written & photographed by JENNIFER COLOSIMO

NO ONE SAYS “PIE” QUITE LIKE AMANDA WILBANKS. Her southern drawl and big grin warm up a conversation faster than you can eat a slice of her signature caramel pecan pie – but it’d be close. That’s because she’s put a lot of time and effort into baking top quality pies at all three Southern Baked Pie Co. locations (Gainesville, Buckhead and Alpharetta), as each recipe is derived from love, southern hospitality and family.

Wilbanks grew up cooking with her mom, but she didn’t even make her first pie until about five years ago. Her mother-in-law popped in one day and announced the two of them would be making Alex (Wilbank’s husband) his favorite dessert. The option to say no wasn’t on the table, but the ingredients for a classic buttermilk pie were. 

“I thought for sure when she said she wanted to make Alex a pie that she meant we’d go get a frozen one from the store and bake it. But she meant from scratch,” Wilbanks said. “I remember she was using my food processor – I had never even taken it out before. We even set the pie on my car’s floorboard with the windows down to cool, in lieu of a proper window sill like they do it in the movies.”

Daunting for sure, but it awakened something deep in Wilbanks. “The bond we shared while making that pie and all the work that went into it, I just really fell in love with the whole process,” she said. “It was just so fun!”

So fun, in fact, that she found herself baking all the time. A treat for Alex, sure, but he soon offered the gentle ultimatum that she either start selling the pies or stop baking, because he could not keep eating them. She started selling. That first Christmas, she baked 500 pies from her home kitchen. Wilbanks now has three shops with a full menu of flavors and sizes (seasonal fruit pies, savory chicken pot pies, tomato pies, hand pies and my personal favorite, the chocolate chess pie, to name a few.) You can take home a whole pie, ready-to-eat or out of the freezer, or enjoy a slice of the daily display. She’s won several culinary awards, and she’s landed her pies on the artful dessert menus at Café Intermezzo, putting her one-time afternoon kitchen experiment on a literal and figurative pedestal. 

“For a pie to taste as good as it looks and really be homemade is something you don’t see too often in a restaurant,” Wilbanks said, who was nervous about how her pies would look next to the statuesque layer cakes and desserts usually on display at Café Intermezzo. “But to me, pie means home, and I think that’s why people still appreciate them so much. They bring back memories; they’re nostalgic.”