You might know Gigi Butler for her cupcakes. In 2008, the Nashville-based baker launched Gigi’s Cupcakes, now a dessert empire that stretches across the country from Tampa, Florida, to as far afield as Fargo, North Dakota. And although she’s made her name on little cakes topped with towering, hand-piped swirls of icing, Butler’s heart lies in another confection. “Cupcakes were my first love,” Butler says, “but I think pies are my true love.”
This summer, Butler launched Pies by Gigi, a restaurant, coffee shop, and mercantile in Brentwood, Tennessee, that serves the likes of sweet potato pie with marshmallow meringue, chocolate fudge pie sprinkled with sea salt, and even pimento cheese tomato pie with a cornmeal crust. A recent addition to the menu: her grandmother’s prized pumpkin bread.
“It’s the best pumpkin recipe you will ever make,” Butler says. “Period.” Okay, Butler may be a bit biased, but when her grandmother entered the bread at an Oklahoma county fair in the late 1940s, the judges agreed, awarding the spiced-up sweet a blue ribbon. Now, Butler and her nine-year-old daughter make the bread together to give to her daughter’s teachers, to share with neighbors, or just to celebrate the arrival of cool weather across the South.
The recipe is easy to follow, but Butler still offers a few tips: Always grease the pan and err on the side of under-baking it, since the bread will continue to cook out of the oven. When a knife or toothpick comes out clean, it’s done. “You can add in whatever you like: cranberries, raisins, white chocolate chips,” Butler says. “And you can eat it however you like. I like it hot, right out of the oven, with a big old slab of butter on it.”