While cupcakes have ceded their trendiness to more Instagrammable confections since their heyday in the mid- to late 2000s, Sprinkles Cupcakes tycoon Candace Nelson has continued to be a dynamic force in the dessert world since launching her famous Beverly Hills bakery in 2005.
Before opening Sprinkles, the pastry school graduate and former investment banker ran a custom-cake business out of her kitchen before setting her sights on a treat she believed was well overdue for a rehaul. “Back then, cupcakes were an afterthought—something bought in plastic clamshells in supermarkets with low-quality, waxy sprinkles and shortening-laden frosting,” she explains. Determined to change this stereotype through the use high-quality ingredients and modern design techniques, she elevated her cupcakes to a beloved position amongst American dessert classics.
Nelson first fell in love with sweets while growing up in Southeast Asia: The local markets lacked the American confections she craved, prompting her to bake out of necessity. Likening her experience launching Sprinkles to “getting a crash MBA,” Nelson was quickly thrown into the trials and tribulations of running a business that became massively successful virtually overnight. Now a prominent figure in the baking industry, she’s served as a judge on several baking shows, most recently on the Netflix original show Sugar Rush, on which she serves as an Executive Producer.
Nelson says she “loves meeting, mentoring and shining a spotlight on other bakers and entrepreneurs” in her role on the show, mentioning an egg-and-avocado-toast confection from the first episode and the “perfect” chocolate cupcake from the seventh episode as series standouts. The impressive talents of the featured bakers have contributed to the vast success of Sugar Rush’s first season, and the show was recently renewed for a second installment.
Nelson’s entrepreneurial spirit began to shift from sweet to savory after trying Naples-born chef Daniele Uditi’s pizza. “I was at my friend Chris and Caroline O’Donnell’s house and with one bite I knew I had stumbled upon something truly special,” she says. The experience was enough to convince Nelson and the O’Donnells to partner with Uditi to establish Pizzana, a pizzeria in L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood.
At Pizzana, Uditi specializes in “slow dough” fermented for 48 hours. Described as “Neo-Neapolitan,” the menu blends cuisine from Uditi’s Naples roots with meticulously sourced California ingredients. Pizzana also imports San Marzano tomatoes from an exclusive plot in the Neapolitan countryside, while fresh fior di latte cheese is shipped fresh to the restaurant weekly. Nelson maintains her commitment to sweet treats as the Executive Pastry Chef, which gives her a “fun opportunity” to reinterpret classics like panna cotta and tiramisu.
The restaurant has become a Los Angeles pizza sensation, with a second location set to open in West Hollywood in January. For more information, visit pizzana.com.