A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Wake N Bake — Carolina Beach & Wilmington “Have you ever seen a sad person eating a doughnut?” asks Shawn Farrior, manager of Wake N Bake, the shop in Carolina

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Wake N Bake — Carolina Beach & Wilmington “Have you ever seen a sad person eating a doughnut?” asks Shawn Farrior, manager of Wake N Bake, the shop in Carolina

Wake N Bake — Carolina Beach & Wilmington

“Have you ever seen a sad person eating a doughnut?” asks Shawn Farrior, manager of Wake N Bake, the shop in Carolina Beach and downtown Wilmington that’s known for made-from-scratch specialty doughnuts in inventive flavors.

Take the seasonal pumpkin pie doughnut: It starts off a lot like the best-selling classic glazed — but when you bite into the pumpkin pie version, your teeth sink into a warm, nutty, cinnamon-spiced filling. That’s all drizzled with a whipped pumpkin-spice icing and crowned with a dollop of buttercream.

According to Farrior, a good doughnut comes down to a few factors: the quality and temperature of the air and water, and the amount of time that the dough is allowed to rise. “You can’t cheat time,” he says. Maybe that’s why a box of pumpkin pie doughnuts has become a mainstay at holiday dessert tables. “It’s like Thanksgiving wrapped in a hug.”

114 Princess Street
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 470-4348

1401 North Lake Park Boulevard, Suite 46
Carolina Beach, NC 28428
(910) 707-0166

However you slice Blue Ridge Bakery’s pumpkin pie cake roll, a bite of any size is delicious. photograph by Tim Robison

Blue Ridge Bakery — Brevard

Ribbons of buttery cream cheese filling; layers of light, spongy cake: The pumpkin pie cake roll at Blue Ridge Bakery delivers an autumnal harvest of flavors and textures in every bite. “You can slice it thin because you’ve just had Thanksgiving dinner, or you can get a big ole honkin’ slice anytime,” says co-owner Katina Hansen. “Either way, you taste all those cinnamon and nutmeg spices, and it just screams fall.”

Measuring ingredients is a form of meditation for Hansen, who started Blue Ridge Bakery with her husband, John, after they moved to Brevard from Charlotte 17 years ago. Plan A was opening a restaurant. After realizing that the mountain town already had great diners but not one bakery where locals could order a homemade birthday cake, the couple changed their plans.

That was just fine with Hansen. “Baking had always been our favorite part of the restaurant and catering business we had in Charlotte,” she says. “You have to measure everything carefully. You can’t think of anything else that’s worrying you; you just focus on baking the cake.”

86 West Main Street
Brevard, NC 28712
(828) 883-8444

Patrick Young’s Grandma’s Apple Pie funnel cake — which, yes, comes topped with an entire slice of apple pie — is a fall favorite. photograph by JONATHAN COOPER

FunOhCakes — Charlotte

Patrick Young satisfies customers’ funnel cake cravings year-round. photograph by JONATHAN COOPER

Is it like a doughnut? “No, it’s better than a doughnut!” Do you use pancake batter? “It’s different: fluffy and cakey on the inside, crunchy on the outside — heaven,” Patrick Young tells funnel cake first-timers as they peer into his FunOhCakes food truck and attempt to narrow down the options.

Young suggests one of his fall favorites, Grandma’s Apple Pie. “We top a funnel cake with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, and caramel sauce,” he says. “Then we put a slice of warm homemade apple pie on top of the cake and add whipped cream.”

Young loves to watch his customers’ reactions. “They’ll take a bite and turn around and give me a look,” he says. “The perfect funnel cake, you bite into it and feel a joy that takes you back to your childhood. That’s what this is all about — spreading joy.”

To learn more about FunOhCakes, visit funohcakes.com.

At Bittersweet, pumpkin crème brûlée pairs perfectly with a fall cocktail. photograph by LINDA NGUYEN/CURIOUS NOTIONS PHOTO

Bittersweet — Raleigh

At cozy tables inside downtown Raleigh’s Bittersweet restaurant, the busyness of East Martin Street gives way to clinking cocktail glasses, intimate conversations, and shared desserts. This time of year, one menu item takes center stage. “As it starts to get close to fall, everybody asks for the pumpkin crème brûlée,” says owner Kim Hammer.

Beneath a crackly sugar top garnished with cinnamon-dusted whipped cream, the dessert features simple ingredients and fresh, aromatic spices like nutmeg, clove, ginger, and concentrated vanilla bean. A side of cranberries and pecans spiced with cinnamon, orange peel, and a hint of smoky paprika adds a little extra flavor.

Hammer believes that every good dessert is layered, just like the name of her restaurant implies. “I don’t like it when desserts are too sweet,” she says. “I like every bite to be exciting in a different way, a beautiful balance of sweet, salty, and crunchy.”

16 East Martin Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 977-3829

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This story was published on Sep 26, 2022

Robin Sutton Anders

Robin Sutton Anders is a writer based in Greensboro.