Baking has never been new to Ryann Hulme, owner of the Tempe-based Cake by Ryann. She was raised on a farm in "middle of nowhere" Oregon. “To get groceries, we had to drive a minimum of 30 miles, so Mom made everything from scratch," she says. We are talking breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a family of 10.
Hulme may not have formal training, but she has years of experience. She first started baking when she was 10.
"I asked my mom for an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas and was very disappointed when she got me a legitimate toaster oven,” Hulme says. “She gave me a recipe book plus some ingredients and said, 'I want you to try to figure out how to bake real things.'” The results were chocolate chip cookies then, and continued use of a toaster oven in her kitchen now, albeit a newer version.
Hulme started Cake by Ryann via Instagram in early 2019. But the a-ha moment happened in 2016 when she was managing The Sweet Tooth Fairy Bakery, a now-closed bakeshop in Gilbert, while studying communications at Arizona State University. She realized baking was a stress she could handle and remembers turning to her coworkers and saying, "I can do this for the rest of my life.”
Hulme’s inspiration is her grandmother who lost her sense of taste after receiving radiation therapy for cancer. Twenty-five years later, she still can’t taste, and yet, Hulme says she’s a fantastic baker. “I didn’t go to pastry school, but I bake intuitively,” she says. She credits her grandmother for it.
She left The Sweet Tooth Fairy when she got pregnant with her daughter. While at home, Hulme baked and tweaked recipes. When her son was born three years later, she had developed and fine-tuned all the recipes she’d use for her cakes and the occasional pie. Hulme was ready to have her own business, one that gave her a creative outlet and a flexible schedule.
Her philosophy is: Cakes should taste good before they look good. She works only in buttercream, referring those who want fondant to other bakers.
Although every recipe that comes from her kitchen is her own, Hulme also enjoys virtually getting together with other bakers and trying other people’s recipes. “I’m not an elitist about recipes,” she says. “I think baking is for everyone and you should be able to do it with whatever you have. I don’t even care if it’s a doctored cake mix recipe.”
Now, Hulme is gravitating toward baking for something “better than just for myself," she says, but "about community.”
The first time she did a cake collaboration in 2019, she wondered what marginalized communities she could bring awareness to and help support.
“Then I realized I have so many family members and friends who are part of the LGBT community," she says. She reached out to other bakers and they all put together a baking collaboration for Pride Month. The first collab was only to raise awareness. The second one, in 2020, was a bake sale with proceeds or even cakes donated to the bakers’ favorite LGBTQ cause or a family member who identifies as LGBTQ.
"And I’m sure I’ll do it again this summer," she says.
Recently, she turned her attention to Boulder, Colorado. She created a set menu of cake and cookies. For each, she donated a portion to the Colorado Healing Fund. "When the shooting in Boulder happened, I couldn't just post something as mundane as cake," she says.
She also did a cake raffle for AAPI and gave every dollar to Stop AAPI Hate. As she does her activism, she is trying “to exist in spaces without taking space where I shouldn’t be.”
Her Pride Month collaboration earned her an interview with Radio Cherry Bombe, a podcast highlighting women in the food and beverage industry. The New York-based group did a tour, landing at FnB in Scottsdale. Hulme was invited. There, she says she felt extremely anxious and out of place until Chef Charleen Badman walked up to her.
“I told her, 'Look at the caliber of these women. I shouldn’t even be here,'" Hulme says. "She looked me in the eyes and said, 'Bullshit. Don’t be like that. We’re all moving upward.’ I wrote her words down to look back at when I need a confidence boost.”
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