"The Shortest Way Home" Book Discussion and Raspberry Cupcake Themed Recipe

Updated on December 10, 2018
Amanda Leitch profile image

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


Hannah is well on her way to having her dream life in New York with a wealthy, driven boyfriend, a Master’s in Business Management, and a finance job opportunity at a huge company that will pay exceedingly well and move her in the direction of her life plan. Her current arrangement is far better than the life she left behind as a teenager in Iowa. But when Hannah and her boyfriend decide to visit a few wineries before school ends in California, Hannah falls in love with a small winery and vineyard called Bellosguardo, where she is offered a marketing job by its owners, starting immediately! There, she can live in an adorable cottage beside the vineyard, save a company that actually needs her, and slow down from the hectic, beige life of a wealthy New York businesswoman. But what will happen to her boyfriend and their life plan? Is being impulsive for once something that will truly change her life for the better?

The Shortest Way Home is a delightful escape to California wine country, along with reevaluation of life goals, and an homage to taking a chance on your dreams, or finding new ones, no matter what age. This book will leave you craving good wine and cheese, the views of a gorgeous sunset over a vineyard to go with it, and maybe a puppy in your lap too.

Perfect for fans of

  • wineries, vineyards
  • Napa Valley, CA
  • romantic comedies
  • romantic dramas
  • overcoming obstacles
  • family secrets/drama
  • finding yourself/changing goals
  • chasing dreams
  • food/foodies
  • risk taking
  • cottages

Discussion Questions

  1. How did never feeling settled anywhere she lived make Hannah feeling that way at Bellosguardo that much more powerful?

  2. “Why not have your life be your dream?” Hannah was asked by Ethan. Why don’t some people go after that? If you can’t have your dream career, are there compromises to that that can be made that are almost as good?

  3. Why did Hannah see New York as gray and beige, and California as colorful? What things about New York had she liked? Why did she feel lonely there still, and what was the community there like in contrast with Sonoma?

  4. How did Mary Ellen, the woman who ran Hannah’s local library change her life?

  5. How was Hannah feeling the pressure of the “tight timeline for women, that we have to figure things out by the time we’re in our late thirties”? To what “things” was she referring? Does life always work out that way? Why does this pressure exist?

  6. How did Hannah, or any of the other women in this story, “sacrifice their own happiness in order to keep from appearing selfish?”

  7. What did Celeste mean when she said that “You want to feel beautiful, but you don’t want to be beautiful. Being beautiful means nobody ever leaves you alone”? Why did Celeste also advice Hannah to “you need to look and feel good to deal with the public”? Is that true, to a degree, in order to be successful?

  8. Was it Hannah’s fault her family wasn’t close? If not, whose was it?

  9. How did they use roses to protect the grapes on the vines, so that the roses were “like our canaries in a coal mine, but for wine”?

  10. What was family life and dinnertime like for Ethan? How was a partially a product of his environment? What did he want to be different, and how was he still the same as them? Why was that hard for Hannah?

  11. What are the rules about calling something champagne versus sparkling wine if it’s made in America?

  12. In what way is it true that, to a degree, “Everyone’s living the life they wanted to live”?

  13. How was it true for Linda that “Some days you’re happy and some you aren’t. You do the best you can. But none of it is what you think”? How did this apply to her relationships and where did she wind up in the end? What do you think of her philosophy “I don’t think anybody can complete anyone. You’ve got to do that for yourself”?

  14. Why is it that “That’s the thing about being on vacation: You explore. If you live somewhere, you kind of stick to where you need to be”? Why don’t people take more local mini vacations?

  15. Why was it so hard for Hanna to decide what she did or didn’t want, or who, or to change things about herself or her life?

  16. Where was the love that Hannah wanted, “always there waiting for me”?

The Recipe

Hanna loved Wonder Bread, especially with raspberry jam. “It was the one food from my childhood that made me nostalgic and that I craved.”

In the Pinot Noir they drank at the winery, there were notes of plum and raspberry.

Often in the cottage, when she had nothing else to make, Hanna would make herself toast with butter and raspberry jam, and once the nurse made it for her to share with someone in the big house.

Cheese was also a staple of the winery, eaten at meals, snack time, and even as dessert.

Raspberry Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam Cream Cheese Frosting



  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vanilla, raspberry, or plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or heavy whipping cream, at room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh or defrosted frozen raspberries
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp raspberry seedless jam, divided
  • 2 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch

Raspberry Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam Cream Cheese Frosting



  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter with the granulated sugar for one minute on medium-high speed. Preheat oven to 330° F. Add the milk (or cream), vanilla extract, and Greek yogurt (or sour cream). Drop the speed to low and slowly add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. When there is no loose flour, kick up the speed to medium-high and whip for one to two minutes until fluffy.
  2. Drop the speed back to medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time. You may need to stop the mixer after to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula so all of the egg gets mixed in. Then add the jam and mix for about thirty seconds, just until there are swirls of jam throughout the batter. Stop the mixer and fold in the fresh or frozen raspberries with a spatula, scooping from under the batter up to the top. Bake in paper-lined cupcake tins for 14-16 minutes. Remove from tins after ten minutes and allow to cool completely before frosting (at least ten more minutes).
  3. For the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, cream together the remaining 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter and the cream cheese on medium-high speed for two minutes. Add the remaining 3 tbsp raspberry jam and the last teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix for one more minute on medium speed. Drop the mixer to low and slowly add the powdered sugar, about half a cup at a time, and the cornstarch. Mix on low until the powder disappears, then up speed to medium-low for one minute. Place into a piping bag with a rose tip and pipe onto fully cooled cupcakes. Keep refrigerated. Makes 18 frosted cupcakes.

Rate the Recipe

3 stars from 2 ratings of Raspberry Cupcakes w/Raspberry Jam Cream Cheese Frosting

Raspberry Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam Cream Cheese Frosting


Similar Reads

Books mentioned within this one include Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, Little Women, and the Stephen King books Christine, It, and Carrie, as well as the Dark Tower series and the character Mary Poppins.

Another novel about love and finding yourself is Love and Ruin, about Martha Gellhorn, the second wife of the famous writer Ernest Hemingway.

More books about love and self-discovery in California’s wine country are Crushed by Deborah Coonts, and A Vineyard in Napa by Doug Shafer.

A book about four Chinese women and the bond of friendship while living in California (San Francisco) is The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Another book about women friends overcoming trials in Sonoma is A Summer in Sonoma by Robyn Carr or sisters, food, and funny family drama can be found in First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen.

The Garden Party by Grace Danzer also features the coming together of families with little in common, overcoming that and other challenges to be part of an important meal (rehearsal dinner) and life lessons.

When We Found Home by Susan Mallery is also an entertaining family drama about self-discovery.

Notable Quotes

“In the age of Instagram and Snap chat, I think a memory is the most private thing. When things are important, I make a point of closing my eyes and taking a mental photo.”

“There’s a tight timeline for women, that we have to figure things out by the time we’re in our late thirties.”

“Women sacrifice their own happiness in order to keep from appearing selfish.”

“I adored the idea of being the only one doing something. Of being unique.”

“You want to feel beautiful, but you don’t want to be beautiful. Being beautiful means nobody ever leaves you alone.”

“I was finally in the place where I was meant to be.”

“The world does sometimes make us feel like we should do what it thinks.”

“Everyone's living the life they wanted to live.”

“What grows together, goes together.”

“You are allowed to take care of yourself. You have to, really, if you want to work in hospitality. You need to look and feel good to deal with the general public.”

“The world does sometimes make us feel like we should do what it thinks.”

“Everyone’s living the life they wanted to live.”

“Some days you’re happy and some you aren’t. You do the best you can. But none of it is what you think.”

“I don’t think anybody can complete anyone. You’ve got to do that for yourself.”

“You don’t really know something is weird until you experience other things.”

“Sometimes when you stay in the same place your whole life, you forget that change is possible.”

“I was enough.”

“It was easier to know what you didn’t want than what you did.”

“What you really want is for me to fit into your vision of who you want me to be, not who I actually am.”

© 2018 Amanda Leitch


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    • profile image

      Naude Lorenzo 

      17 months ago

      A very interesting book and a delicious recipe, thanks Amanda.


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