? Why?
  9. To whom did Emmy loan the box with her dad’s relics? What did they find out as a result and how was the timing very a good thing?
  10. How did Emmy do during the big game, and how did paying attention to details about other players help her score in the end?
  11. What warning did Emmy’s father, Tom, receive that prompted him to leave his family?
  12. Why couldn’t Emmy stop investigating the Order or stop going to Latin Society? Could you have done so?
  13. How did Emmy find out that “punching someone could hurt the person doping the punching”? Other than just the physical pain, what other hurt or bad feelings does it bring to hurt someone else? Why is violence usually not the best solution?
  14. Who was Brother Loyola?
  15. What task was Tom, Emmy’s father, in charge of?
  16. What happened with the medallions?

The Recipe

The smell of peppermint chewing gum reminded Emmy of her father. Emmy also liked to eat chocolate while doing her homework, or go down to the Hall, where hot chocolate was always waiting for them.

To combine those flavors, I created a recipe for:

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes with Chocolate Peppermint Frosting

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes with Chocolate Peppermint Frosting



For the cupcakes:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2-2 1/2 tsp peppermint extract or baking emulsion, depending how much you like peppermint
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) hot, strong coffee

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1-2 tsp peppermint extract or baking emulsion, depending how much you like peppermint
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh coffee
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream, half and half, or whole milk


  1. Preheat your oven to 325° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed, use the paddle attachment to combine the granulated sugar and oil for two minutes. While those are mixing, in another smaller bowl stir together flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.
  2. To the oil/sugar mixture, add the sour cream, peppermint and vanilla extracts, and mix for one minute. Drop the speed to medium-low speed and add the eggs, one at a time. When those are combined, drop the speed of the mixer to the lowest speed and add one half of the flour mixture. Allow to combine, then add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. It should look dark and thick. Stop the mixer and pour in all of the hot coffee, very slowly. Scrape down the insides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Turn the mixer back on to medium-low speed, and mix for about 2 minutes, until the batter is suddenly glossy with few lumps, and the coffee/cocoa smell is strong.
  3. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Fill each cupcake liner about two-thirds full with batter. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out with crumbs, not raw batter. Allow the individual cupcakes to cool completely (minimum of ten minutes, preferably fifteen) on a wire rack or cutting board before frosting them. Makes 12 cupcakes.
  4. For the frosting: whip 1 stick (one-half cup) room temperature salted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment on medium speed for one minute. Add the minimum amount of peppermint extract (you can taste it later to see if you want to add more), half of the powdered sugar and drop the speed to low. Mix for about 20 seconds, then add the heavy cream (or half and half), and alternate with rest of the powdered sugar, and cocoa powder, then the coffee last. Stop the mixer to scrape the inside of the bowl if needed, removing all the powdered sugar from the sides, then mixing again. When the powdered sugar disappears, increase the speed to medium-high and mix until combined. Taste to check how pepperminty the flavor is, and add more in small amounts as desired, up to 2 teaspoons total. Frost onto fully cooled cupcakes. I used an XL star tip. Makes 12 frosted cupcakes.

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes with Chocolate Peppermint Frosting


Rate the Recipe

Books mentioned within this one are the plays by Shakespeare: Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew.

Another great fall YA/middle school children’s book with a spooky mystery is Small Spaces by Katherine Arden, about some children on a school field trip to a dairy farm where creepy scarecrows come to life and try to take the souls of the children. The sequel to this book is Dead Voices.

Greystone Secrets #1: The Strangers is about three siblings at a school where three children practically identical to themselves have been kidnapped, and they must solve the mystery.

The Missing Piece of Charley O’Reilly is about a boy who everyone believes is an only child, but he swears he used to have an annoying eight-year-old brother who slept in a bunk above him. Only his best friend believes him, and together they try to figure out what happened to him.

Black Rabbit Hall is about a strange old mansion in Cornwall where a girl used to spend her summers, and where the same girl, now grown-up and engaged, returns to uncover old family secrets.

Notable Quotes

“Changes are coming. There’s more to your father than you realize. If you’ve found any of his relics, keep them safe.”

“I won’t wish you good luck, because with hard work and self-discipline, you won’t need it.”

“Of all the contributions our school has made to British society, none is greater than our noble brotherhood: the Order of Black Hollow Lane.”

“This was where she belonged. Her heart was meant to pound with the rhythm of fast feet. Her lungs were meant to feel like they might burst open with the very next step. No matter where she was in the world, the smell of freshly cut grass meant she was home.”

“I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that violence solves nothing. It only leads to more violence.”

© 2019 Amanda Lorenzo


Pamela Lorenzo on November 06, 2019:

Great book and delicious recipe. Thnks for the wonderful discussion questions.

naude lorenzo on October 08, 2019:

A nice book and perfect recipe, love it Amanda, thanks