Last Saturday morning, while our heads were still on our pillows, my husband's eyes popped open and he said "I've been meaning to tell you this.  I've dreamed of a cake three nights in a row, but I keep forgetting to tell you about it. It's one of those crêpe cakes. The flavor is chocolate-amaretto, and it has a maraschino cherry on top. I think you are supposed to make it."

I knew he wasn't fabricating a story to coerce me into making something he was craving. I know for a fact that he'd rather eat a pickle on top of cake than a maraschino cherry.  I took this news as a sign, or maybe it was some kind of divine appointment with cake.  Whatever the case, I felt his dream should be made a reality- with one exception.  I decided to spare him the cherry.

I'm a fan of red wine in desserts (you know this, right?), and I've seen lots of boozy lollipop recipes, but none containing red wine. I did a good bit of searching online, and even in my personal stash of candy cookbooks -nada. I became obsessed with the idea of a red wine pop, and my mission soon became clear: get in the SB test kitchen and fill this terrible void in the confectionery world!

It took a few tries.  First, I used the liquid/sugar ratio for a standard pop, but the flavor was lacking. I increased the red wine, only to find the candy wouldn't set properly. I knew better, but I did it anyway.

A while later the correct synapse fired in my brain, and the answer was simple: make a red wine reduction.  This gave the lollipops big-time flavor and a beautiful color.

When I heard that Kristan of Confessions of a Cookbook Queen was having a birthday today, I immediately wanted to help celebrate!  I've been a long-time fan of her creative desserts, not to mention her hilarious point of view and true-to-life anecdotes. Yes, she's smart and funny, but above all- she's as sweet as her confections. I deeply admire the openness she has with her readers, and even though we've never met in person, I consider her a friend!

Kristan loves all things pink and sparkly (helloo, a kindred spirit!), so I created these glittering pink cotton candy meringues for her special day.  They are just as easy to make as standard meringues!  Just swap out the granulated sugar for finely ground cotton candy sugar.  They are melt-on-your-tongue delicious, and much more stable than cotton candy, which will melt away before your very eyes!

It's cold outside and the landscape is dreary.  And the jolly celebration of Christmas and New Year's is over.  I can't think of a better time to make -and share- a pretty cake.

My sights have been set on a pink scratch-made maraschino cake, and trying to find a recipe for one has been a little like trying to find Waldo.  The same recipe kept popping everywhere I looked. You know, the one that uses a white cake mix as a base?  I tried that one, but it was not what I was looking for.

I wanted scratch-made.  I wanted complete control of what went into my cake, and I wanted it to taste bakery fresh.  That doesn't seem like such a tall order, right?

Alas. The recipe I had been looking for was in an old fundraiser cookbook (love those!).  It took a some mild tweaking, but now it's ready to share!

Yes.  You read that right. Chocolate-mashed potato cupcakes.

We have a whole new year to be adventurous, so I figure, why not.

Why not try something new and different and unexpected?  And why not since I had a bowl of leftover mashed potatoes just hanging out in my fridge with the dozens of other New Year's leftovers.

As I considered this idea, I remembered the chocolate-covered potato chips from the Sweet Confections book and that sealed the deal.  They were destined to become chocolate-mashed potato cupcake toppers.

I smiled.  I giggled.  I whipped them up in a flash!
Best of all, I totally weirded out Mr. Baird.  It was a good day.

Now, I've had my fair share of secret ingredient desserts; tomato soup chocolate cake (a Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe), chocolate kraut cake - I even ate garlic chocolate chip cookies once at a garlic festival.  They were all really good and not weird at all.   The main purpose of the novelty/mystery ingredient is to impart moisture, and it's no different with these mashed potato cupcakes.  The cake portion bakes up dense like a pound cake but it is OH-so-moist.

I will make these again when I'm staring down a bowl of leftover 'taters.
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