Nelson grew up in Indonesia. Baking runs in her family, as her French-American grandmother was known for the desserts she created at her San Francisco restaurant in the 1930s. Nelson is a graduate of Wesleyan University (class of 1996) and Tante Marie's Professional Pastry Program in San Francisco.
Before entering the bakery business, Nelson and her husband, Charles (born 1969), a native of Oklahoma, worked as investment bankers. After the dot-com bust, Candace decided to focus on pastry making and opened a custom cake business from her home in San Francisco. Later she and Charles moved the business to a former old-fashioned bakery in Los Angeles and began making only cupcakes.
On April 13, 2005, the couple opened Sprinkles Cupcakes, one of the world's first cupcake bakeries. They started in a 600-square-foot (56 m2)-shop in Beverly Hills, California. Though the bakery business was in a four-year no carb slump, they sold 2,000 cupcakes the first week. Candace is described as having a "sophisticated" take on the classic cupcake, using finest quality ingredients like sweet cream butter, pure Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla and Callebaut chocolate. She also creates offbeat offerings like vegan and gluten-free cupcakes and even dog-food cupcakes. The sleek, minimalistic store was designed by an architect from Vienna and the logo and packaging were recreated by a former Martha Stewart employee.
Sprinkles now has 24 locations throughout the United States including New York, with plans to open in 4 more cities including London and Tokyo. The Nelsons also started a traveling "Sprinklesmobile", a Mercedes Sprinter van designed by Sprinkles architect Andrea Lenardin. In 2007 Candace also developed a line of cupcake mixes which are sold exclusively through her store and Williams-Sonoma stores in the United States and Canada. Sprinkles fans include Oprah Winfrey, Blake Lively, Katie Holmes, Ryan Seacrest, Tom Cruise, Barbra Streisand, and Serena Williams.
Candace is a judge on the competition series Cupcake Wars and Sugar Rush. She has also appeared on The Best Thing I Ever Ate and has been a judge on Bobby Flay's Throwdown show. Nelson also has been featured on television shows, including The Today Show, Nightline, The Martha Stewart Show, Masterchef Season 10 and profiled in People magazine. Her cupcakes have been featured by The Oprah Winfrey Show, Bon Appetit magazine, Food & Wine, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
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