Apple Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
Moist & flavorful apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting on top!
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.
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.
The cupcakes pack enough flavor that there’s no need for frosting!
But let’s not be silly.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 tested with skim milk and 1% milk. Almond milk, soy milk, 2% milk, and rice milk are all OK.
- I suggest Granny Smith apples for their beautiful tart flavor!
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Photos and frosting recipe updated in 2016.