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Multicolor nonpareil balls coating the top of a chocolate nonpareil
Alternative namesSprinkles (US)
Jimmies (US)
Jazzies (UK)

Hundreds and thousands (UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand)

Freckles (UK, Australia and New Zealand)
Main ingredientsSugar, starch, food coloring

Nonpareils are a decorative confectionery of tiny balls made with sugar and starch, traditionally an opaque white but now available in many colors. Their origin is uncertain, but they may have evolved out of the pharmaceutical use of sugar, as they were a miniature version of comfits.[1] The French name has been interpreted to mean they were "without equal" for intricate decoration of cakes, desserts, and other sweets, and for the elaborate pièces montées constructed as table ornaments.[2]

The term nonpareil also may refer to a specific confection, made using nonpareils – namely, discs of chocolate coated with nonpareils, which also are known as chocolate nonpareils. They are widely available outside of North America but marketed under other names that include: Hundreds and Thousands in South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom.


An 18th-century American recipe for a frosted wedding cake calls for nonpareils as decoration. By the early 19th century, colored nonpareils seem to have been available in the U.S. The popular cookbook author Eliza Leslie suggests the use of red and green nonpareils for decorating a Queen cake, but strongly suggests white nonpareils are most suitable for pink icing on a pound cake in her 1828 Seventy-five Recepts for Pastries, Cakes and Sweetmeats.[3]

In 1844, Eleanor Parkinson, of a well-known Philadelphia family of professional confectioners, first published her book The Complete Confectioner,[4] in which she described how to make nonpareils following her comfit-making procedure, which involved multiple hot pots and hot syrup.

Görlitz, Germany was the birthplace of the German version of nonpareils, popularly known in Germany as Liebesperlen (German: love pearls). Invented by confectioner Rudolf Hoinkis (1876–1944), the name derives from a conversation Hoinkis had with his wife, proclaiming he loved her like these "pearls", the nonpareil. Unsure of what to call the treat he invented, his wife suggested calling them love pearls, and the name stuck. The factory where he first manufactured the treat, founded in 1896, is now run by his great-grandson, Mathias.

In the United States, traditional nonpareils gave way for most purposes by the mid 20th century to "sprinkles" (known in some parts as "jimmies"), confections nearly as small but usually oblong rather than round and soft rather than brittle. Like nonpareils, their function is more decorative than gustatory as their actual taste is indistinct, and the products they are applied to are usually themselves very high in sugar. Candy-covered anise seeds called muisjes, sometimes mistaken for traditional nonpareils, are sometimes offered at breakfast in the Netherlands to be served on bread and butter. They are, however, usually served on rusk to celebrate the birth of a child. This is known as "beschuit met muisjes".

Fairy bread: nonpareils on sliced buttered bread

In South Africa, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, nonpareils are known as "hundreds-and-thousands". In Australia and New Zealand, they are often eaten on top of patty cakes or on buttered bread as fairy bread, as festive items at children's birthday parties.

Chocolate nonpareils[edit]

The term "nonpareils" can also refer to a specific confection: a round flat chocolate drop with the upper surface coated with nonpareils.[5] This confection is also referred to as "chocolate nonpareils". Ferrero makes a variety marketed as Sno-Caps. In Australia, these confections are commonly known as "chocolate freckles", or simply "freckles". Nonpareils are also sold in the United Kingdom as "Jazzies", "Jazzles", "Jazz drops" and "Snowies" (the latter being of the white chocolate variety). The coating of nonpareils is often referred to as hundreds and thousands in South Africa and the UK. The Canadian company Mondoux sells them as "Yummies".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Richardson, Tim (2002). Sweets: A History of Candy. Bloomsbury. ISBN 1-58234-307-1.
  2. ^ Larousse Gastronomique. Clarkson Potter. 2001. ISBN 0-609-60971-8.
  3. ^ Leslie, Eliza. "Seventy-five Recipe for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats". Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  4. ^ Parkinson, Eleanor. "The Complete Confectioner". Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  5. ^ "Definition of Nonpareil by Merriam-Webster". Retrieved 30 November 2016.