Photo courtesy Flickr user Wally Gobetz

The cult of the Sprinkles cupcake ATM casts a wide net, entrancing hungry dessert lovers all over the country with its sweet treats available even at 2 AM. The cupcake chain already has 11 ATM locations and will have 14 by the end of 2016.

In August the cupcake chain decided to expand its batter horizons with its first standalone cupcake ATM, on the University of Southern California’s campus. They’re using this one as a test to see if they can maximize sales at a high-traffic area where they don’t have room and budget to build a big bakery. It’s an innovative business model — and certainly beats that Snickers bar shoved down your throat on your way to Spanish 101.

Here’s an inside look at how the ATM works.


The bakers arrive before 2 AM to start baking for the day. Here’s the most popular cupcake: red velvet with cream cheese icing. Look at that spread!


Each cupcake is placed in an individual box and placed in the ATM. An ATM can hold 400 to 800 cupcakes, but Sprinkles says it rarely fills them to the brim, preferring to restock several times per day to make sure the cupcakes taste fresh. Apparently each ATM can go through 500 to 1,000 cupcakes in a day. We’d love to show you what the inside of the ATM looks like, but Sprinkles says this information is proprietary and SECRET. Think a giant robotic arm that suctions the box up and moves it through the machine to the customer dropbox, then places it in the window, which opens when there’s a cupcake. Sprinkles worked with industry experts for a year and a half to develop this technology. “it’s simple but high tech, due to the fragile nature of cupcakes,” said VP of marketing Nicole Schwartz.


The cupcake ATM doesn’t actually MAKE cupcakes. So someone from a Sprinkles bakery in downtown L.A. has to schlepp them across town to the USC campus. Not exactly the best use of technology, time, or manual labor, but until we get better at food tech, this will have to do.


Many, many people make the pilgrimage to the ATMs each day. At the other locations, which are adjacent to a bakery, there’s often no line to go INSIDE the bakery but a long line to use the ATM. The busiest times are when the bakery is closed: late at night and early in the morning.


Sprinkles says it actually had to make version 2.0 to allow a customer to buy 4 cupcakes at a time, since people were running through the screens over and over again to GET MORE CUPCAKES. (Photo courtesy Flickr user The All-Nite Images)


Several screens walk you through the cupcake choosing and buying process.


The box is here! The box is here! (Photo courtesy Flickr user Urban Sea Star)


Happy USC students. Not pictured: face-planting into the cupcake.

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