Apple Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

Moist & flavorful apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting on top!

Moist and flavorful apple spice cupcakes finished with a salted caramel frosting. No mixer required! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

It’s that time of year again. Apples, pumpkin, cinnamon spice, and everything nice are taking over the kitchen! And there’s no way I’d rather have it. These are my favorite flavors. Move over chocolate ’cause apple crisp, pumpkin pie, and gingersnap cookies are my absolute FAVORITE.

Moist and flavorful apple spice cupcakes finished with a salted caramel frosting. No mixer required! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Today’s cupcakes are why I believe that sometimes less is truly more.

While they aren’t stuffed with chocolate ganache or adorned with candy bars, these modest cupcakes are quite certainly a new favorite. The cupcake itself is made with melted butter and brown sugar. Comforting flavors like nutmeg and cinnamon dot each bite with the perfect amount of fall spice. The tiny and tender pieces of tart Granny Smith apples hiding inside will melt in your mouth. These apple spice cupcakes are incredibly moist like banana bread, soft and fluffy like a muffin, rich and decadent like chocolate cake.

How to make apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting on sallysbakingaddiction.com

How to make apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting on sallysbakingaddiction.com

The cupcakes pack enough flavor that there’s no need for frosting!

But let’s not be silly.

Moist and flavorful apple spice cupcakes finished with a salted caramel frosting. No mixer required! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Apples and caramel are a classic fall flavor combination and I baked today’s cupcakes as an excuse to make salted caramel frosting. This stuff is dangerously good. Luscious, satin-y, and combining the perfect balance of salty and sweet.

What I love most is how simple it is – (1) make a brown sugar caramel (2) let it slightly cool (3) stir in a little extra cream and confectioners’ sugar (4) stuff your face (5) check yourself in the mirror before walking out the door. I may have skipped #5 and left the house with frosting on my nose, but whatev. Totally worth it.

Moist and flavorful apple spice cupcakes finished with a salted caramel frosting. No mixer required! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

One bite is all it will take to convince even the most die-hard summer spirit that the flavors of fall are here. And there’s no turning back. 😉

Apple Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

Ingredients:

Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2/3 cup (135g) packed light or dark brown sugar (I prefer dark)
  • 1/3 cup (65g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) milk1
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • 1 large apple, peeled and finely chopped (about 2 cups)2

Salted Caramel Frosting

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar (I prefer dark)
  • 1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons; 80ml) heavy cream, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 - 3 cups (240-360g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • optional garnish: salted caramel sauce and apple slices

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners - this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth then whisk in the vanilla extract and milk. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl.  Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently until combined. The batter will have a few lumps. Fold in the apples.
  4. Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full with batter. Bake for 21–23 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean when done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  5. Make the frosting: While the cupcakes are cooling, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once melted, add brown sugar and 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream. Whisk constantly over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add salt. Allow to bubble for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. With a hand or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat in 2 cups confectioners' sugar and the remaining heavy cream. Slowly add 1/2 - 1 cup more confectioners' sugar until you reach the desired consistency. Add a little cream or milk if you find the frosting too thick. Frost cooled cupcakes and drizzle with salted caramel sauce, if desired.

Make ahead tip: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Allow it to come to room temperature before piping or spreading on top. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes:

  1. Recipe tested with skim milk and 1% milk. Almond milk, soy milk, 2% milk, and rice milk are all OK.
  2. I suggest Granny Smith apples for their beautiful tart flavor!

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

Photos and frosting recipe updated in 2016.

Moist and flavorful apple spice cupcakes finished with a salted caramel frosting. No mixer required! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

102 comments

  1. I made these and brought them into work. Everyone LOVED them. I had at least 6 people ask me for the recipe. The frosting is AMAZING! A perfect combination for the fall 🙂 I can never go wrong with your recipes, Sally!

    • Oh my gosh Emily, I love these cupcakes! Thanks so much for making them and for reporting back! The frosting? I know! Amazing.

  2. Oh my darling! I’m in a fall wedding and i’m making the bridal shower cupcakes tomorrow. I’ve found a pumpkin, a red velvet (yours!) was looking for a third and think I’ve found it! What a perfect taste of fall. I’ll be reporting in tomorrow!

    • Hi Rachael! I actually don’t have a red velvet cupcake recipe at this time – but would love to make them soon. So delicious! I hope you enjoy these apple cupcakes!

      • I realized after posting that, that the red velvets were Martha Stewarts and not yours and felt pretty dumb :/ BUT! I did make these yummy little guys and they were a big hit. They were the perfect combination of cupcake/muffin. My future mother-in-law said it was like apple pie in a cake. Just the right amount of warmth from the spices with real bits of apple. I snuck a taste of one when it was warm and my goodness. I rave about your blog and give you full credit. And as of now you’re recipes are 4 for 4!

    • Ps. Holy terrible grammar sorry!

  3. Hi Sally,
    I just finished making your pumpkin cupcakes and they are a-maz-ing! I also just made these apple spice cupcakes. I only got enough batter for 12, but your recipe says 18. Have you or anyone else had this happen? I followed the directions to the letter.
    Thanks and happy baking!

    • Hey Nanci! Oh goodness, you only got 12 cupcakes? I get anywhere from 14-18 when I bake them. It depends if I go over/under 1.5 cups of apple. But I’ve never gotten 12 before using a standard muffin pan. Well, I’m glad you love these! And the pumpkin ones too. Thanks!

  4. Love your website!!

    Do the apples need to be peeled?

    • It doesn’t matter. I’ve made them before with peeled and unpeeled apple pieces. Peeled apples are a bit softer inside the cupcake. Enjoy, Ariel!

  5. There is a potluck at church tomorrow and I think I know what I’m bringing! Bring on the apple spice cupcakes! Holla!!

  6. I love sallysbakingaddiction.com. Thanks for all the great recipes.
    I’m confused about the salted caramel frosting . One place says bubble one minute another says bubble two minutes before adding powdered sugar. Which works best? I love caramel,,

  7. These cupcakes are absolutely heavenly. This is now one of my go to cupcake recipes.

  8. could i use buttermilk instead of milk?

  9. Oooooooohhhhhh I am loving these. How long in the oven if I wanted to make a layer cake? I need this in my life….

  10. Hi Sally. I’m helping out at a friend’s baby shower, and I want to bring these cupcakes. I did a trial run this evening, and they tasted great. But, I have a couple questions if you have time. First, if the frosting gets too thick is it okay to add more heavy cream? Next question; I believe my cupcakes were not very moist. I’m assuming they’re supposed to be moist. I’m think I may have over-baked them or maybe over-mixed? Any thoughts? Thanks, and I love your recipes!!

    • Hi Emily! Yep, feel free to add more cream to the frosting. I fear the cupcakes were over baked. Keep your eye on them. Careful measuring your flour – do not overmeasure. And perhaps try using buttermilk instead of any other milks. It makes creates a moist texture.

      • Thanks, Sally! I think I agree with you about the over-baking. I baked it less than 20 minutes. However, I’ll keep a closer eye on them for the baby shower!

  11. Hello! I’ve made this recipe twice already and people think they are amazing! The only problem that I’ve had was the frosting. It comes out too thick and it crumbles a lot. People said it was too think and not very frosting like. What am I doing wrong? Or how can I fix it? Thank you for this delicious recipe!

    • Hi Julissa. A great way to thin out the frosting is to add a little cream or milk when you add the powdered sugar. This frosting is supposed to be very thick, not really light and fluffy like buttercream or other frostings.

  12. Hello Sally!! This recipe looks delish and I’m going to try making it tonight. But I have one question: is the salted caramel frosting pipeable? Can I use a Wilton 1M tip to pipe it?

    • Also- I made your s’mores cupcakes for a baby shower I was hosting yesterday. Everybody LOVED them! I love your recipes and am planning to give the apple spice cupcakes ago after the s’mores ones were a hit! Thank you for bringing yumminess into our lives :D:D

    • I piped the frosting here with a Wilton 12 tip, but I wouldn’t try a swirl tip. It won’t hold the shape. Let me know how you like them!

      • They turned out delicious 🙂 I got so excited about all these yummy flavors that I bought your cookbook! I was happy to see they sell it on Amazon Europe!! Thanks again for all these yummy recipes!

  13. HI Sally!  I’m so excited to make these for our party tomorrow. How ‘finely’ chopped should the apples be? Smaller than a fingernail size? Thanks!

  14. Can I replace the heavy cream with fresh milk for the frosting? 

  15. Hi Sally,
    Love all your recipes and have made these before but would like to turn it into a double layer birthday cake- do you think just to double quantities? 
    Thanks!

    • Gemma, I would make two separate batters instead of doubling. Working with less batter heads decrease the risk of overmixing. Unsure of the bake time for the layers in a cake. But it will be delicious!

      • Thanks for the reply! Can’t wait to give it a try- the cupcakes always go down so well anyway!

  16. Hi Sally,

    I’m thinking about making these for a party but want to make them ahead of time. Do you think the unfrosted cupcakes would freeze ok? I’ve frozen cupcakes before, but not sure about the apple bits. Thanks!

  17. Beautiful recipe, and beautiful photography!

  18. Hi Sally
    Want to try these cupcakes they really look yummy.
    I have a question since we r vegetarian do you think
    flaxseeds(flaxegg) will work in this recipe if not what
    can be the substitute?
    Thankyou

  19. So you are a genius and these are amazing!  I had to log on and tell you that I just made these and they were perfect!  My family is going to go nuts once they try them!  The only thing was my icing was grainy, but it was totally my fault cause I overlooked the sifting part of the sugar.  I think I was just so excited and rushed it, hahaha!  I’m hooked on your recipes 🙂  You go girl!!

  20. Delicious! Super easy to make too! 

  21. Do you think I could use a premade salted caramel sauce in the frosting instead of making one? I have the delicious Fleur De Sel sauce from Trader Joe’s.

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