When I first came across the brand called Hardcore Sprinkles, the name was what stood out the most to me. Because, I thought, how could sprinkles be hardcore? I was thinking of sprinkles as light, bright, colorful, round and perfectly shaped little things that decorate the tops of desserts. And, being an organic bake shop we only use sprinkles without artificial colors, so that limits us very much as there's only two companies out there that make sprinkles we approve of (India Tree & ColorKitchen). And, both of these companies make the same exact kind of sprinkles, one is just pastel and the other is brighter. So, I was intrigued after seeing that Hardcore Sprinkles doesn't use any artificial colors either.
It made me check out their website and find out more about the company. I love that their sprinkles don't look like the rest, they have a hand made look because they truly are hand made! But, then I realized there was something else about these sprinkles, it wasn't just that they looked different. They also tasted different with each color being a flavor as well! So, we now have a third brand of sprinkles that we approve of, and that have a super fun and interesting twist! These sprinkles are even more fun to add to desserts because not only do they add color, but they also add flavor! So I reached out to the owner, Sharon Brener, and asked her some questions about her new and so cool company.
Mimi: When did Hardcore Sprinkles start?
Sharon: Believe it or not, Hardcore Sprinkles is only six months old! I started making sprinkles in my tiny apartment kitchen in October and officially founded the company in early December.
M: How did you come up with the name? Or why did you choose Hardcore Sprinkles? Sprinkles have always been cute to me, not hardcore haha.
S: I think everyone expects sprinkles to be cutesy, so I wanted our name to say bold, flavorful, and not-your-grandma’s-sprinkles. I wanted the name to catch the eye of bakers and dessert makers who are looking for something different.
Hardcore Sprinkles are not the sprinkles you bought at the grocery store growing up. They’re boldly flavored, naturally colored, and vegan, gluten-free, wax-free, and soy-free. And, well, way more hardcore than your average sprinkle. Plus, I still can’t say “Hardcore Sprinkles” without cracking a smile, so that’s a good reason all on it’s own :)
M: Why or what made you come up with the idea to flavor your sprinkles? Are you a baker? I’ve never seen this before, as sprinkles have always been purely decorative (well except chocolate ones).
S: I love to bake and cook for friends and family, though I’m far from a professional. My personal passion has always been making kitchen staples like bitters, preserves, pickles, tea blends, kombucha, and extracts from scratch. I experimented with those things for years before discovering that flavored sprinkles combine all my favorite things: funky infusions, new flavor combinations, bright colors, and tiny jars.
As much as I wish I could take credit for the idea of flavored sprinkles, I first read about cayenne sprinkles in Molly Yeh’s cookbook, Molly on the Range, and later on Stella Park’s blog, Bravetart. After testing their recipes, I started dreaming up different flavors to top my favorite desserts – rosemary for dark chocolate cake, lavender for lemon cookies, earl grey and elderflower on delicate meringues, and chocolate chili to spice up homemade ice cream. I’ll admit I got a little carried away...within the first week, I had made dozens of different flavor variations.
M: Are you guys the only ones doing this (as in flavored sprinkles) in the market right now?
S: Hardcore Sprinkles are the only flavored sprinkles made from scratch on the market. Obviously you can get chocolate jimmies anywhere, and around the holidays commercially-made peppermint and gingerbread sprinkles pop up in stores. I’ve also discovered a whole industry of people making custom sprinkle mixes on Etsy (which I find fascinating!) but no one’s actually making the sprinkles themselves, let alone flavoring them.
We actually go one step further and make most of our flavorings from scratch as well. We infuse many of our own extracts and use whole ingredients whenever possible – our rosemary sprinkles start as rosemary that we literally pluck from our garden!
M: Where else do you sell your sprinkles besides your website? Any grocery stores, or because of the natural nature of your product are you only able to make and ship directly to customers?
S: Most of our business is direct to consumers through our online store and at local events. We also sell wholesale to chefs and bakeries and plan to expand into more bakeries and ice cream shops around Austin this summer.
M: What is the shelf life for your sprinkles and how should they be stored?
S: Our sprinkles can be stored in your pantry indefinitely, but they’re best within the first 3 months (if you don’t eat them all first). They’ll still be delicious after that, but since we use all natural colors and flavorings, they’ll become a bit less potent.
M: Tell me about the “Your Favorite” option you have on your site? Are you just making sprinkle dreams come true every day?
S: Short answer: yes!
“Your favorite flavor” is our custom option, where you pick the flavor and color and we make it happen for you. They make a great personalized gift and something totally unique that you can’t get anywhere else. Some of my favorite flavors that we now sell in the shop started out as custom orders, including passionfruit and coconut – I’m so grateful for customers who keep us on our toes and give us a little challenge.
M: How small (or big) is your business?
S: Tiny. Hardcore Sprinkles is actually my side-hustle on top of my full-time job at a tech startup. I’ve been so humbled by all the help from friends, family, and even my coworkers as I get Hardcore Sprinkles up and running!
M: So what is your day job?
I’m a product designer at a tech startup here in Austin, called data.world. We’re building a collaborative online platform for data professionals to share their data, methodology, and documentation with coworkers. I design on the more technical (read: nerdy) parts of the product, and a typical day consists of conducting user research, sketching new ideas, and prototyping new features…
…so, basically the polar opposite of a sprinkle company :)
M: How do you manage running a small company and working for someone else 9-5? What is the biggest challenge with that?
S: With very little sleep! But seriously, I’m incredibly lucky that my company is full of entrepreneurs who appreciate a good side hustle. My coworkers have been some of my earliest customers and loudest cheerleaders. Having the security of a full-time job also gives me the freedom to bootstrap the business slowly and take way more risks than I’d be comfortable doing otherwise.
That said, it can be hard to balance the demands of a fast-moving startup and growing a business. Coming home after a long day of startup-ing to fill orders, make new inventory, respond to inquiries, AND make time for my husband and adorable but hyerpactive dog is…challenging. Family dinners have been burnt, plans with friends have been broken, and we ordered in a lot of Thai food for a little while, but we’re finding a new balance. The biggest sacrifice by far has been my personal time, but making something I love that makes me smile whenever I talk about it is totally worth it. Viva la sprinkle revolution!
So, of course Sharon sent me some Sprinkles to try out and I had to create a fun recipe to bake with them! I thought that if I had all these fun, colorful and flavorful sprinkles then I should make something that is a little more simple and let the sprinkles be the star. So, I created a recipe for Chocolate Truffles because you can literally top them with any Hardcore Sprinkles and they will be delicious! I used all six flavors of sprinkles on my truffles including my custom flavor, Strawberry, that Sharon made just for me! That one turned out to be my favorite!
4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) chopped organic milk chocolate
4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) chopped organic dark chocolate
1/2 cup organic heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons organic salted butter, softened
5.5 ounces (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) organic dark chocolate, chopped
Hardcore Sprinkles, whatever flavors you want (find here)
Method In a double boiler, add the milk chocolate and dark chocolate for the center. Melt until completely melted, then add the cream a little at a time, whisking the entire time until completely incorporated. Remove from heat and keep whisking until the texture is smooth and silky.
Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. If you do this overnight, as I did, you’ll have to wait until it warms up a little bit before putting it into your mixer.
Remove the chocolate ganache from the fridge and put in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the softened butter and whisk on high for about 1 minute or until light and fluffy.
Roll into balls and place them on a baking sheet with parchment paper. It's best if you have gloves, or if you can handle them as little as possible (use a spoon to dollop them onto the sheet in the right size). You can even smooth out your balls after just 10 minutes in the freezer - that's what I did because I always have a hard time forming super perfect balls, and they still weren't perfect!
Put the baking sheet in the freezer for about 1 hour, or until super firm. Don't remove from the freezer until the chocolate is tempered.
In a double boiler, melt 4.5 ounces of the dark chocolate until it reaches 115°F on a chocolate thermometer. Remove from heat and add in the remaining chocolate and stir to combine completely. Allow chocolate come down to about 91°F.
Dip each chocolate ganache ball into the melted chocolate and place back on the baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add Hardcore Sprinkles on top or even roll the chocolate coated balls in Hardcore Sprinkles.
Place back in the freezer for 15 minutes to set.
Store in a cool dry place, or in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
High Altitude – Follow the recipe as noted.