The cupcake landscape in America was bleak before Candace Nelson and her husband opened their first Sprinkles cupcake shop in Beverly Hills in 2005.
Credited with instigating the country’s cupcake craze, it’s now nearly impossible to drive five miles in LA without encountering the bakery’s signature pastries. With Sprinkles shops in 17 locations across eight states, the Sprinklesmobile on LA’s streets and their unique cupcake ATMs, a sweet fix is rarely out of reach.
Following her sweet success in the cupcake business, Nelson joined the judging panel of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars to share her expertise. We sat down with Candace Nelson to get the inside scoop on her life as a food judge, cupcake connoisseur and long-time LA resident.
What’s a typical day like as the founder of Sprinkles and a judge on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars?
There really isn’t a typical day unless we’re filming Cupcake Wars, in which case I can expect very long production days. Yesterday for example, I did recipe development, taste-testing and working with bakers on products for the holidays and next year’s lineup. I also have two little boys that I chauffeur around all the time.
What were you doing before you started Sprinkles?
My husband and I met while working at an investment bank in San Francisco. Then we went to work at Internet startups during the first dot-com boom. After the dot-com bubble burst, I thought that if I was going to start over, I would start over doing something I truly love. That’s when I decided to go to Tante Marie’s pastry school. I grew up baking and I loved to bake. I’m kind of obsessed with it, actually.
Tell me about your favorite Sprinkles flavor.
Our banana cupcake is pretty special, and I love it with both the vanilla and dark chocolate frosting.
In which part of LA do you reside and what’s the best part about living there?
Beverly Hills, not too far from the original store. Beverly Hills has an international reputation and it’s very beautiful. I love how central it is. In LA, the traffic has gotten so bad that if you meet someone who lives on the other side of town, forget it. You can’t be friends. But I have friends from Malibu to Silver Lake and I have a shot at seeing all of them.
Which LA bakeries are your favorites and what you like to order from them?
I really love the Larder at Burton Way. I think Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne are geniuses. I always get a salad and finish it off with their ginger snap cookie. I also tried the coffee cake at Sycamore Kitchen and thought it was so delicious.
In your opinion, which neighborhood in LA is rising on the culinary radar?
Everything I hear about these days is opening in Downtown LA. I have a bucket list that keeps growing because I can never get there. Maybe I can make a weekend of it.
Where’s your favorite place to grab a drink in LA and what’s your go-to beverage?
I love Alfred’s Coffee and Kitchen on Melrose Place. It has kind of a hipster vibe right by all those gorgeous boutiques and they have great cappuccinos and lattes. As for cocktails, I really love the ones at Hinoki and The Bird. They muddle everything fresh and the drinks that come out of that bar are a work of art. I usually get the Gordon’s Cup which is similar to a margarita, but with a little spice from the peppers.
Which restaurants do you frequent most and what are your favorite dishes?
One of the restaurants I go to all the time is Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills. It’s such a feel-good spot. Their waiters and chef, Drago, always make you feel so welcome and special. Of course, we get sushi at Sugarfish and Hamasaku. Petit Trois is food I crave, flawlessly elegant yet simple. Trois Mec is the special occasion cake, while Petit Trois is the cupcake you can eat every day.
Where is a cool place to take an out-of-towner?
I finally, begrudgingly, went to Nobu in Malibu, because I thought, “I’ve been to Nobu a million times. What’s going to be so different?” That is such a special spot. It’s the best Nobu experience I’ve ever had. You have the dramatic Malibu coast, the freshest food and a bustling, see-and-be-seen atmosphere. It’s perfect for tourists, but locals love it too.
Describe your perfect Saturday in LA.
It would involve some sort of hiking and time on the beach. My husband and I have fun on Runyon Canyon. It gives you a great workout and views of LA. On the flipside is that gorgeous coastline and being on the beach. If I can top it off with a night at the Hollywood Bowl with a bottle of wine and cheese basket from The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, I would be a happy camper.
Name something that’s on your LA bucket list.
One of the problems in LA when you have kids is finding a place for them to ride a bike. A friend of mine recently told me about a bike path around Lake Hollywood, so I would love to do that.
Originally published on LosAngeles.com.