Sprinkles Cupcakes‘s’ opening was met with pandemonium. Beverly Hills residents stormed the tiny storefront on Little Santa Monica Boulevard, buying the entire stock hours before closing time. When I arrived in its first week, I found a handwritten note on the door saying they’d sold out “again,” and that they’d be doubling production. The item Sprinkles produces that has caused the frenzy: cupcakes.
Candace and Charles E. Nelson II own and operate Sprinkles Cupcakes. Candace’s sister used to live in Manhattan’s West Village. When the couple visited sis, they experienced the cupcake-induced bliss generated by legendary Magnolia Bakery. Charles thinks that while Magnolia is good, it has its limitations. “Magnolia is the best in New York, but I think that we are doing something different. They are a full scale bakery, and we are a cupcake shop. We (also) thought that there could be so many more flavors with the end product being improved by using better ingredients.”
The couple, both former bankers, also felt that Los Angeles was due for a singular eating experience. According to Charles, “In New York there are hundreds of stores that specialize in just one item, but that is a rare thing in other parts of the country. We wanted to do cupcakes and do them right. Why do a whole lot of things mediocre rather than just one thing really well?”
Candace, raised in Hong Kong and Singapore, “went to the professional pastry program at Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco four years ago. She has been doing cupcakes exclusively for two years. She developed each of the 20 recipes from scratch.”
Sprinkles offers a rotating schedule of eight different cupcakes daily. If you’re craving a certain flavor, check their schedule online to make sure it’s available that day. Don’t worry about your favorite flavor selling out. Since the opening week rush, Sprinkles has quadrupled production, promising never to sell out again. Cupcakes sell for $3.25 apiece, or $36 per dozen. And they’re worth it.
Two blonde wood shelves display row-upon-row of cupcakes. Sure Sprinkles sells traditional vanilla and milk chocolate cupcakes. But Candace has taken the art to another level with flavors like ginger lemon, lemon coconut, orange, strawberry, banana, pumpkin, and chai latte. And I don’t use the word “art” lightly. The cupcakes are phenomenal, uniformly moist, the icing thick and creamy.
My three early favorites are pumpkin featuring pumpkin cake topped with pumpkin cream; peanut butter chocolate starring peanut butter cake with chocolate chips baked in, milk chocolate icing, and chocolate sprinkles; and ginger lemon, involving ginger cake with lemon butter cream frosting.
In addition to his wife’s expert baking, Charles credits the superior quality of Sprinkles’ cupcakes to top ingredients. “We use Callebaut Belgian chocolate, real fruit and the world’s best bourbon vanilla in our cupcakes. We want to be the best in the cupcake business because that is all we are doing.”
As for locating in Beverly Hills, Charles said, “We looked everywhere from Larchmont to the Ocean. We knew that we needed foot traffic to make it work, and that is hard to come by in LA. Beverly Hills has that foot traffic.”
After choosing the site, Candace and Charles partnered up with an innovative architect, Andrea Lenardin Madden. According to Charles, “She is very talented, and we let her run with her design ideas. All we told her was that we wanted a clean, modern take on the traditional bakery.” Mission accomplished. Madden has splashed design elements across the boutique’s modern brown canvas. Her playful, colorful drawings include a baby’s bottle, a radish, an ice cream cone, even a wand and tiara. They grace the back of the menu and countertop, where up to four customers can sit on stools, eat cupcakes and watch stylish people walk by through the huge front window. The cupcakes that don’t have sprinkles are even topped with designs: quarter-sized Necco-like candy wafers in the shape of discs and flowers. Sprinkles’ logo, found on brown to-go bags, business cards, and gift boxes is in the shape of a crimped-rim cupcake tin.
Sprinkles cupcakes are so good, even dogs are getting in on the action. This is by design. Candace and Charles have a pet dog, and decided to share their gift of cupcakes with the animal kingdom, at $2.50 a pop. Doggie cupcakes are about a third the size of the human version and have ingredients like carob and yogurt instead of sugar. Humans can eat them too, but when versions with ingredients like chocolate and butter cream are also available, why bother? Still, Sprinkles is making a lot of Beverly Hills canines happy.
Despite Sprinkles’ overwhelming early success, Charles refuses to look ahead or mess with a seemingly winning formula. “We don’t plan to do anything other than cupcakes if we can help it. As for other stores, we will see what happens in time. Right now, we are focused on making our first store a success.” Be glad that they are. Even though Sprinkles has only been open three weeks, the results are already staggering.
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