Sunday sit-down with… Hannah Evans, Cake Stories
As High Life North debuts our first ever billboard campaign in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne, we catch up with the nine pioneering women who feature on it. First up, Hannah Evans: fountain of positivity and founder of feel-good craft cakery, Cake Stories.
We first met Hannah in the summer of ’21.
The sun was shining, life was good; High Life North was meeting another incredible musician in the dopamine-dressed, shipping container coffee pods of Cake Stories’ Hoults Yard home.
The city of Newcastle upon Tyne had recently come out of lockdown to find a brand new bakery killing the culinary game in its city centre.
Not that 2021 was the first time we’d heard of Cake Stories, mind you. Those bad lads (where, by ‘bad’ we actually mean insaneeely good), had almost single-handedly got us through lockdown. After all, there’s nothing so bad a slice of cake or a gorgeously gooey brownie can’t fix it, is there?
Which, incidentally, is the bedrock on which Cake Stories was formed. Because this craft cakery is actually about a little more than just cake. It’s about the power of cake.
Because cake 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 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.
So, when it came to asking some of the most inspirational women in the North East whether they’d be keen to be featured as part of High Life North’s new billboard campaign in the centre of Newcastle, it was a no-brainer on our part to ask Hannah. A business owner and culinary creative fuelled by a passion to spread positivity? The decision was a piece of cake, if you will…
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.
You’re one of the amazing women featured on our new billboard. What do you love about HLN?
I love how High Life North represents such a wide range of women from the North East. I love how it connects me to things that I’ve never heard of before. I love how positive and empowering it is. And how real it is – it’s high quality, it’s authentic, but it feels really honest, too. I absolutely love it!
And why do you think it’s important to have a magazine that spotlights women and celebrates their achievements?
We’re in a really interesting time as a society, where women are starting to be recognised for the things they’ve achieved and the things they’re working on, and the things that are important to women are starting to be talked about more openly. I think organisations like High Life North are key to bringing that change about; creating opportunities to hear from those women, to be inspired by them and have them as role models.
What element of High Life North is your favourite?
The interviews. I’m all about people and I love finding out about the people behind the brands, activities, art and businesses that we have here in the North East. And another thing I really love about High Life North is that you get to find out about the real people behind the magazine itself, too. You feel really connected to the people who are working to create the magazine every day. It’s so cool!
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 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…
To find out more about Cake Stories, get the breaking Brownio news or get your own bakes delivered, visit their website or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Need cake ASPA 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.