Candace Nelsen – Candace Nelson, Sprinkles Cupcakes & Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”
Featured Chef in the 2011 Vanilla Vine, Issue #1
Sprinkles . . . six years ago this word had one meaning, a sugary topping used to decorate sweet treats. Now, when many people hear it, they think of Sprinkles Cupcakes, the mega successful, multi-chained Original Cupcake Bakery. We were lucky enough to interview the one and only Candace Nelson, founder of the gourmet bakery and long-time fan of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas.
How does one create such an empire, manage a family, appear as a judge on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, and remain as kind and down to earth as Candace? It must be challenging, but throughout her interview we realized she does a great job at doing just that!
For starters, Candace refers to Sprinkles as a Mom and Pop bakery, which at first was hard to believe knowing the success the bakery has had. However, that doubt was short lived after Candace’s response, “I am the Mom and Charles (her husband) is the Pop!” Her response evokes a smile, she goes on to explain that “Mom and Pop” is also an attitude that is reflected in the way they care for their product and customers. “There’s not much hierarchy at Sprinkles so everyone knows and feels that they are working with Charles and me. We really are just one big family!”
There is something about the name, Sprinkles. Candace says that it just popped into her head and she knew instantly it was the perfect name. “It’s playful, simple and memorable,” and we couldn’t agree more!
The first Sprinkles bakery opened in Beverly Hills in 2005. There are now eight Sprinkles locations, and that number continues to steadily increase. The dream of owning a bakery started at a young age for Candace. She grew up baking with her mother, “I have always loved and romanticized the idea,” she says. In 2002 Candace graduated from the professional pastry program at Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco, which is also where she first discovered Nielsen-Massey Vanillas.
It’s hard to believe that only three years after graduating Candace opened her first of many cupcake bakeries. She explains how the idea started, “Traditionally, the baking industry spotlighted full-size cakes, and cupcakes were an afterthought. They were often made with leftover cake batter and had a reputation for being dry and saturated with artificial ingredients. After graduating pastry school, I started a custom cake business out of my house. I found myself asking, ‘Why can’t dessert be a daily indulgence made with the same care and detail that goes into a special occasion cake?’ And so the concept of Sprinkles was born.” An idea that many Sprinkles, and sweet indulgent fans are grateful for!
What makes these little gourmet cakes so delectable? We know of two very important Sprinkles’ ingredients, our Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract and our Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. Candace explains to us that she chose Nielsen-Massey’s products over other vanillas because of the “superior quality, flavor and customer service.”
With six years under her belt as the cupcake guru, we wondered, how does she continue to develop creative and decadent flavors? “Sometimes I will take flavors I like in other food or drink forms, like a Chai Latte or a Salty Caramel and turn it into a cupcake flavor.” Other times she will try to reinvigorate a forgotten flavor like German chocolate. Candace is even inspired by people, like her banana and peanut butter king cupcake in honor of Elvis—what a delicious inspiration! Being a devout user of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Candace does have a baking tip to share, “Pre-mix vanilla with other wet ingredients so you don’t forget it!”
If Candace Nelson were to describe Nielsen-Massey Vanillas in one word it would be, “Quality.”