|Alternative names||Hundreds and thousands, jimmies, Dutch hagelslag|
|Variations||Sanding sugar, crystal sugar, nonpareils, confetti, dragées|
Sprinkles are very small pieces of confectionery used as a decoration or to add texture to desserts—typically cupcakes, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, frozen yogurt, some puddings, and in the Netherlands and Australia, sandwiches or bread. The tiny candies are produced in a variety of colors and are generally used as a topping or a decorative element.
Popular terminology for this confection tends to overlap, while manufacturers are more precise with their labeling. What consumers often call "sprinkles" covers several types of candy decorations that are sprinkled randomly over a surface, as opposed to decorations that are placed in specific spots. Sanding sugar; crystal sugar; nonpareils; confetti; silver, gold, and pearl dragées—not to be confused with pearl sugar (which is also sprinkled on baked goods); and hundreds-and-thousands are all used this way, along with a newer product called "sugar shapes" or "sequins". These latter come in a variety of shapes, often flavored, for holidays or themes, such as Halloween witches and pumpkins, or flowers and dinosaurs. Candy cane shapes may taste like peppermint, and gingerbread men like gingerbread cookies.
Sanding sugar is a transparent crystal sugar of larger size than general-use refined white sugar. Crystal sugar tends to be clear and of much larger crystals than sanding sugar. Pearl sugar is relatively large, opaque white spheroids of sugar. Both crystal and pearl sugars are typically used for sprinkling on sweet breads, pastries, and cookies in many countries.
Some American manufacturers deem the elongated opaque sprinkles the official sprinkles. In British English, these are sugar strands or hundreds-and-thousands (the latter term is always used to refer to the multi-coloured spherical type, and alludes to their supposed uncountability). In the Northeastern United States, sprinkles are often referred to as jimmies. Jimmies are usually considered to be used as an ice cream topping, while sprinkles are for decorating baked goods, but the term can be used for both.
The sprinkles known as nonpareils in French and American English are tiny opaque spheres that were traditionally white, but that now come in many colors. The sprinkle-type of dragée is like a large nonpareil with a metallic coating of silver, gold, copper, or bronze. The food-sprinkle dragée is now also made in a form resembling pearls.
Toppings that are more similar in consistency to another type of candy, even if used similarly to sprinkles, are usually known by a variation of that candy's name—for example, mini-chocolate chips or praline.
Nonpareils date back at least to the late 18th-century, if not earlier. They were used as decoration for pièces montées and desserts.
Dutch hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) was invented in 1936 by Gerard de Vries for Venz, a Dutch company made popular by said treat. Hagelslag is used on bread. Most of the time butter is spread out so the hagelslag does not fall off. After much research and venture, de Vries and Venz created the first machine to produce the tiny cylindrical treats. They were named hagelslag after their resemblance to a weather phenomenon prominent in the Netherlands: hail. Only hagelslag with a cacao percentage of more than 35 can bear the name chocolat hagelslag. If the percentage is under the 35%, it has to be called cacao fantasy hagelslag.
Sanding sugar has been commercially available in a small range of colors for decades. Now it comes in a wide variety, including black, and metallic-like "glitter."
The origin of the name "jimmies" is unknown. It is first documented in 1930, as a topping for cake.
Though the Just Born Candy Company claims to have invented jimmies and named them after an employee, this is unlikely. The rumor that the name somehow refers to Jim Crow is also likely false.
Sprinkles generally require frosting, ice cream, or some other sort of sticky material in order to stick to the desired food surface. They can be most commonly found on smaller confections such as cupcakes or frosted sugar cookies, as these generally have more frosting and smaller diameter than do cakes.
In the Netherlands, chocolade hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) is used as a sandwich topping (similar to muisjes and vlokken); this is also common in Belgium, Suriname, and Indonesia, once a colony of the Netherlands. These countries also use vruchtenhagel and anijshagel (made of sugar and fruit/anise-flavour respectively) on sandwiches (mainly at breakfast).
A dessert called confetti cake has sprinkles mixed with the batter, where they slowly dissolve and form little colored spots, giving the appearance of confetti. Confetti cakes are popular for children's birthdays in the United States. The Pillsbury Company sells its own variation known as "Funfetti" cake, incorporating a sprinkle-like substance into the mix.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sprinkles.|
- The Capital Times – August 1, 2006[dead link]
- "Etymology of Jimmies (Ice Cream Sprinkles)". snopes.com. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
- "Our History". Just Born, Inc. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
- "Venz". Venz.nl. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
- for McCann's food store, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 4, 1930, p. 6.
- Just Born Fun Facts; see also their photograph of a package of jimmies (on page 4 of their photo gallery), claimed to be from "circa 1930" and showing a trademark symbol.
- David Wilton, Ivan Brunetti, Word myths: debunking linguistic urban legends, p. 162. ISBN 0-19-517284-1
- Ben Zimmer, "Corporate Etymologies", New York Times Magazine, April 26, 2010, 
- "Jimmies" at snopes.com 
- "The Word (column", The Boston Globe, March 13, 2011
- "The Chocolate Sprinkle Sandwich". Math.union.edu. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
- "Funfetti® Cake Mix with Candy Bits". Pillsburybaking.com. 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2013-04-22.