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Comforting flavors like nutmeg and cinnamon dot each bite of these moist and flavorful apple spice cupcakes. The tiny and tender pieces of tart Granny Smith apples hiding inside melt in your mouth. Luscious and satin-y salted caramel frosting is the perfect finishing touch and if you’re up for accessorizing, add a drizzle of salted caramel too. What a cupcake!

apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting, a drizzle of salted caramel, and a slice of granny smith apple on top

When the start of fall rolls around, some reader-favorite recipes include these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, apple cider donuts, and classic pecan pie. It’s the time of year when pumpkin pie spice blend and cinnamon take over the kitchen and one of my top fall baking choices has always been today’s apple spice cupcakes. One bite is all it will take to convince even the most die-hard summer spirit that the flavors of fall reign supreme! They’re soft and cakey, remind me of apple pie, and taste extra special with the caramel frosting on top. 

They’re the indisputable champion if you’re looking for a festive and fun fall cupcake!

Tell Me About These Apple Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

  • Flavor: While they aren’t stuffed with chocolate ganache or adorned with candy bars, these modest apple spice cupcakes pack enough apple and cinnamon spice flavor that there’s no need for frosting. (That doesn’t mean we won’t add any– we aren’t crazy!) Salted caramel turns these into a salty sweet cupcake, but if you’re looking for something different, some readers have used the cinnamon cream cheese frosting from these banana cupcakes before. 
  • Texture: These have more texture than, say, classic vanilla cupcakes. Every bite is a balance of soft, cakey, rich, and creamy. They’re extra moist like banana bread, but not nearly as dense. Think of a soft and cakey muffin packed with tender pieces of apple and topped with thick caramel frosting– just like that.
  • Ease: The cupcake batter comes together without much effort. Set aside some time to peel and finely chop your apple before folding it all into the batter. The frosting requires the stove and some extra time to cool down before finishing it up. I usually get started on the frosting as the cupcakes cool so both are ready at the same time for decorating.
apple spice cupcakes topped with salted caramel frosting and a drizzle of salted caramel

Let me Show You How to Make Them

The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through it so you understand each step before getting started.

  1. Prepare. Preheat the oven and line your muffin pan. This apple cupcake recipe yields slightly more than a dozen cupcakes, so have a 2nd muffin pan handy or bake the batter in batches. I always use and recommend these parchment paper cupcake/muffin liners.
  2. Mix wet ingredients. As listed in the printable recipe below, you’ll need melted butter, brown sugar, regular granulated sugar, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract for this step. Brown sugar and butter are an unbeatable pairing, especially when combined with cinnamon, nutmeg, and apple.
  3. Finish the batter. This is when you’ll whisk the dry ingredients together including flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then fold in the apples.
  4. Bake. Fill your liners about 3/4 full with apple cupcake batter, then bake as instructed below. You need about 1/4 cup of batter per cupcake.
  5. Make the frosting. As the cupcakes are finishing up cooling, start the frosting. This is a two part process combined into 1 step. Make sure you leave enough time for the stovetop mixture to cool (about 20-30 minutes) before finishing the frosting.
apple spice cupcake batter in a glass bowl with a red spatula
apple spice cupcake batter in a cupcake pan before baking

Are you looking for a cake recipe instead? Try this fresh apple cake or even my apple Bundt cake.

Frosting Options

I love the salted caramel frosting on top because when paired together, the entire cupcake reminds me of a caramel apple. So tasty for fall! If you love chocolate and salted caramel, try the frosting paired with these chocolate cupcakes

But if you want a different topping option, feel free to try peanut butter frosting, cream cheese frosting, or the cinnamon cream cheese frosting from these banana cupcakes.

apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting, a drizzle of salted caramel, and a slice of granny smith apple on top

If you ever need extra advice or guidance when it comes to cupcake baking, here’s my Tips for Baking the Best Cupcakes page. You can also join my Baking Made Easy email course to receive my best baking tips! It’s completely free and includes my top recipes and plenty of helpful baking lessons.

More Fall Baking Recipes

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apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting, a drizzle of salted caramel, and a slice of granny smith apple on top

Apple Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 1416 cupcakes 1x
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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


Ingredients

Scale

Cupcakes

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (188g) 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
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2/3 cup (135g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (65g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) milk,* at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large apple, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 and 1/2 cups, or 180g)*

Salted Caramel Frosting

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

Instructions

  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 flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract, then whisk in the milk. 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, combine the butter and brown sugar together in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Once the butter has melted, add salt and 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream. Whisk until combined, then stop whisking as mixture begins to boil. If you have a candy thermometer, attach it to the side of the saucepan now. Boil until the temperature reaches 230°F (110°C), whisking every 30 seconds or so. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer the caramel to a heatproof mixing bowl set on a cooling rack. Let it cool for another 15 minutes. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat in 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream. Let the frosting sit for a few minutes to thicken. If you want to use it right away, you can spread it onto the cooled cupcakes, but it will be too thin to pipe at this point. If you want to pipe this frosting, let it sit for about 20–30 minutes before filling your piping bag, to give it a chance to thicken up to a pipeable consistency. Frost cooled cupcakes and drizzle with salted caramel, if desired.
  6. Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: 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. Bring to room temperature, then stir in 1 Tablespoon of heavy cream to thin out before using. (Frosting is thick after refrigerating.) Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2–3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and then bring to room temperature if desired.
  2. Milk: Any milk is fine in this recipe, dairy or nondairy.
  3. Apples: I suggest Granny Smith apples for their beautiful tart flavor and crisp texture.
  4. Cake: Try my similar recipe for apple cake.
  5. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: apple spice cupcakes

apple spice cupcake with salted caramel frosting, a drizzle of salted caramel, and a slice of granny smith apple on top

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Will half and half work instead of heavy whipping cream? I’m going to try it the store was out haha.

    1. Hi Maya, Unfortunately heavy cream is required for the caramel. Half and half will not achieve the same texture and taste in this frosting.

      1. Hi Janel, For the best taste and texture we recommend sticking with butter for this recipe. We hope you love them!

  2. Are they supposed to puff into perfect domes or are they a flatter cupcake? Mine didn’t get the domes and kinda spread out on top of cupcake baker.

    1. Hi Angela, They should have nice flat even tops (unlike a muffin with a dome top)! When a cupcake domes it’s usually because there is too much batter in the liner. The flat tops are a perfect base for frosting 🙂 For more details and all of our troubleshooting tips you can see the post 10 Tips for Baking the Best Cupcakes.

  3. What does the milk do in this recipe? Could it be substituted for reduced apple cider?

    1. Hi Emily, You can use the same amount of apple cider in place of milk for extra flavor. Enjoy!

  4. I don’t know if my tastes have changed since I made this last, but the frosting seems way too sweet. How can I tone down the sweetness?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Susan, you can try using just a bit less confectioners’ sugar, but that will also impact the texture and thickness of the frosting. You could also try adding just a pinch more salt to help offset some of the sweetness. Hope this helps!

  5. I am so excited to try this recipe today! However I have a question about the sugar measurements. When I pack the brown sugar, 2/3 of a cup comes out to 160 grams. However your recipe calls for 135 grams. Should I follow the amount by weight or should I continue to pack it? Thank you.

    1. Hi Elise, we would follow the gram measurement in that case – it’s always the most accurate! You can read more about measuring baking ingredients in this post if you’re interested.

  6. Made these for a Halloween party and they are delicious! I already had Sally’s salted caramel in the fridge so I muddled through the frosting using that.

  7. Hi Sally!!
    I would like to try this recipe that looks delicious, but I will fill the cupcakes with caramel sauce. I want to decorate them with buttercream flowers in an automn color palette (red, yellow, orange) so I can’t use this already “brown” colored frosting. Is Italian buttercream OK to combine with this recipe?
    TIA

      1. My caramel keeps coming out grainy, how can I fix this? Help please!!!

  8. Good day sally is heavy cream and heavy whipping cream the same? I have heavy whipping cream home not sure if I use it… please and thank you…. Love all your recipes cammy

    1. Hi Cammy, Heavy cream and heavy whipping cream are the same. You can use them interchangeably. Enjoy!

  9. Delicious! I made these cupcakes for a fall wedding as a favor to my friend. I garnished the cupcakes with a dried apple slice. Everyone loved them and are still talking about them!

  10. My sisters and I made this recipe for New Years and it was a hit! Good recipe, 10/10.

  11. I think I have everything except apple, Can I substitute it with applesauce??

    1. These really are best with apple. Replacing with the same amount of applesauce would be too much liquid, unless you reduce the amount down. Let me know if you try anything!

  12. could I make this in a 9×5 loaf pan, split it in half, and frost the center and the outside?

    1. Hi Kimberly, that should work — just fill your pan half way, and if you have any additional batter, use it for a few cupcakes on the side. We’re unsure of the best bake time for the loaf pan. Let us know what you try!

    1. Hi Sara, for around 30-36 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature.

    1. Hi Kim, we’d recommend 1.5x or 2x the frosting recipe, depending on if you want the cake lightly frosted or fully frosted.

  13. Just made the frosting, it did bubble for 2 minutes, but it’s still grainy. It crunches when I eat it. What can I do to fix that?

    1. Hi Sara, it sounds like the sugar was not fully dissolved. Be sure to vigorously whisk the sugar with the butter and heavy cream and ensure that it’s fully dissolved before whisking in the salt and bringing it to a simmer.

  14. I made these into 3 6-inch cakes and they were delicious! The frosting came out grainy but that was my fault; I didn’t dissolve the sugar completely. I will definitely try the frosting again. It was still good even though it was crunchy.

  15. Thoughts on these with a cream cheese frosting? Still planning to drizzle with salted caramel!

  16. Instead of dicing the apples, could I grate them? I was going to fill them with an apple compote and worry that having apple pieces in the cupcake plus in the compote would be too much.

    1. Hi Vanessa, yes, but you’ll likely need to reduce the amount down because they will act more like a wet ingredient than an add-in (see our spice cake recipe as an example). Chopped is best in this recipe so you can really taste the flavor!

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