Meet The Maker: Cake Or Death

Next on our meet the maker series, we talk about all things cake. Revolutionising the vegan baking scene, Cake or Death creates scrumptious and decadent vegan brownies delivered straight to your doorstep. When wanting to indulge in sweet treats, these picture-perfect brownies are almost too good to eat. As gifting cake became a love language over the past few years, these vegan treats make an indulgent gift for loved ones. With the brand’s signature leopard print and pink boxes, these postal bakes are Instagram-worthy.

 

Founded by Katie Cross in 2019, this award-winning bakery set up shop in Exeter in Devon. Making tasty vegan treats, Katie uses high-quality and plant-based ingredients to mix a moreish and delicious brownie. As the pandemic hit, Katie changed direction and began delivering these beautiful brownies through your letterbox. Making the world a tastier place, with one consciously baked vegan brownie at a time, we had the pleasure of catching up with baker Katie Cross and all things Cake or Death.

What was the inspiration behind the name?

The inspiration behind Cake or Death is a sketch by the comedian Eddie Izzard – you can watch it here.

What inspired you to start Cake or Death?

At the beginning of 2019, I decided to quit my job and start a cake business. I was desperate to work for myself and become an entrepreneur and I loved baking, so starting a cake business seemed the answer. Personally, I felt it would be much more responsible to make the business vegan, plus it was the direction our personal lives were heading in as well. After running a wholesale cake business for a year, in March 2020, the pandemic hit and I pivoted to sending letterbox brownies and I’ve never looked back.

Can you talk us through a typical day at your brand?

Cake or Death ships brownies every day, so we begin early. First I get the list of orders to go out for that day, and I take the cooled brownies baked the day before and pack those orders. Rhianna, our baker, sets to work baking for the next day’s orders, and Marc packs all the brownies going in the post that afternoon in our beautiful pink leopard print boxes. We print out all the personalised messages onto cards and then match them with the boxes of brownies as we pack the post, which is collected in the early afternoon. Alongside that, there are lots of other jobs to do like ordering ingredients and boxes, adding products to the website, doing finance and of course planning social media posts. At the end of the day, we clean down the bakery and close at 3 pm. Once a month we take a break from sending out brownies and instead spend the time thinking about plans for the next month and testing new products and flavours.

Why is incorporating sustainability/veganism important to you, and how do you do it?

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to set up a sustainable business. In my previous career, I worked in the non-profit sector, including at Greenpeace, so I have always been very aware of the impact of business on the environment. I wanted to make cakes that were so delicious that both vegans and non-vegans alike would love to eat them. I feel that if everyone can make more sustainable choices, even some of the time, we will be heading in the right direction. We take sustainable decisions wherever we can. Our packaging is plastic-free, and we source our ingredients responsibly. But there is always more we can do, so I try to make positive changes whenever I can.

Can you give us some insight into the making process of your products?

Our brownie recipe is a secret, so I can’t give you too much insight! I set about creating the best brownie I’d ever eaten, and I think I achieved that, and the number of returning customers shows it too. Our brownie is handmade in small batches. We bake them fresh every day and use a lot of melted chocolate, which makes them so fudgy. We have 11 flavours on our permanent menu and they are all filled and topped by hand just as you would in your own kitchen. We even use domestic baking trays, so in a box of brownies, you might get a couple of corner pieces, which I love because you get the chewiness of the edge and the fudgy middle. We cut by hand too – nothing is done by machine, so it’s very much an artisanal process. We recognise our repeat customers’ names because the same small team packs the orders every day. Sometimes you almost feel like you know people when they have ordered so many times for all their family and friends.

What’s your most loved letterbox creation?

For me, it has to be the peanut butter brownies. I am a massive fan of peanut and chocolate as a combination. We use Pip and Nut peanut butter, which is just the best and swirl it through the brownie and then top with nuts. It looks so beautiful when you swirl in the peanut butter, and then when you eat it, the sweet/salt taste is to die for!

How do you think we can encourage people to take on more sustainable choices?

By making it easy, and delicious! Most people are happy to opt for a sustainable choice if it is equally as easy and tasty as the less sustainable option. I’m honestly not sure what the right mix of consumer pressure, corporate responsibility and government legislation is, but much more needs to be done. There’s also the challenge of cost because sometimes the most sustainable ingredient choice is so expensive that it would make our business unviable, so it isn’t always possible to use it. But as a small business, Cake or Death is doing its best to help people make sustainable choices.

What do you feel were the biggest highlights for your brand?

I’ll never forget being featured as The Independent’s Best Letterbox Gift in 2020, we were relatively unknown and it was a huge boost to our confidence to beat much bigger companies. I also think the massive reaction to our brownies during the pandemic, and the huge numbers of customers ordering, again and again, is always something I will feel really happy about. Then when we moved the bakery to Exeter, we won the Exeter Living Best Food and Drink Producer in our first year here, which made us feel so welcome in our new home.

What’s next for Cake or Death? Is there anything coming up in the future that we should keep an eye out for?

I’ve got lots of plans in the pipeline and you never know which are going to come to fruition! We’ve definitely got some great new flavours coming up in the second part of the year – Halloween and Christmas are obviously busy for us so we’re busy preparing for those right now. Otherwise, you’ll have to watch this space!

We are so grateful to our amazing community of customers who love our brownies so much and share them with their family and friends. Knowing we are making a person’s day with a box of brownies makes the early mornings worth it!