Nothing makes me think of fall quite as much as going to the apple orchard with my family. Picking apples for hours, driving the long trip home (with a caramel apple for the road, of course), and ending up with enough jars of mom’s cinnamon applesauce to last the winter.
I came up with this caramel apple cupcake recipe a few years ago, and it’s been a tradition in my family ever since. The apples in the filling provide bites of tartness and crunch to cut through the sweet syrup. (Put extra on top of pancakes for an easy fall breakfast!) The added cinnamon in my vanilla cake batter brings flavor and warmth that balances the rich and velvety salted caramel frosting. But the best part is, you can be transported back to the apple orchard without leaving your own kitchen!
For the cupcakes:
2-½ cups all-purpose flour
2-½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1-½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1-½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-¼ cups milk
For the filling:
3 granny smith apples, peeled, finely chopped
½ stick unsalted butter
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbs water
1 Tbs cornstarch
For the frosting:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup caramel sauce or topping (plus a little more for drizzling)
1 tsp kosher salt
Make the cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 375℉. Line 18 muffin cups with paper cupcake liners.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating between additions. Add vanilla.
- Add ⅓ of the flour and ½ the milk. Beat. Repeat. Add the last ⅓ of the flour. Beat until just incorporated.
- Spoon batter into the prepared muffin tins until the cups are about ⅔ full (about ⅓ of a cup in each).
- Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake has a few crumbs, but no batter on it.
- Remove the cupcakes from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the filling:
- Combine the apples, butter, sugar, cinnamon, water, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.
- Bring contents to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat and reduce the filling to a simmer until thickened. It should look like apple pie filling and the apples should be tender, but have a bite to them.
- Set aside and cool.
Make the frosting:
- Beat together the butter and cream cheese with a stand mixer or hand mixer until smooth.
- Add in the sugar one cup at a time until fully incorporated. Add the caramel sauce and salt and beat to combine.
- Take out the centers of the cooled cupcakes with an apple corer (about ¾ of an inch in diameter). You can also use the bottom of a piping tip or a small spoon. Leave a little bit of cake at the bottom of the hole to hold in the filling.
- Spoon in the apple filling to the top of the holes.
- Spread frosting onto the cupcakes or fit a plastic bag with a piping tip, spoon in frosting, and pipe swirls (see picture). Drizzle with caramel sauce.
- The cupcakes are best in the first couple of days but can be refrigerated for up to four days.
By: Ellen Schlick