Who wasn’t obsessed with sprinkles as a child? In fact, who isn’t obsessed with them now?
We know it can’t just be us… However, there’s more to these decorations than just a pretty face; they also have an interesting history too. So where did this colorful army of deliciousness come from?
Sprinkles date back to at least the 18th century, potentially even earlier. They were used to decorate desserts and pièces montées. A pièce montée was a decorative confectionary centerpiece that was used for formal banquets. Indeed, these were often elaborate, beautiful structures which were often not actually meant to be consumed. Sprinkles were used to adorn these creations – their French name “nonpareils” means “without equal”, as they were considered so in the decoration of cakes, desserts and other sweets.
The nonpareils found their way to the United States by the end of the 18th century, and in the beginning of the 19th a popular cookbook author, Eliza Leslie, included the use of red and green nonpareils for decorating a cake. Not soon after, a renowned confectioner Eleanor Parkinson, published a book detailing how to create nonpareils.
However, the origin of the sprinkle is a contentious issue. Just Born, the candy company behind Marshmallow PEEPS, remains adamant that its founder, Sam Born, invented chocolate sprinkles and named them “jimmies.”
There are many different national varieties – in the Netherlands they’re called hagelslag and used as a sandwich filling. This is also common in Belgium, Suriname and Indonesia. In Australia and New Zealand sprinkles are one of the key ingredients for Fairy Bread – a at children’s party staple. To make, simply butter sliced white bread with either butter or margarine and then cover it with sprinkle, or, as the British call them, ‘hundreds and thousands’.