Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice


Restaurant marketing consultant Callista Polhemus confesses that she doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, but that hasn’t stopped her from running a successful side business baking and decorating high-end custom cakes. We caught up with Polhemus recently to dish on how she became a baker, where she turns to for baking tutorials and why she named her company Semi Sweet CC.

ACCIDENTAL BAKER—“I’ve always liked to cook. But baking was something I wasn’t all that fond of in the beginning, mainly because of how precise you have to be,” says Polhemus. Baking a layer cake three years ago for one of her best friends changed all that, however. “I had so much fun making it. It was this really fun exercise in creativity from a cooking standpoint as well as an artistic one.” The part of the process she loves most, however, is experiencing the reaction from people when they eat her cakes. “I did two cakes recently, and both of the recipients of the cakes cried. That’s just so fun to me because it truly is a labor of love.”

SEMI SWEET STORY—Polhemus thought long and hard about how she wanted to portray her company’s brand. “At first, I thought of the name Sweet CC, because CC is my nickname. But then I thought I’m not the most sugary-sweet individual nor do I fall head over heels for any sweet item. In fact, I’m more of a savory person myself. So that’s where Semi Sweet CC came from. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a bubble gum sweet kind of a girl.”

CAKE COACH—Polhemus often turns to YouTube when she wants to master a new technique. But every once in a while, she’ll call in a favor from a friend in the restaurant business when she needs advice. “Having worked for Paragary Restaurant Group for 10 years, where I was able to watch chefs and now utilize them as my own personal tutor, is a big help,” says Polhemus. “Recently I was really struggling with how to make macarons, so I called up the manager of the Paragary’s bakery. She gave me a private tutorial on her techniques and helped me troubleshoot what I was doing wrong.”

TASTE BEFORE BEAUTY—Polhemus is often told that her cakes are too beautiful to eat, but the taste experience still comes first for her. “The best response is for someone to tell me that it tastes better than it looks,” she says. “I work pretty hard on making sure that my flavors and textures and everything are on point, because it would be such a disappointment to cut into it and not taste good. You want them to be glad that they cut that thing open.”