It wasn't a straight path for Candace Nelson. The now owner and founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes was recruited out of college into an investment banking analyst program. When her peers transitioned from the program to business school, Nelson went a different direction: pastry school. "I wanted to pursue a deeper passion and, admittedly, I have always had a bit of a rebellious streak and refused to take the expected path," explains the baker.
Nelson's love affair with baking started at a young age, baking with her mother. She is just one in a long line of women in her family with culinary passions. Nelson's great grandmother was a restaurateur in San Francisco with a love for baking and cooking.
After Nelson made the leap to pastry school, she jumped right in; she wanted to put her learnings to work with a small cake business and began catering from her kitchen. She would make the cakes and her husband would deliver them. "Most were special occasion cakes which I came to realize are, by definition, reserved for special, infrequent occasions," says Nelson. "I wanted to create an artful and handcrafted dessert, yet one which people could eat on a daily basis...which led me to reinvent and elevate the lowly cupcake." The result? Sprinkles Cupcakes debuted in 2005 as the world's first cupcake bakery.
Today, Sprinkles locations dot the country, from San Francisco to New York. The company, best known for beginning the gourmet cupcake craze, also serves ice cream, cookies and brownies.
Check out the slideshow above to learn why Nelson created a Cupcake ATM, what the colors of Sprinkles's cupcake toppings really mean and what unusual flavor was backed by popular demand.