If anyone knows what makes a good cupcake, it’s Candace Nelson, the founder and pastry chef at Beverly Hills cupcake shop Sprinkles Cupcakes — one of the first of its kind. (Hard to believe when cupcake shops stand on almost every corner now.) Candace is also a judge on Food Network’s newest food competition show, Cupcake Wars, which debuts tonight at 9 p.m. ET.
“It is an exciting show,” Candace told Crushable. “I’m going to be one of two permanent judges, and we have the very lucky task of sitting and tasting the creations of four competing cupcake bakers as they go through 3 rounds of competition.” In each round, the bakers are given a different challenge — like using breakfast items to make their cupcakes, for example — with the overall winner taking home $10,000 and the opportunity to bake for a big event and get exposure.
Not surprisingly, the challenges produce some unexpected creations, which Candace admits she’s actually really enjoyed. Like a surprisingly tasty smoked salmon cupcake. “Some of the bakers were scared to use the more savory breakfast flavors,” Candace said of one challenge. “And others took a risk and hit it head. Smoked salmon was the one ingredient I wouldn’t have touched.”
Best of all, Candace says she likes to see the lowly cupcake finally getting the respect it deserves. “Cupcakes have always been popular, ” she said, but now they’re being reinvented. “Cupcakes aren’t for kids any more. They’re worthy of a special occasion cake, wedding or dinner parties. They’re an affordable pleasure and a simple pleasure, and really provide that nostalgic feeling of home when times are tough.”
So we had to ask Candace, what’s the ideal cupcake, to her? “I certainly look for a tender crumb to the cake, and obviously moistness. Cupcakes are tricky because you keep them in the oven a minute too long and they dry out. I’m more of a cake person than a frosting person, but I like frosting as well, and as long as it’s not overly sweet and grainy, pile on the frosting.”
How do you feel about cupcakes? Is their popularity something you can get behind? What do you like most about them — the cake or the frosting?