Meet Cake Stories – the local craft cakery helping us connect through cake
With their brand new Pumpkin Spice Cake still fresh from the oven, we chat to Cake Stories co-founder Hannah Evans about curing the sceptics, spreading love and why everyone deserves great cake.
Newcastle-based Cake Stories has shops in Jesmond and Hoults Yard, creating delicious cakes, brownios and letterbox bakes – with great-tasting vegan and gluten-free options too.
Ok, let’s talk cake. I mean, why wouldn’t we want to talk cake?! Cake is bloody lovely. And good cake has a wicked way of making a bad day good and a good day even better.
See, cake has power. Sure, it has bags of flavour, gooey fillings, chocolatey goodness and tastebud-tingling textures. But it also has an innate ability to spread genuine happiness.
Having a birthday bash? Whack a cake in the mix. Celebrating the marriage of two incredible individuals? Cake’s a good centrepiece. Need an afternoon pick-me-up in the office? Cake’ll help. Feeling proper low? Cake might be the only thing that helps.
And it’s this power that’s folded in with the flour and sugar of cakes that Hannah Evans spotted pretty early in life. And so, armed with a whisk in one hand, a mixing bowl in the other and the ambition to use cakes for the greater good, Hannah and mum Liz started Cake Stories from the family’s kitchen.
That was back in 2012. Since then, together with her parents Liz and Jon and her husband, Ben, she’s led Cake Stories through quite the transformation. So, these days, you’re more likely to find Hannah in Cake Stories’ designated Bakehouse where her brilliant team of bakers whip up around 100 different varieties of cake for either of her two coffee shops, for wholesale in any of the 30 local retailers she supplies, or for postal delivery as part of her impressive online offering.
And while the journey has hardly been a piece of cake – especially when you throw a global pandemic into the mix – Hannah’s bakes are now clearly here to stay, whichever way you slice them.
We guess you actually can have your cake and eat it…
What’s Cake Stories all about?
Cake Stories is all about people. We just love to help people realise how amazing they are. How brilliant, valuable, loved, important and capable they are. Everything we do is based around letting people know that: whether they’re part of the Cake Stories team or they’re a first-time customer; a regular customer who’s come in for a catch up with our baristas, or simply someone on the end of our email customer service. We want people to get that message through everything that we do, because we really believe it. Cake is just the excuse, really!
I think a lot of us grew up with cake punctuating important moments in our lives: birthdays, weddings, celebrations, even sad times. But always important times, when everyone is together. Often those memories revolve around shared cake. And there’s something really cool about cutting into this thing that people have spent time baking and decorating and each taking a piece of it. Cake is the perfect way to share a moment with people, and to help people build a connection with each other.
What gave you the push to turn your passion for baking into a business?
Confession… cake isn’t my passion! I know that might sound like an awful thing to say! But working with people is my passion. Creating something people can take joy from and can share with each other, that’s my passion. So, actually, making cakes wasn’t a passion until it became Cake Stories, and it became about building a community of people who love working together and creating great things for our communities.
How do you make sure you pack the biggest flavour punch into every one of your bakes?
We make sure our ingredients are quality-tested, ethically sourced and from reputable suppliers. We also take our time designing new flavours and developing our recipes, to make sure those ingredients are going to work well together. We always go for natural flavours too, that’s important to us.
However, I think the most important thing in our approach to baking is that, when we recruit, we don’t actually look for the best bakers around. We look for the people who care the most. Who care about doing a great job, who care about joining a team that works hard and who hold the values that we hold. Because we can always teach people to bake, and the people making the cakes are the biggest influence on the quality of our cakes.
A huge part of your offering is your online cake delivery. How do you ensure your culinary creations stay fresh throughout their postal journey?
We crafted the recipes for our online postal bakes especially to survive the notorious postal system! They are super gooey and tasty and robust – so they can take a battering and a squishing and still look great.
Also, our bespoke packaging is designed to be super strong, so the bakes don’t get damaged. The packaging keeps the bakes fresh and tasting great for up to 14 days… so they can survive any Royal Mail delays! (Which, thankfully, are rare). Something we love is that all of our packaging is completely recyclable and the main brownie box is made from recycled coffee cups, which is pretty cool!
Why should our readers also pop into Cake Stories in person?
Our bricks-and-mortar shops are our spiritual home – that’s where you can meet with real people in a real space. Even if you’re by yourself, you’ll find a welcoming atmosphere which will make you feel better simply for being there.
In baking terms, the cakes we sell in the shops are quite varied. They’re all handmade – as is everything we do – but the ones that we sell in the shop can be quite delicately hand-decorated, which means some of our favourites are actually exclusive to the shops. Like some of our Brownios, for example – there’s always a stash at the Hoults Yard store, including exclusive limited edition flavour-runs.
If you could only eat 3 Cake Stories bakes forever, which would you choose?
That is the hardest question! Honestly, we can only stock roughly 20 flavours at any one point in our coffee shops, and I find choosing those hard enough!
I think one would have to be the Snickers In A Twist brownie, because it has everything amazing in it – peanut butter, salted caramel, salted pretzels and the gooiest, most chocolatey brownie, so that’s a winner for sure. Something with coffee in is always good, so I’d say our Salted Caramel Latte cake. Or maybe our Gingerbread Latte cake. And then I’d need something fruity to go with that, so let’s go for our Orange, Almond and Passionfruit cake which comes out each summer.
What has been your wildest flavour combo to date?
Probably the Rose and Passionfruit brownie. I’ve never seen anyone pair rose and passionfruit with chocolate before, in a brownie or a cake but it’s turned into a surprisingly popular one. It’s one that a lot of people are a little sceptical of and then they love it more than they expected to. And I love that!
Are you working on any new flavour combos we should keep an eye out for?
We’ve just released our new Pumpkin Spice cake, which I’m really excited about. It just tastes exactly like autumn! It’s lush. And for winter, we’ve got a couple of new ones coming out, but there’s one that I’m really excited for… You heard this here first, ok?!
We’re developing a Chocolate and Honeycomb cake, which is going to be a bit special and over the top. And we’re going to pair it in our coffee shops with Honeycomb Lattes and Honeycomb Hot Chocolates.
Can you reveal how you make your vegan and gluten-free selection of bakes taste so good you can’t tell they’re ‘missing’ anything?
This is something we strongly believe in – that, if we’re going to serve up a gluten-free or vegan cake, it should still be the best cake you’ve tasted, whether you have those dietary requirements or not. It won’t make it as far as our cake list if it’s not! Everyone should be able to enjoy great cake!
For us, we research different recipes, but then we also try out a whole load of techniques, substitutions and developments to our existing recipes until we get to the point where you wouldn’t know the difference. I was really chuffed a few years ago, because we were able to swap our original Oreo Monster cake for a vegan version, and no-one really noticed – it has remained one of our most popular cakes.
What does the future look like for Cake Stories?
We’re working with a national franchise right now, which is going well. It’s on a small scale at the moment, but we’re looking to roll out across their whole franchise in the new year. That will see us start to supply wholesale cakes across the UK. That’s with a tailor-made, reduced selection of our cakes, and it comes with its logistical challenges – we would never compromise our quality for anything – but it’s really exciting to be talking about sending our cakes further afield.
The North East is definitely our home though, and we’d love to have a bigger presence here, too. So, we’re looking to have more of our own coffee shops and cake takeaway shops across the region. We’ve got our eye on Durham, in particular. We’re just waiting for the right opportunity to come up there. And potentially somewhere out near the coast too. We’re just excited to keep growing, really, and to create more jobs along the way (check out the Join Our Team page on our website!). And as long as people are loving Cake Stories, then we’re going to keep growing. We’re actually in the process of doubling the size of our Bakehouse HQ, but we anticipate that we’ll be bursting at the seams again in the near future.
We also have big plans for the Brownio. I can’t say a lot about it right now, but watch this space…
Need cake asap after reading this? Pop into Cake Stories at:
12 Brentwood Avenue, West Jesmond, Newcastle NE2 3DH
Hoults Yard, Byker, Newcastle NE6 1AB
Can’t leave your sofa? Shop letterbox bakes here.