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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 and cinnamon spices 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 your typical vanilla cupcake. 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

Overview: How to Make Apple Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

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 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

I love this frosting because there’s deep brown sugar and caramel flavor. If you love chocolate and salted caramel, try it paired with these chocolate cupcakes. If you’re not into salted caramel frosting, feel free to try peanut butter frosting, cream cheese frostingor 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: 14-16 cupcakes 1x
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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


Ingredients

Scale

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) milk*
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 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 large apple, peeled and finely chopped (about 2 cups)*

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
  • 23 cups (240-360g) 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 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 over medium heat. Once melted, add brown sugar and 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream. Whisk constantly until sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the salt, then stop whisking as mixture begins to simmer. Simmer without stirring for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes. With a handheld 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 your desired thickness. Add a little cream or milk if you find the frosting too thick. 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: Recipe tested with skim milk and 1% milk. Almond milk, soy milk, 2% milk, and rice milk are all OK.
  3. Apples: I suggest Granny Smith apples for their beautiful tart flavor!
  4. 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.

  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.

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. 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!