Gigi’s supplies cupcake heaven
It seems cupcakes are everywhere these days. There are specialty cupcake stores, pre-made and mass-produced versions in convenience stores, not to mention entire television shows devoted to this compact confectionary. It would be easy to think that cupcakes are a new player on the dessert field, but cupcakes have been around well before Donna Reed greased her first muffin tin and certainly before the great cupcake wars of 2012 erupted on the Food Network.
The term “cupcake” is of disputed origin. Some believe it refers to the way cupcake ingredients were measured—in cups rather than by weight—a somewhat new development at a time when baking relied on weight rather than volume. The generally accepted first known cupcake recipe called for one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour and so on, leading the petite desserts to sometimes be referred to as “number” cakes, “1234” cakes, etc… Others believe that the name comes from the idea the first cupcakes were actually baked in small containers, even teacups, because hearth ovens took so long to bake full-sized cakes and often burnt them as a result. Early in the 20th century, multi-cupcake molded tins began to appear, bringing a modest type of mass production to cupcake making. A modern baking tradition was born.
Now that I've planted the seeds of a cupcake craving in your mind, the next logical question is, “Where can I get a good cupcake?”
Chattanooga has seen its share of cupcake upstarts, hoping to get in on the craze. You can always go to the local BiMart or WholeFareMarket bakery department and pick up a cryo-sealed package of cupcake-shaped objects that are either as dry as an Eddy Izzard routine or so cloyingly sweet Disney will try to make a movie out of them. You could also visit one of our city's fine full-service bakeries offering a selection of acceptable cupcakes along with all of their other baked goods. But if you want a top-shelf, gourmet cupcake from a dedicated purveyor of these single-serving cakey comestibles, you will inevitably end up at my favorite: Gigi's Cupcakes.
Mike and Joy Irwin opened Chattanooga's first Gigi's in 2009 on Gunbarrel Road and I stumbled upon them within the first few months. What drew me in were the creative and unique flavors. What keeps me going back is the quality of the cake itself. Their cupcakes are baked fresh every morning and are never frozen, because frozen cupcakes are an abomination.
They offer at least nine unique cupcake flavors every day, including several gluten-free options on Fridays. Personally, I have peeled the paper liner off of more than a few of Gigi's red velvet cake, chocolate salted caramel, lemon dream and Kentucky bourbon pie cupcakes and I recently caught them handing out samples of their fall flavors in front of the new Frazier Avenue store on Park(ing) Day. The appearance of pumpkin flavor always signals the beginning of fall, and Gigi's is on top of it with a pumpkin white chocolate cupcake as well as apple pie, bananas foster and german chocolate cake flavors.
The Northshore location boasts the distinction of being the first Gigi's in the country to have cupcakes and frozen yogurt under one roof. What's the big deal, you ask? Well, remember having ice cream and cake at birthday parties? Now you can have that special treat whenever you want, because you're an adult and no one can stop you. Plus, they have a caulking gun loaded with cupcake icing you can squirt into your frozen yogurt. You read that right: a caulking gun of icing to squirt into your froyo.
There's no shortage of places to grab a cupcake, cheesecake or frozen yogurt in Chattanooga, but you would be hard pressed to locate more delicious, creative and fresh options than you will find at Gigi's Cupcakes. Just remember, when you are holding that caulking gun of icing—with great freedom, comes great responsibility.