About Time You Met: Katie Cross, Founder of Cake or DeathBy Angelica Malin
Cake or Death bakery specialises in brownies, but not just any brownies… fudgy, gooey and totally plant-based brownies.
Founder, Katie Cross pivoted her East London-based wholesale cake business when the pandemic hit in March 2020. The letterbox brownies were so popular that the bakery had trouble keeping up with orders. The success continued into 2021, and given that there wasn’t a need for the bakery to be based in London and running costs would be lower elsewhere, Katie and her family made the decision to move to Exeter. We chatted to Katie about leaving the capital, her love of brownies and decision to make Cake or Death vegan.
As a child, my Step Grandmother ran a B&B and I was fascinated by what went on in the kitchen, so she taught me how to bake. By age 13 I was selling my Irish tea loaf every Saturday at my village market; certainly, something that would be frowned upon now!
When I set up Cake or Death initially, we baked a real range of stuff often making bespoke bakes for wholesale clients. We found that customers were most complimentary about the brownies and it was our most popular product. Fast forward a year and the pandemic hit and there was a need to change the business drastically. That’s when the idea for letterbox brownies was born and we never looked back.
Tell us a little bit more about Cake or Death:
Cake or Death offers a range of brownies available to order online nationwide and delivered straight through letterboxes. Our brownies are fudgy, indulgent and moreish and happen to be vegan. We’ve found that both vegans and non-vegans love them as they genuinely taste like non-vegan brownies!
They’re packaged in pink leopard print boxes which our customers love. A feast for the eyes as well as the belly.
Tell us about the flavours on offer?
Our most popular flavour is the Biscoff. Our brownie mix is rippled with Biscoff spread and topped with a biscuit. My personal favourite is the Peanut Butter. The spread adds a salty richness and the peanuts give a nice texture. We have a special biscuit box that contains Oreo, Jammie Dodger and Biscoff flavours and is particularly fun for kids and parties. The Salted Caramel flavour is the super indulgent one!
Aside from that, we create limited-edition flavours throughout the year for the popular calendar dates like Mother’s Day etc. We’re just made our limited edition Christmas box available which includes indulgent Salted Pecan, Gingerbread and Candy flavours. Plus, we’re doing hampers for the first time ever this year!
What was behind the decision to make the business vegan?
In 2019 whilst I was developing the idea for Cake or Death, a friend advised me to make the whole brand vegan because “it’s the future”. She was absolutely right and it’s one of the best business decisions I’ve made.
I’m really proud that my business goes a little way towards reducing impact on the planet, and of course any harm to animals.
Cake or Death has been through a couple of iterations in the last year or so. Can you tell us a bit about that?
As I mentioned, the business started wholesale in East London and continued to be for a year until the pandemic hit. We lost wholesale clients very quickly and I needed to make some vital business decisions. Based on customers loving our brownies we pivoted to offering boxed brownies to consumers. At the height of lockdown people were keen for a treat that could arrive safely contact-free through letterboxes. It was also an opportunity to send to loved ones something with a personal message. Some of them were hilarious and some of them were so touching. It’s something we still offer all customers.
The brownie boxes were a huge hit which made me question our location. Having an e-commerce business meant the bakery could be based almost anywhere in the country reducing the expensive overheads of London. I have family and friends around the Devon area so the decision was made. We now have a bakery and shop front in Exeter town centre.
What are your brand values?
Being a vegan business that strives to care for the planet, I extend this to the team, associates and working environment. Inclusivity is very important to me, as well as trying to ensure the Cake or Death bakery is a fair and harmonious place to work. The team is paid fairly and creative input is always greatly appreciated.
You moved from London to Exeter this year, how’s the change been?
I can’t say it was easy. The upheaval of moving my family and business from London to Devon was the biggest life change I’ve ever made. We had to move into a temporary bakery before finding our permanent home in Exeter town centre. Finding staff, building a bakery shop and sourcing equipment during a pandemic were a challenge, but we’ve found our feet and the locals seem to be enjoying our brownies and crazy pink leopard print interior!
For further information on Cake or Death, see here.