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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!

apple cupcakes topped with salted caramel frosting and caramel sauce sitting on wooden cake stand.

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!

5 caramel apple cupcakes with salted caramel drizzled on top and a few cut in half.

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.

cupcakes batter in lined muffin pan and shown again baked in muffin pan.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

piping frosting on cupcake with piping bag and shown again piped and finished.
apple cupcakes with caramel frosting on top.

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

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apple cupcakes topped with salted caramel frosting and caramel sauce sitting on wooden cake stand.

Apple Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours (includes frosting cooling)
  • Yield: 1415 cupcakes 1x
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


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, 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

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. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Frost cooled cupcakes and drizzle with salted caramel, if desired. I used Wilton 2A piping tip on the pictured cupcakes.
  9. 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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Special Tools (affiliate links): USA Pan Cupcake Pan or Wilton Cupcake Pan | Cupcake LinersCandy Thermometer | Sieve/Sifter | Handheld or Stand Mixer | Silicone WhiskReusable Piping Bag or Disposable Piping Bags | Wilton 2A Piping Tip
  3. Milk: Any milk is fine in this recipe, dairy or nondairy. You could even use apple cider instead!
  4. Apples: I suggest Granny Smith apple for its tart flavor and crisp texture.
  5. Cake: Try my similar recipe for apple cake or this apple upside down cake.
  6. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin.

Keywords: apple spice cupcakes

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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. 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

    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!

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

  3. 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.

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

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

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

    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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

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

  9. 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. 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!

    1. 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!

  10. 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. 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.

  11. 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?

  12. 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!

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

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

    1. 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.

  14. 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. 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!

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

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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. 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!

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

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