Icing on the cake
Hummingbird Confections settles in hometown of Callender
CALLENDER — Kaitlyn Stewart’s love of baking dates back to her childhood when she grew up in the country and spent time in the kitchen with her family.
“Growing up those are the most treasured memories of being in the kitchen with my grandmas or at home,” Stewart said from her bakery, Hummingbird Confections, 410 Thomas St.
But it’s a passion she never envisioned would become her career.
“It wasn’t necessarily something I wanted to do for a job,” said Stewart, who grew up on a farm in Moorland.
So after graduating from St. Edmond High School, she decided to pursue a career in agronomy.
While taking Buena Vista University night classes, she worked for NEW Cooperative. Later, she held jobs at United Bank of Iowa and Decker Truck Line before she decided to go in a different direction.
“After a few years, the office life wasn’t what I wanted to do,” Stewart said. “Baking gave me that creative outlet to do what I wanted to do.”
Stewart established Hummingbird Confections in 2012.
The name of her business is a tribute to her grandmas.
Her grandma, Mary Espeland’s favorite bird was a hummingbird. The confections part of the name is attributed to her grandma, Virginia Barrett, whom Stewart baked with as a child.
“I’d go to her place and we would bake cookies or cakes,” Stewart said.
Stewart worked out of her home for about seven years. That allowed her to be home with her sons, Mason, 4, and Kaden, 2.
In March, she moved into her own building, located on Callender’s main street. The building is just a few blocks from her home.
“The whole building is new,” Stewart said. “We thought about going into Fort Dodge. We priced a few different places there and here in Callender. It worked out to just build a brand new place.
“I like being in a small town. And there’s something special about bringing something to a small town that doesn’t necessarily get that type of stuff. And I wanted something that if I needed to, my children could be here if I need them to be.”
Initially, the timing of her opening looked promising with graduation season on the horizon. But the opening ended up coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic instead.
“We kind of had awful timing with the whole building getting finished,” Stewart said. “We finished about a week after everything closed up (due to the pandemic). We were heading right into graduation season, our biggest month of the year. Wedding season just starting up. Both of those didn’t end up happening.”
So Stewart said she started offering lunch at the shop to offset some of the loss in business.
“We have actually had great support from past customers and local residents around here and Gowrie, stopping in for lunch or whatever we have in the case,” Stewart said.
For lunch, Hummingbird Confections offers cheeseburgers, grilled chicken, hot dogs and occasionally some type of salad.
Breakfast is also sold.
“We always try to have fresh muffins in the mornings,” Stewart said. “Sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches.”
The primary business at Hummingbird, though, is wedding cakes, birthday cakes, cookies and brownies.
Stewart said it’s neat to be able to see customers come back for cakes celebrating different occasions.
“Baking is really cool with what we do now,” Stewart said.
“Brides and grooms come in to do a wedding cake, then they come back for a gender reveal cupcakes and next thing you know it’s a baptism cake and first birthday cake — the whole wheel.
“Some kids I have done up to seven or eight birthday cakes throughout the years. It’s kind of cool to grow with the customers. They almost become family.”
One of the most popular items in the case at Hummingbird Confections are cake balls. Cake balls are balled up pieces of cake dipped in chocolate.
“Those have been flying off the shelf,” Stewart said. “We just started offering those and people snatch those up.”
When Stewart is not baking for the business, she bakes cakes for people who are severely ill.
She does that through an organization called Icing Smiles.
“Those are the most special cakes,” Stewart said. “I’ve been able to do eight of those now. It’s cool to be able to provide something extraordinary for someone going through a hard time.”
One particular cake she made was five tiers and featured nine different movie themes on it.
“It was a very heavy cake, too,” Stewart said.
Stewart has been offering cake classes since 2016. She is hoping to start offering those again soon.
She also wants to offer an easier way for farmers to get fed.
“We want to get farmers a gift certificate option so we can just run their meal out to them,” Stewart said. “I grew up in a farming family and once fall starts and it’s nice out, they don’t stop. So if we can provide some sort of on the go option for them we would love to.”
Stewart’s husband Josh helps her at the bakery on occasion. Baili Roberts works as a part-time assistant.