Apple Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

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.

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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
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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


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) 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

55 Comments

  1. I love these cupcakes Sally! Salted caramel is the best!

  2. Made these today for my family and they were a huge hit. I loved how easy they were to make. Thank you so much! Can’t wait to try another one of your recipes

  3. Love your website!!

    Do the apples need to be peeled?

    1. 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!

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

  5. 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!

    1. They’re OK frozen! Just thaw them overnight in the refrigerator then bring to room temperature before frosting.

  6. Delicious! Super easy to make too! 

    1. Love making this in fall. Only difference is for milk I use the 1/3 cup but mix buttermilk with apple cider

  7. hello sally can i used brown butter for the cupcakes?

    1. Sure can!

  8. Sally, these look divine. Can the batter be used to make two 8” rounds for a cake?

    1. Hi Stef! I haven’t tried dividing the batter between 2 8-inch pans, but that *should* work!

  9. I used honeycrisp apples and added cloves. Made me think of apple cider. Delicious.

  10. Made these for Halloween festivities and everyone raved about them. Absolutely delicious recipe!

  11. Could I use cake flour instead of all purpose flour?

    1. I don’t recommend it for these apple cupcakes.

  12. How finely chopped should the apple be?

    1. Hi Kat, if you look at the photo of the batter you can see the little pieces folded in – they are probably about 1/4 of an inch. Enjoy!

  13. Hi Sally:

    I kicked off my fall baking with these cupcakes. I frosted them with the cinnamon cream cheese frosting provided for your banana cupcakes and WOW! They are so delicious that I’m making another batch for gifting. Thanks for yet another fabulous recipe.

  14. Hi Sally – Is there any way to make this frosting so it holds up to a Wilton 1M piping tip? Or do you have a similar frosting that would work? I’m making vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream for a party this weekend and was hoping to mix some of these in as well to add the fall feel! Just wanted the frostings to look the same in the display. Thanks in advance!

    1. I did slightly update this frosting recipe since this post was written: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/salted-caramel-frosting/
      However, it will not hold an intricate shape as nicely since the frosting is sooo creamy. So I suggest a simple round tip.

  15. Hi Sally,

    Can you use vegetable oil in place of the butter? These are on my to do list 🙂

    1. For the best taste and texture I recommend sticking with butter for this recipe. I hope you love them!

  16. OMG!!! These were so GOOD! They were the sofest, fluffiest, and flavor packed apple cupcakes!! UWU. My family LOVED them!! Thank you Sally!

  17. Hi! Was wondering if I can use the same recipe to make a loaf instead of cupcakes? What size and baking temp/ time please. Thanks.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ai, This batter should fit into a 9×5 loaf pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time needed. Let us know if you try it!

  18. Can I make this into a cake? But not but the apples in the batter? Thanks 🙂

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Zofia, This batter will fit into three 6 inch pans. For baking directions see the post 6 Inch Cakes. It should fit into a 9×5 loaf pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time needed for a loaf pan. Let us know if you try it!

  19. Can I use whole milk?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Definitely!

  20. This recipe sounds delicious but I am planning on making this for my niece who is allergic to eggs. What can I use to substitute the eggs in this recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ramona, We haven’t tested this recipe with an egg substitute but let us know if you try anything. If you are interested here are all of our egg free recipes.

    2. I use applesauce vs eggs if someone is allergic

  21. Great pop of flavor, I have used this recipe for fall and Halloween parties and everyone loved them. Even had someone offer to pay me to make some for them. Do you have more cupcake recipes?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Maya, Here are all of our cupcake recipes!

  22. Hi Sally! I hope you & your beautiful family are staying healthy! Can I use buttermilk instead of milk in this recipe? Thanks so much! Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Caitlin, That should be just fine. Happy baking!

  23. Hi!
    How many mini cupcakes does this make? And for how long, and on how many degrees should I bake them?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  24. Can I fill with apples instead of baking them inside?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda! A spice cupcake with an apple pie filling? We haven’t tested that exact variety of cupcake, but let us know if you do – sounds delicious!

      1. It turned out great. I used apple pie filling instead of fresh apples.

  25. Bonnie MacGlaflin says:

    Hi Sally, When making the frosting you say to whisk until the sugar dissolves…wondering about how long this will take and will it be bubbling at this point? I tried it but with the darkness of the brown sugar I wasn’t sure it was dissolved & unfortunately it was still grainy once it had cooled. Want to retry but need some guidance before I start

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bonnie, You will want to whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved, so it shouldn’t be bubbling yet. You can (very carefully!) feel the mixture with your fingers to see if it feels grainy if you are unsure at that point. Then you can let it gently bubble (simmer) after that. I hope this helps!

  26. can i brown the butter in the frosting?

    1. I can’t see why not. Brown it first, then continue with the frosting recipe on the stovetop.

  27. can I use buttermilk for the cupcake?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emily, buttermilk may weigh down the batter too much. We recommend sticking with the regular milk for best results!

  28. Hi there! I have some salted caramel that I already made this weekend so could you help me figure out how to use this in the recipe? Could you estimate how much caramel I would use and then would I just start from the step in the recipe where you add in the powdered sugar after the caramel is cooled? Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Kristin, that would require some testing. Off the top of my head, I would start by sifting 1 cup (120g) of confectioners’ sugar. Beat that into the cooled caramel with 2-3 Tablespoons of room temperature heavy cream. Beat in more confectioners’ sugar to begin thickening it. Again, this is really just guesswork as I’ve never attempted this before.

      What may work much better is the frosting used in my burnt sugar caramel cake, but replace the burnt sugar syrup it calls for with your room temperature salted caramel.

  29. I would like to make these for a potluck. Is it alright if they sit out for a couple of hours or should I put them in the fridge until the potluck starts?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brooke, they will be fine at room temperature for a few hours, but if you can store them in the fridge and take them out just a bit before serving, that would be best. Hope they’re a hit!

      1. Thank you!

  30. Everybody loved these! Perfect for a fall cupcake that doesn’t have pumpkin! Your recipes never fail. Thank you!

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