Taste of Franklin: Flavors of fall

Recipes by Amy Dolan McCollum

Popcorn Balls


  • 7 quarts popped popcorn
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Food coloring, optional


  1. Place popcorn in a large baking pan. Keep warm in a 200-degree oven.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt. Cook over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 235 degrees, soft-ball stage.
  3. Remove from heat. Add the butter, vanilla and food coloring if desired. Stir until butter is melted.
  4. Immediately pour over popcorn and stir until evenly coated.
  5. When mixture is cool enough to handle, quickly shape into 3-inch balls, dipping hands in cold water to prevent sticking.

Easy Caramel Apples


  • 7 small Granny Smith apples, about 2 1/4 pounds
  • 15 oz. caramels, such as Werther’s – chewy, not soft, or Kraft
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Topping options: Crushed Oreos, chopped candy bars such as Butterfingers, chopped nuts such as peanuts or pecans, crushed graham crackers and cinnamon, mini M&Ms, sprinkles, shredded coconut, crushed pretzels, marshmallow bits, melted chocolate, etc.


  1. Rinse and thoroughly dry apples with a paper towel.
  2. Insert a caramel apple stick, lollipop stick or Popsicle stick. Have toppings ready, if you’ll be using any.
  3. Line a 13-by-9-inch baking sheet or baking dish with a sheet of parchment paper. Spray parchment paper with non-stick cooking spray and set in the fridge.
  4. Place caramels and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl, about a 5-cup size bowl. Heat in microwave in 30-second increments, stirring well between intervals, until melted and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Alternatively, the caramel mixture can be melted on the stovetop in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.
  5. If caramel is extra runny, let it cool just briefly so it doesn’t run right off the apples.
  6. Dip apples one at a time into caramel on an angle so it covers nearly to the top center. Rotate and turn to coat apple. Lift apple and let excess run off, then run bottom of apple along inside edge of bowl to remove excess caramel. Turn apple upside down to let caramel run toward the top a little.
  7. Immediately roll in toppings or sprinkle with toppings before caramel sets.
  8. Turn apples upright and place on prepared baking sheet in fridge.
  9. Repeat process with remaining apples. As needed, reheat caramel in microwave in 15 second increments to maintain a dippable consistency.
  10. Allow caramel to set completely, about 30 minutes in the fridge. You can eat them before this, but if you want caramel to firm up, wait the 30 minutes.

Peggy’s Popcorn Recipe

In memory of Grandma Peggy Wells


  • 6 quarts popped popcorn
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


  1. Keep popcorn warm in a roasting pan in a 150-degree oven.
  2. Combine brown sugar, molasses, corn syrup, sugar, butter, water and vinegar in a heavy, 4-quart Dutch oven.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Continue cooking until mixture reaches hard ball stage, 260 degrees on candy thermometer, without stirring. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in baking soda. Mixture will foam up.
  5. Pour hot syrup over popcorn, stirring while pouring.
  6. Cool well. Store in covered container.

Easy Pumpkin Muffins


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a muffin pan with liners.
  3. Beat the eggs for 1-2 minutes until fluffy.
  4. Add the oil, butter, milk and vanilla extract and beat together until well combined.
  5. Add the pumpkin puree and continue mixing until well combined.
  6. Add the brown and granulated sugar and continue beating until well combined.
  7. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat just until the flour is incorporated. Use a spatula to mix the batter, ensuring all ingredients are well combined.
  8. Using a large cookie scoop, filling each liner 3/4 full.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
  10. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the muffin; if the toothpick comes out clean, the muffins are done.


What is a fall festival without a good old-fashioned cake walk? As a child growing up, my Grandma Dolan lived in the East Franklin community. A fall didn’t go by that she didn’t take me to the East Franklin Junior High School Fall Festival – and always had an awesome cake walk.  Here are a few of my favorite cakes recipes that would be perfect for a cake walk or any occasion.

Butterbrickle Cake


For cake:

  • 1 box Duncan Hines golden butter cake mix
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

For topping:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup crushed Heath bars


  1. Grease a Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Mix all cake ingredients except the brown sugar and nuts.
  3. Pour half of the batter in the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar and nuts over the top and then add the remaining batter.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.
  5. For the topping, combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan and boil for one minute.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in candy.
  7. Pour over the Bundt cake.
  8. You can use an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup of crushed Heath bar to sprinkle on the top, if desired.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting


For the cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 oz softened cream cheese, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  3. To make the cake, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices into a bowl to remove any lumps.
  4. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin and vanilla into a large mixing bowl and beat well until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and beat until everything is well blended.
  6. Divide the batter equally into the prepared pans and smooth the surfaces.
  7. Bake 28-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out just barely clean. Begin checking after 30 minutes.
  8. Set the pans on cooling racks to cool completely, then run a knife around the edges of the pans to loosen the cakes. Invert them onto racks and remove the parchment paper.
  9. For the salted caramel frosting, add the butter and brown sugar to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking continually.
  10. Whisk in the heavy cream and return to a boil, whisking continually until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is smooth and syrupy.
  11. Remove from the heat and carefully transfer to a mixing bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or use an electric hand mixer.
  12. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the powdered sugar.
  13. Beat in the cubes of cream cheese one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  14. Add the vanilla and fine sea salt and beat until the frosting is thick and creamy, 8-10 minutes.
  15. Chill the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cake.
  16. Place one cake layer on a cake plate and spread with frosting. Stack the second layer on top and cover with frosting. Add the top layer and cover the top and sides with the caramel frosting.

Chocolate Pudding Poke Cake


For the cake and pudding:

  • 1 yellow cake mix, plus ingredients on the box (I prefer Duncan Hines)
  • 1 (3.4-oz) box instant chocolate pudding
  • 2 cups cold milk

For the chocolate frosting:

  • 1 stick salted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • Optional garnishments: Chocolate sprinkles and mini chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
  3. Prepare and bake the yellow cake mix according to the directions on the box.
  4. Once baked, remove the cake from the oven and allow it to fully cool.
  5. Once the cake is cooled, use the rounded end of a wooden spoon to poke holes in the cake. Poke the holes down into the base of the cake.
  6. Prepare the pudding according to the directions on the box.
  7. Immediately after mixing, pour the pudding over the cake. The liquid will drip into the holes in the cake. Smooth out the pudding on the top of the cake.
  8. Place the cake in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

While the cake is chilling, make the chocolate frosting:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whip the butter until fluffy.
  2. Mix in two cups of powdered sugar, the cocoa powder and milk.
  3. Continue to gradually add powdered sugar while mixing until the frosting thickens and comes together.
  4. Turn the speed up on the mixer to whip the frosting until smooth and fluffy.
  5. Use a spatula to gently frost the top of the chilled cake.
  6. Garnish the poke cake with chocolate sprinkles and mini chocolate chips, if desired.
  7. Serve the cake immediately, or place it back in the fridge to continue chilling and pull it out once you’re ready to enjoy a slice.