Stay in Love: Wondermade Marshmallows
Sanford, Florida

Stay in Love: Wondermade Marshmallows

Nathan Clark bought his wife, Jenn Clark, a candy thermometer for Christmas four-and-half years ago. Jenn was pregnant with their fourth child, Augustin. The first, Sebastian, came a few months into their marriage.

“It was a strange time,” Nathan said. “In less than two years, it went from meeting to marrying to motherhood.”

This type of sudden change is normal for the Clarks. They live in a world undefined by the typical boundaries common for most families. Work life, family life, and play life are all blended together into a beautifully frantic milieu.

The candy thermometer was meant for a hobby intended to bring the couple together. A tool to provide fun for the whole family, but after their first creation––a passionfruit marshmallow––everything changed. In a matter of months they gave birth to their own marshmallow empire, Wondermade.

“It’s not often that you taste something that changes you,” Nathan said. “You want to share things like that with the world.”

Marshmallows are ancient. The Egyptians made a treat like it. The French took the Egyptian idea and perfected the base recipe that we know today. But somewhere along the way, industrialists––by way of big business––found a way to crank out marshmallows faster than we could make campfires.

Marshmallows became larger, cylindrical and a lot less like the original incarnation. The love behind the craft became clouded in a search for profit, but the public never lost their affection for the dessert. S’mores, Rice Krispie Treats and sweet potato casserole found ways to keep the marshmallow in the culinary game. The story of the marshmallow was never fully divorced from its original foundations, but it was drifting further from it.

Nathan and Jenn chose to make their first marshmallow on a whim. Scouring the internet, they discovered an eggless marshmallow recipe and went to town. Unbeknownst to them, they were rediscovering a traditional recipe that many people had yet to taste. It proved to be a revelation.

“It stopped us in our tracks,” Nathan said. “It was crazy how much better these were than what we had grown up eating.”

The Clarks were possessed by the idea of perfecting the marshmallow. They began to craft their own recipe using kosher gelatin, all-natural cane sugars, and the best ingredients they could find.

“Best is rarely clean cut. With ingredients it’s certainly that way. While we may have multiple great options, the winning ingredient is always defined by what is best for the person eating the marshmallow, not by what is easiest for us,” Nathan explained.

The obsession intensified as they began expanding the marshmallow palette. They passed traditional flavors and went straight to the liquor cabinet. Bourbon mallows dusted with confectioner’s sugar and Guinness mallows rolled in crushed pretzels became Wondermade staples.

The flavor options continued to expand, and within a few weeks they had built an entire seasonal menu of marshmallows: pumpkin pie for fall, sugar cookie for winter, strawberry for spring, and lemonade for summer.

These treats are totally unlike the marshmallows many grew up eating. They’re silky and pillowy soft. Cut into cubes, they are boxed tightly with complex flavors. Encompassing a range––from warm and gentle to citric and biting––the flavor profiles are fearless. The resulting experience is altogether familiar and alien. It’s as if you’ve transitioned from tasting a dish at a chain restaurant to trying that same food in its place of origin; you can finally understand its original intent.

Word spread quickly, and the Clark’s marshmallows went from a family treat to a hometown secret. Within weeks, Wondermade started popping up throughout the southeast. The Clarks realized they’d been granted the opportunity to do something special; they could bring a love story back to marshmallows.

They launched Wondermade deliberately and quietly in the summer of 2012. Meticulously, they finished branding and perfected their treats for national consumption. The Clarks sent packages to press and companies that they loved, and the floodgates opened. In just a few short months, they expanded to stores internationally and found themselves featured in media around the world.

The love story behind their marshmallows became the rally cry as they moved from their house to their first commercial kitchen. Each new concept was a hint at the romantic tale behind the marshmallows. The flavors became bolder, the kitchen grew larger, and the love that they were sharing began to return to them.

“Most of stories come from people who just stumbled upon us,” Nathan said. “They find us in the store, get really excited and then we get a phone call to be a part of something huge in their life––like catering their wedding. It’s really neat.”

Casual customers transitioned into superfans. The success gave Wondermade the ability to begin experimenting in entirely new ways. Their subscription based service, “Taste Adventure Club,” gave marshmallow-lovers the opportunity to try exclusive options and request their very own flavors. From this came many of Wondermade’s boldest flavors, like Sriracha. Since then, their catalog has expanded to include dozens of flavors.

Riding on the winds of their initial success, the Clarks opened up an official storefront in their hometown of Sanford, Florida. From their new kitchen, the couple began working on innovative culinary treats outside of marshmallows. The S’moresicle was one of their very first breakthroughs.

“In a perfect world, we would want to have a Wondermade on every corner just so that people could grab a S’moresicle,” Nathan said. “It’s just that good.”

Using a combination of rich chocolate pudding, vanilla marshmallow, and crushed graham crackers, they deconstruct the s’more into a layered popsicle. The marshmallow is roasted on top before it is served, creating a caramelized crust that borders between campfire and crème brûlée. The rest of the ingredients remain frozen, providing a juxtaposition of gooey and hot, cold and comforting.

As they delve into the creation of frozen goods, they have their eyes set on releasing their own line of ice cream. With a collection of progressive new flavors on the way, there is huge expectation for what is ahead, but not without the driving central story to which the Clarks have stuck.

“We try to bring the idea of loving and caring for people to everything in our lives, including Wondermade,” Nathan said. “Whenever we have a new staff member come on, the first thing I try to communicate is that a customer’s value isn’t about how much they are going to buy from us. We believe that every person we meet has an infinite level of value. We need to provide profound care and respect for every person who comes in here.”

The Clarks are far past the beginning chapters of their own love story with marshmallows and their love story with each other. Any veteran of marriage can tell you that a relationship isn’t just about mountain-top moments, but is driven by the coursing nature of the things around us. You can’t simplify love or assume it will always be what it was when it began. Just like the marshmallow, things can start with high hopes, but be hijacked by the prefabricated motions of society.

The Clarks have used their craft to stay in love. By building their company on the foundation of their relationship, they’ve given themselves the space to create fearlessly. They have not stopped exploring, experimenting, and listening to each other since they first began making marshmallows together.

The gift that started it all is now long gone, broken by a dishwasher in a sad accident. But the idea behind that candy thermometer lives on. You can see it in the smiling faces of the customers who walk into the shop, the chocolate-smeared hands of the Clark kids, and the way that Jenn and Nathan look at each other. The marshmallows are good, but the love story is even better.

Wondermade Cafe
E 1st St, Sanford, FL 32771

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