Top Pick Of The Week

November 24, 2009

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Red Velvet Cupcakes

Sprinkles scores with outstanding red velvet cupcakes. Photo courtesy Sprinkles.

WHAT IT IS: Gourmet cupcake mixes.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Made from the recipes of the acclaimed Sprinkles cupcake bakery in Beverly Hills.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The mixex produce really fabulous cupcakes—better than anything we can buy.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Williams-Sonoma stores or

Sprinkles Cupcakes
Page 3: Red Velvet Cupcakes & More Cupcake Mix Reviews

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More Sprinkles Cupcake Mix Varieties

  • Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcake Mix. In what she calls her signature cupcake, an homage to her husband Charles’s Oklahoma roots, Ms. Nelson takes the cake*: This is the best red velvet cupcake we’ve ever had, and the best red velvet cake that doesn’t use the “original” recipe. The original red velvet cake, a Southern specialty made with cocoa and beets, has a depth of chocolate flavor as well as a natural reddish color and flavor richness from the beets. Today’s easier recipes use food coloring and a lesser amount of cocoa, and result in cake that has garish color but no distinctive flavor. We can’t understand the popularity, except that, to slightly rephrase H.L. Mencken, no one every went broke underestimating the American palate (or our susceptibility to gimmicks like bright red cake). While the Sprinkles mix uses red food coloring, albeit much less of it, it has also upped the percentage of [flavorful Callebaut] cocoa. The cream cheese frosting recipe is also excellent.

Sprinkles Cupcakes
A grid of Modern Dots: The “eyes” have it. Photo© Victoria Pearson.

  *When you “take the cake,” you carry off the honors. The phrase originated in the U.S. with cake-walk competitions, which were popular in African-American communities of the South in the 19th and early 20th centuries, from about 1870. Couples would promenade in a circle, and the prize was often a fine cake—expensive to buy, and a desirable prize—set on a stand in the center. The couple judged to be the most stylish would “take the cake.” Cakes were generally as stylish and elaborate (and costly) as entrants’ outfits, and a fine prize. Take our Cake Trivia Quiz for more cake trivia.
  • Sprinkles Spice Cupcake Mix. This mix is a real charmer; a classic spice cake sweetened with sugar and molasses and scented with cinnamon, glove, ginger and nutmeg. Topped with the excellent cream cheese frosting, it tastes so much like comfort food that it removes any feelings of guilt (have two!).
  • Sprinkles Vanilla Cupcake Mix. There is some canola oil in this mix, which gives it a moister, denser crumb than those without it. This “plain vanilla” was perfectly lovely, but it could benefit from some panache. Next time, we’ll add a cloak of shredded coconut or chocolate cookie crumbs on top of the frosting.

Decorating The Cupcakes

Each canister of cupcake mix comes with a package of handsome “Modern Dots,” seen in the photo above. They’re made of confectioners’ sugar, tapioca flour, potassium sorbate (a preservative) and food coloring. While adorable, they’re tasteless (we’d hoped they’d be something like NECCO Wafers). So here’s a small request: Add some flavor please. Vanilla would go well across the board, and it doesn’t have to be the top-of-the-line Nielsen-Massey used in the mixes.

Instead of the pretty dots, you can use any type of glamorous cupcake decoration (or none at all—the plain frosting is just fine). Pair the garnish to the flavor—grated lemon zest or candied lemon peel for the Lemon, a chocolate medallion or cookie crumbs atop Dark Chocolate. Or, mix and match:

  • Candies (whole, chunk or bits, e.g. toffee, brittle, peppermints)
  • Chocolate (chips,
    medallions, shavings,
  • Coconut
  • Cookie Crumbs
  • Dragées
  • Edible Glitter
  • Flowers (edible fresh or
  • Fresh or dried berries
    or other fruit
  • Frosting Decoration
    (piped rosette, e.g.)
  • Nuts (whole or chopped,
    candied, spiced, etc.)
  • Sanding Sugar
  • Sprinkles


A final request: Sprinkles is environmentally conscious, printing its tube-shaped boxes on recycled paper with soy ink, and including the words, “Please recycle.” The metal tops come off easily enough, but there was no way we could pry off the bottoms with any kitchen tools we had at hand—short of sawing them off. The danger to self sawing apart seven canisters without a workshop and a vise offset our strong will to recycle. Will someone take a moment from baking cupcakes and take a look at that? All suggestions welcome.

Sprinkles Cupcake Mix

Banana, Chocolate Peppermint (Seasonal) Dark Chocolate, Lemon, Pumpkin (Seasonal), Red Velvet, Spice, Vanilla

  • 15.2-Ounce Box (Tube)

Available exclusively at Williams Sonoma stores and at

*Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional. These items are offered by a third party and THE NIBBLE has no relationship with them. Purchase information is provided as a reader convenience.

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Sprinkles Cupcake Mix
Each mix comes in a fun tube—reusable for toys and sorting all sorts of small things. Photo © Victoria Pearson.




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