Story and photo by RYAN CARRILLO
Sweet Cake Bake Shops, located in Salt Lake City and Kaysville, offer customers something that few other places can: a completely gluten-free experience.
“We are committed to providing the tastiest, freshest gluten-free treats that anyone with Celiac or gluten intolerance deserves, just as much as anyone else [does],” said Amber Camelli, the shop manager. Camelli oversees day-to-day operations at Sweet Cake Bake Shop’s Salt Lake location at 457 E. 300 South.
Every single thing on the shop’s 150-item menu is gluten-free.
Why so much emphasis on gluten? For people with extreme cases of gluten sensitivity, this particular ingredient must be completely avoided. The Celiac Disease Foundation reports that for these individuals, consuming even crumbs of gluten is enough to make them sick. The organization believes that one out of 100 people are affected with the illness.
The foundation defines gluten as the protein found most commonly in wheat, barley and rye. It is also in a variety of other common food ingredients.
Currently, the only treatment for Celiac Disease and other gluten intolerance is to avoid gluten entirely. Celiac Disease, untreated, can cause infertility, gall bladder malfunction, dementia, regular migraines, epileptic seizures and cancer in the gastric tract.
A diagnosis of Celiac Disease or similar intolerance often leads to overwhelming feelings and requires a complete lifestyle change that isn’t easy to make.
“I hated having to give up my favorite foods, [even though] eating gluten made me feel so sick and so weak,” Dana Shumway said via Facebook.
Shumway was diagnosed with Celiac Disease 12 years ago. At the time she was only 10 years old. This was long before the gluten-free product availability offered today.
“Although [it] was very difficult to miss out on my favorites, I think the biggest challenge for me was having to be different,” she continued. “I got to be the odd girl who had to pack special lunches for field trips, miss out on a class treat and bring a special, nasty mind you, piece of pizza for a birthday party.”
For Shumway and others like her, this transition can make social situations extremely hard to navigate. Picture Thanksgiving without its warm, buttery rolls or Christmas without sampling the frosted sugar cookies left out for Santa. Imagine how awkward it would be to show up at a work potluck, only to find you couldn’t eat anything there.
These very situations can leave someone feeling like an outcast. That’s been one of the driving forces behind Sweet Cake Bake Shop’s success. The shop is most busy during the holidays, providing customers with the traditional rolls, pies and other sweets that have become staples of family dinners during the festive season.
“Thanksgiving is crazy,” Amber Camelli said. “We start taking special orders for it at least a month early, and then about a week before [Thanksgiving] we have to cut it off because we have reached our production limit.”
Camelli said that during this busy time the staff arrive at 5 a.m. and typically work 16-hour days. Even with all the chaos involved, she realizes that their sacrifice makes a big difference in the lives of the shop’s customers.
That same commitment is felt in the shop’s day-to-day operations, which creates a strong sense of loyalty from customers.
Before having a baby in 2014, Alisha McIntosh would make a weekly trek from Orem to Sweet Cake Bake Shop in Salt Lake. Why travel so far? For her specifically, it was because of the bakery’s soft red velvet cupcakes with fluffy white frosting and fresh-from-the-oven sugar cookies.
Amber McIntosh is an active member of the Facebook group Gluten Free Utah, a group that connects state residents who suffer from gluten intolerance. Even after being gluten-free for eight years, she still has some difficulties maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle.
In a Facebook conversation she said, “The hardest thing is missing some foods that are very difficult to find gluten free. [Also] different social functions where there might be a pot luck and not knowing what I can eat [is difficult].”
Few bakeries can match Sweet Cake Bake Shop’s dedication to be gluten-free. The combination of the shop’s large menu and reputation for quality gluten-free products is enough to tempt people from far away to visit the Salt Lake location. Amber Camelli said some customers make the drive from St. George to Salt Lake just to visit the bakery.
“So many things have changed for us since going gluten free,” said Alison Richman via Facebook. She was diagnosed with Celiac Disease during the spring of 2014. “The hardest [change] is the inability to walk into a restaurant, bakery or café and order whatever we’re in the mood for.”
Richman said, “We don’t eat sweets on a regular basis, but anytime a bakery treat is called for, [Sweet Cake Bake Shop] is our go-to spot.”
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