Monday, August 1, 2011

Sprinkles Cupcakes!

I love Food Network. And food. And desserts. And baking. And cupcakes. Yum. When I was invited to visit Sprinkles Cupcakes in Chicago - owned by Candace Nelson, a judge on Cupcake Wars on Food Network (PS Food Network, please renew them for a fourth season!) and the founder of the first cupcake bakery in the States, I was ummm beside myself with excitement.

Walking into the bakery was a tiny bit of nirvana. The different cupcake varieties available were daunting. Summer cherry. I will have to make a return trip for that one alone. Plus the key lime. And maybe one or ten others. The employees there are super nice and considerate - I love that they take people's names when they are ordering and then actually call them by name throughout the process.

We were ushered into the back where we were introduced to the incredibly skinny Candace Nelson (who had a baby eight months ago - do you hate her just a little bit yet?). She was the sweetest person to the point where it didn't dawn on me at first that this was Candace Nelson. And her husband. While she did reassure me that my decorated cupcake would end up in the cupcake graveyard, she was very sweet about it.

What is a cupcake graveyard, you ask? Well apparently the people at Sprinkles are a little more of a perfectionist about decorating than I am. Any cupcake that isn't perfect is set aside on a separate pan and not sold. They could have a little bump on them. The frosting might not go quite all the way to the edge. They might not be totally even on the top. The paper might be slightly separating from the cupcake. Ummm, really? I'd still buy those cupcakes. I wouldn't even require a discount. That said, the perfectionism speaks volumes for Sprinkles, doesn't it?

The decorators at Sprinkles are truly impressive. Watching them spin the frosting around in the bowls and then accurately and speedily decorate the cupcakes was fascinating. They had so many different options, and it was cool to see how beautiful each cupcake turned out. And no, I didn't see them make a single one that had to go to the graveyard!

We also got a chance to try out hands at decorating cupcakes. We were provided with red velvet cupcakes (their best selling flavor) and cream cheese frosting. I was a brave soul and went for it. It was a whole lot harder than I thought it would be, and it's possible that I nearly tore the top off the cupcake. It actually turned out sort of ok, especially once I added the Northwestern N to the top. But Candace told me it would end up in the graveyard anyway; it wasn't quite even enough. In my case, I got to take it home, and my husband didn't notice the graveyard quality frosting one bit.

One of the things I loved best was that Sprinkles thinks about those with food allergies. They make a vegan cupcake (yay, Little Miss can have one - she of the dairy allergy) and there is also a gluten free cupcake. Both are kept clean of the other cupcakes to avoid cross contamination, and they are also both made of red velvet cupcakes. Personally, I'd love to see these made with flavors that didn't include food dyes (especially red dye), as those are also frequent allergens and avoided, especially by those on the autism spectrum which is a big portion of those who are gluten free. That's for the future, right? Even now, I'm impressed that these have offerings like this at all. And Little Miss is rather grateful!

Yum. Let's just say that I'll be back, and I can't wait to try more flavors!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was invited to visit Sprinkles Cupcakes in Chicago to tour their kitchen. We were fed cupcakes while there and also able to take home a couple. There was no compensation of any kind, nor any expectation that we would write about the event. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

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