Comforting flavors like nutmeg and cinnamon dot each bite of these moist and flavorful apple cupcakes. The tiny and tender pieces of tart Granny Smith apples hiding inside melt in your mouth. Rich, fudge-like salted caramel frosting is the perfect finishing touch, and if you’re up for accessorizing (go for it!), add a drizzle of salted caramel sauce, too. What a cupcake!
When the start of fall rolls around, some reader-favorite recipes include these pumpkin cookies, apple cider donuts, and classic pecan pie. It’s the time of year when pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon take over the kitchen and one of my top fall baking choices has always been today’s apple cupcakes. One bite is all it takes to convince even the most die-hard summer spirit that the flavors of fall reign supreme. (Though there’s no contest when it comes to peach pie… yum.)
The cupcakes are soft and cakey, the flavor reminds me of salted caramel apple pie, and they taste extra special with caramel frosting on top. They’re the indisputable champion if you’re looking for a festive fall cupcake!
Tell Me About These Apple Spice Cupcakes
- Flavor: While they aren’t stuffed with chocolate ganache or adorned with candy bars, these modest-looking apple cupcakes pack enough cinnamon and apple flavor that there’s no need for frosting. (That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t add any—we aren’t crazy.)
- Texture: These have more texture than, say, classic vanilla cupcakes. Every bite is a balance of soft, rich, and creamy, with juicy apple. 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 frosting.
- Ease: The cupcake batter comes together without much effort. Set aside some time to peel and finely chop your apples. The frosting requires more precise attention, plus a stove and some patience. A candy thermometer promises success.
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.
All of the ingredients required are regular baking staples like flour, brown sugar, egg, milk, etc.
Best Apples to Use
You only need 1 large apple. Peel and finely chop it to yield about 1 and 1/2 cups (180g). Tart Granny Smith is best here since the frosting can be so sweet, but you can use a sweet variety if you wish such as Honeycrisp or Fuji. I like using a mix of both tart and sweet in recipes like apple crisp and apple pie, but that doesn’t matter as much here because you only need 1 apple.
A Few Success Tips
- Prepping your pan. This apple cupcake recipe yields slightly more than a dozen, so have a second muffin pan handy or bake in batches. I always use and recommend these parchment paper cupcake/muffin liners. And this muffin pan and this muffin pan have both held up well with very regular use.
- Cupcake batter thickens. You’ll use melted butter in this cupcake batter, and because butter is solid at room temperature, the batter will begin to thicken. Make sure you bake the batter right away.
- Don’t overfill your liners. Fill your liners about 3/4 full with apple cupcake batter.
Are you looking for a cake recipe instead? Try this fresh apple cake or even my apple Bundt cake.
Salted Caramel Frosting
Salted caramel is a natural choice with apple, but don’t let “salted” fool you—this is still a pretty sweet frosting. The frosting is a popular recipe and I have a separate Salted Caramel Frosting post if you want to read more about it and get some extra success tips. The directions to make it are also included in the recipe below. You’ll cook a homemade brown sugar caramel on the stove before beating in heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar. A candy thermometer and sieve/sifter are tools for success.
Once the frosting has thickened, you can pipe it onto your cupcakes—or feel free to spread it on with an icing spatula or knife. I used Wilton 2A Piping Tip on the pictured cupcakes, and in some photos and the video tutorial below, you can see I used an icing spatula to create a little dip/divot on top of the piping. (More room for salted caramel sauce garnish!)
Like caramel apples in cupcake form.
Other Frosting Options for Apple Cupcakes
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.
More Fall Baking Recipes
- Salted Caramel Apple Pie
- Pecan Pie Bars
- Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- Spice Cake
- Mini Pumpkin Pies
- Healthy Apple Muffins
Apple Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 22 minutes
- Total Time: 4 hours (includes frosting cooling)
- Yield: 14-15 cupcakes
- Category: Cupcakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
These are moist & flavorful apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting on top. The cupcakes are fairly easy and most time will be spent on the caramel frosting. A candy thermometer guarantees success in step 5.
- 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, cut into 4 equal pieces
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar (I like to use 1/2 cup of each)
- 5 Tablespoons heavy cream, divided*
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar
- 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 flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- Start the frosting: (This frosting is popular, so we have a separate salted caramel frosting post if you need more help making it.) Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir constantly as the butter melts. Once butter has melted, switch to a whisk to make sure the two are really combined. (Otherwise, you might see an oily layer around the edges where they’re still a bit separated; you do not want that.) Once melted butter and brown sugar are combined, add 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream and the salt. Whisk to combine, then stop whisking and attach a candy thermometer to your pan, making sure the bulb is not touching the bottom of the pan. Let the caramel boil, giving it a quick whisk every 30 seconds or so, until the temperature reaches 230°F (110°C). On my stove, it takes just under 2 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from heat, give it another quick whisk, and let cool for a minute. Carefully transfer the salted caramel to a heat-proof mixing bowl set on a cooling rack and cool for just 15–20 minutes before continuing. The caramel sauce thickens during this time.
- Finish the frosting: Sift in confectioners’ sugar and add remaining 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat on medium-low speed until the ingredients are incorporated. Turn mixer up to high speed and beat for 1 minute. Avoid over-mixing or the frosting will begin to “break” and separate. Let it sit for at least 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. I used Wilton 2A piping tip on the pictured cupcakes.
- Cover and store leftover cupcakes at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I recommend a cupcake carrier for storing and transporting decorated cupcakes.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. For make ahead details on the frosting, see separate Salted Caramel Frosting post for specific instructions and FAQs. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and then bring to room temperature if desired before serving.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): USA Pan Cupcake Pan or Wilton Cupcake Pan | Cupcake Liners | Candy Thermometer | Sieve/Sifter | Handheld or Stand Mixer | Silicone Whisk | Reusable Piping Bag or Disposable Piping Bags | Wilton 2A Piping Tip
- Milk: Any milk is fine in this recipe, dairy or nondairy. You could even use apple cider instead!
- Apples: I suggest Granny Smith apple for its tart flavor and crisp texture.
- Cake: Try my similar recipe for apple cake or this apple upside down cake.
Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin.
Keywords: apple spice cupcakes
Reader Comments & Reviews
Hi Sally. I don’t have a candy thermometer. Do you have any tips on how to make sure my caramel turns out ok? Alternatively, could I use store-bought caramel sauce to make the frosting?
Hi Elly, It may be better to make this vanilla buttercream and add about 1/2 cup of your store-bought sauce.
Would love to substitute the brown and granulated sugars with applesauce and or maple syrup. Would you recommend I not add milk or increase the dry ingredients? Thank you.
Hi Erika, swapping the sugars would take a bit of recipe testing to perfect. It’s not always a 1:1 swap and would require tweaking the other ingredients, too. For best results, we recommend sticking with the recipe as written.
Me again…I would like to make this into layered cake. Can I use 2 – 8″pans? This recipe was so moist and good I would like to replicate it
Hi Arlene, here’s everything you need to know about cake pan sizes and conversions.
My salted caramel thickened a lot when cooled. Should I have drizzled it on the cupcakes when it was warm? I tried warming it in the microwave for a few seconds but when I drizzled it …it was still thick. What did I do wrong?
Hi Arlene, yes, you’ll want to drizzle the caramel on the cupcakes when it’s still warm as it will solidify as it cools. To bring it back to a liquid consistency, you can warm it in the microwave until softened as desired. Nothing you did wrong here!
Excellent recipe! I brought these cupcakes to a luncheon, and they were amazing.
I would like to make a cake, layered or Bundt. Is that possible?
Hi Arlene, we’re so glad these were a hit! This batter as written is perfect for a 3 layer, 6 inch cake. For a larger layer cake, you can use this apple cake recipe instead. For a Bundt cake, we recommend this glazed apple Bundt cake. All very similar in taste and texture!
Lovely recipe. Easy to make and delicious.
I absolutely loved this recipe, really delicious. Make for my husbands work for a special morning tea and then made them in mini size for my work. I used Sally’s vanilla buttercream, but am going to try the caramel buttercream soon. Yum.
Could I bake this as a cake? 13×9 maybe
I looked at the Apple cake recipe but would like something without applesauce
Hi Sam, yes, you could definitely bake this as a cake. A 13×9 pan would be too big for this recipe, though. Cupcake recipes yielding 12-16 cupcakes fit wonderfully in 3 6-inch cake pans. See this post on 6 inch cake recipes and this post on cake pan sizes and conversions for more information.
Great recipe. My partner is lactose intolerant so I love that you could use any non-dairy milk in the recipe. I did a quick Google search and looked up all the substitutes for butter. They turned out delicious and I’ll definitely be making them again. Thanks!
I also made these for a party & they were a hit! Everyone loved them & some said they were their favorites. Thank you for your perfect recipes with great details & suggestions! Your recipes are tried & tested & it shows. You are my ‘go to” when it comes to baking, for sure.
I made these for a fall party and they were a hit! I’m in love with the salted caramel frosting. It pairs perfectly with the spiced apple cupcakes. These will definitely be made again!
I recently purchased an oven that can be convection or conventional. I heard convection is best for baking, what do you think?
All of the recipes on this site are written for conventional settings. Convection ovens are fantastic for cooking and roasting. If you have the choice, we recommend conventional settings when baking cakes, breads, etc. The flow of air from convection heat can cause baked goods to rise and bake unevenly and it also pulls moisture out of the oven. If you do use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake.