Courtesy Sweet Peaks
DRIGGS — In life, just as in baking, practice is often our best teacher.
“After my divorce, I moved to Teton Valley, and then my son was diagnosed with brain cancer. It totally changed my perspective on life. He was 12 when he was diagnosed, and the tumor almost took up the entire right side of his brain,” Callie Smith said. “It was serious.”
The Sweet Peaks owner is emotional recounting “living for two months” in a children’s hospital in Denver after her son Hayden’s diagnosis.
There simply is no secret ingredient for fighting cancer.
“He lost all his body function on the left side after his surgery and had to learn how to move again,” said Callie of her son, whose recovery is still ongoing. “We didn’t know if he would walk again. He still has some physical weakness and vision issues, but almost two years later he’s thriving and recovering better than I think we ever expected.”
“After all of that, I realized our time here is so precious,” she said. “That experience taught me that if we have dreams and goals, we shouldn’t wait, we should do it.”
Mirroring the magazines
Callie grew up in Toronto, Canada, and attended Ricks College in Rexburg studying education. She went on to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Phoenix, Arizona, eventually married and had two daughters and a son before settling down in Colorado Springs.
“When my kids were young, I remember seeing a cake in a magazine, and I was so mesmerized by it,” Callie said. “I bought the magazine, and that’s when I taught myself how to make fondant.”
(Fondant, for the benefit of all you non-bakers, is a beautiful, thick icing that is rolled and shaped in baking. It’s typically used by professional bakers to create sharply designed and creative cakes. Callie makes her fondant from marshmallow, giving the fondant a light and sweet flavor.)
Family parties featuring Callie’s cakes also showcased her improving talents with icing and batter. Friends started asking her to make custom cakes.
“Suddenly, my hobby was something that people wanted to buy,” she said. So she opened a bakery in Colorado Springs specializing in made-to-order cakes.
She was busy. Between the business, her three young children and a home life, she was cooked at the end of her long days.
“I was quickly realizing that I couldn’t do all of this. It was not working. Eventually, I sold my business, which was heartbreaking. And then I just quit making cakes for many years,” she said. “If it was someone’s birthday, we would buy the cake at the store.”
Callie Smith, owner of Sweet Peaks
After her son regained his health, life settled into a rhythm. She took a position at the Victor Valley Market, her children found their places after high school graduation and her son remained in Denver with his father to stay close to their therapist while he continued his recovery.
And then customers at the market started asking.
“Hi. I’m wondering if your store makes cakes.”
“But didn’t have any baking pans. I had nothing,” she said.
But this time around felt a little different. Her boyfriend, Steve, encouraged her to “just go for it.” He built her an 8-foot-long kitchen island — plenty of room to roll out the fondant.
“My boyfriend invested money into our kitchen and bought everything I needed to do this,” she said. “The business took off, and I’m so grateful. It’s been a lot of work between the market and the cakes, but the medical bills have been huge even with insurance. This has been such a blessing.”