I made what I call caramel apple cupcakes. Basically, fluffy cupcakes full of shredded apples, frosted with cream cheese frosting and drizzled with a homemade caramel sauce. Okay, i will give you a minute for that to sink down.
Can you say “Yippee-yoo!!” That’s exactly how you feel when you bite into one!
This year, I’ve been surprisingly lax about baking with my favorite fruit, apples. I did make my trademark whole-wheat apple bread and also waffles with apple pie topping. But I haven’t had a chance to bake my favorite apple cakes or tarts. I was about to rectify that for Thanksgiving. I got it in my mind to make apple cupcakes with caramel sauce, kind of like a play on a fall favorite, the delicious and beautiful caramel apples.
When Boy was on vacation all last week, we baked a batch of apple cupcakes one evening. I used my trusty vanilla cupcake recipe and added finely chopped apples into the batter, but soon ran into a couple of problems. I had replaced butter with applesauce from my stash of homemade slow-cooked applesauce. The juicy apple bits combined with the applesauce made the cupcakes dense, and they tasted more like breakfast pancakes. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but not exactly what I wanted to serve as Thanksgiving dessert. So I did some research and found a solution on Chowhound. The trick while adding apples seems to lie in making the base cupcake batter barely moist; reducing an egg from my vanilla cupcake recipe should do the trick. Shredding or grating the apples also seemed a good idea. I also decided to stay away from the applesauce when baking these for Thanksgiving. I mean, come on, I had already planned on cream cheese frosting and caramel sauce, do you think I should skimp on the touch of butter needed in the cake recipe? Nah, right?!!
I hope you were paying attention to all the talk about caramel sauce. Take a look-see at what I made. Doesn’t that look divine? I usually shy away from anything that requires cooking sugar down to a particular temperature and consistency. I remembered an easy recipe from The Pioneer Woman using brown sugar. It looks like caramel sauce and tastes like caramel without the threat of burning sugar! A win-win, if you ask me. I made a large batch and have some stashed in the fridge to eat with pancakes and ice cream. You should totally make some.
Once I made all the necessary changes to my recipe, the cupcakes turned out real nice and fluffy. They are very delicate cupcakes because of the fruity batter. Now, you must make cream cheese frosting to go with it. They are like made for each other. The slight twang from the cream cheese perfectly compliments the cupcakes. And the caramel sauce. Sigh! I just may have discovered the golden triangle of desserts – apples, cream cheese and caramel!!
I know I say this a lot, but this is truly one of the best things I’ve made in a long time! Even the boys said so!! It’s like the perfect fall/winter treat in a cute little package. The flavors only develop with time, so you can totally make these cupcakes the day before you are expecting company over the holidays.
- All purpose flour - 1¼ cups
- Baking powder - 1 tsp
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Cinnamon powder - ¼ tsp
- Butter - ¼ cup, softened at room temperature
- Sugar - 1 cup
- Vanilla extract - ½ tsp
- Egg - 1, large
- Milk - ¼ cup
- Lemon juice - 2 tbsp
- Red apples - 1 large, around 1½ cups when peeled and grated
- Cream cheese - 4 oz, softened
- Butter - ¼ cup, softened
- Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
- Salt - a pinch
- Powdered sugar - 1½ - 2 cups
- Brown sugar - ½ cup
- Cream - ¼ cup
- Butter - 2 tbsp
- Salt - a pinch
- Apple cupcakes: Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg.F. Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.
- Sift the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Take the milk and lemon juice in a measuring cup. Set aside. (Alternately, you can simply use 6 tbsp buttermilk).
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes on high speed. Add vanilla extract and egg and beat for another minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl often.
- Now add half of the flour mixture and beat lightly on low, followed by the milk-lemon mixture, and finally the rest of the flour. Fold with a spatula till just combined. Do not overmix.
- Fold in the shredded/grated apple. I do it with a box grater held right over my mixing bowl.
- Divide batter among cupcake liners equally, each one around ¾ full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or till cupcakes pass the toothpick test.
- Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.
- Cream cheese frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed till well combined, 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and salt and beat for another minute. Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase the speed and beat well for 1-2 minutes till light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar if it seems runny. Refrigerate it while cupcakes are cooling so that the frosting is firm enough to pipe.
- Caramel sauce: Take all ingredients in a small saucepan and start heating on medium heat.
- Once butter is melted and everything is well combined, heat for another 6-8 minutes on medium-low heat till sauce is slightly reduced and thickened.
- Remove from heat and pour into a glass jar. Cool completely, seal tight and store in the refrigerator. The sauce will thicken as it cools, and you can reheat it to make it liquid again.
- Serving: Frost cooled apple cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the frosting. Add sprinkles or other decorations if you wish.
2. I like to keep my cream cheese frosting just sweet enough. You can add up to 2½ cups of powdered sugar in this recipe, I used around 1¾ cups and was satisfied with how it tasted. The more sugar you add to the frosting, the firmer it will be, but refrigerating the frosting for some time should firm it up enough for piping onto the cupcakes.
3. I used edible pearl sprinkles on my cupcakes and they looked very pretty. You can decorate the cupcakes with even apple chips or any such decoration.
Apple cupcakes recipe adapted from Chowhound.
Caramel sauce recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman.
Aren’t they pretty? Like really really pretty? And they taste so amazing too. Do try them!
Now, even if you don’t want to make the cupcakes, you must definitely try the caramel sauce. They literally take 10 minutes to make and there is no risk of burning the sugar like in a traditional caramel sauce. Make some for smothering over your holiday cakes and cookies or for gifting. Your family and friends will love you even more!
Do you like to bake with apples? Have you tried apple cupcakes? With cream cheese frosting and caramel sauce too? You MUST definitely give this one a try!
Go here for more fall/winter recipes.
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