Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes

October 2, 2012

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All the flavors of a caramel apple in a moist, fluffy, generously frosted cupcake. I’ll take 10 please! These cupcakes are fabulous to say the least. My husband said they were his favorite cupcakes ever, so I guess they must be pretty good =). I will admit coming up with cupcake recipes is no easy task.

My first recipe attempt wasn’t what I was looking for so I made a few alterations, such as reducing the sugar and butter slightly, omitting baking powder, and adding lemon juice to help imitate the slight tartness of a caramel apple (I may even add more next time). I also used coarsely grated apples the first time around and found I didn’t like the texture.

They seemed to make the cupcake too heavy as well so I went with the finer grate the second time around and it made a world of difference.


If you like caramel apples this is definitely a recipe you’re not going to want to let this Fall season go by without making. If you aren’t a fan of salted caramel feel free to omit the sea salt. If you want to make them extra fancy you could add some vanilla bean seeds to the caramel sauce or the frosting. And for an added crunch you could sprinkle them with chopped pecans or walnuts.
Be sure to be careful when making the caramel as you are working with boiling hot melted sugar here. Also really pay attention to its color while it boils as it will go through stages. Through the clear, the light golden, to golden orange, then amber and at last the dark amber. Be sure to allow it to become dark enough in color but also making sure it doesn’t become too dark.

It’s color is key. If it is under cooked or over cooked the caramel wont be the right consistency and wont have the right flavor. When it’s too dark it is burned and tastes bitter. When it’s under cooked it will taste more like butter and sugar than caramel and it will be too runny.
I absolutely love homemade caramel sauce. Once you make it at home you’ll have a really hard time buying the stuff at the store (that’s made from mostly corn syrup). The homemade caramel sauce is the crowning jewel of these cupcakes. Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes

The best autumn flavor pairing in decadent cupcake form!

Servings: 24
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup salted butter , at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce , at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely grated Granny Smith Apples (about 4 small apples, peel them first)
  • Caramel Frosting , recipe follows
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt , or to taste

Fluffy Caramel Frosting

  • 1 cup salted butter , at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup Caramel Sauce , recipe follows (cooled completely)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer on medium speed, blend together butter, sugar and applesauce until well blended and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add in eggs one at a time mixing until combine after each addition. 
  2. Blend in lemon juice and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, slowly add dry ingredients and mix just until combine. Fold in finely grated apples (as well as the juice of the grated apples). Divide batter among paper lined muffin cups filling each cup about 1/2 full. 
  3. Bake cupcakes in preheated oven 17 - 19 minutes until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely then frost with Caramel Frosting. Just before serving, drizzle cupcakes with leftover caramel sauce and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Store cupcakes in an airtight container.

Fluffy Caramel Frosting

  1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, whip butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 - 4 minutes. Add powdered sugar and blend on low speed until mixture comes together. Add caramel sauce and vanilla and whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy about 3 - 4 minutes.

Caramel Sauce

  1. Gather all of your ingredients and have them nearby ready to add to the mixture as needed. In a heavy-bottomed 3 quart saucepan, heat sugar and water over moderately high heat whisking constantly to dissolve sugar. Once mixture reaches a boil, stop whisking and allow mixture to boil until it reaches a dark amber color, carefully swirling pan occasionally.
  2. Once mixture reaches a dark amber color, immediately add butter and whisk until butter has melted then immediately remove from heat. Wait 3 seconds then carefully pour in cream and immediately whisk to combine (it will bubble vigorously). Whisk until mixture is smooth. Allow caramel to cool several minutes then pour into a glass jar to cool completely.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Caramel Apple Cupcakes
Author: Jaclyn

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34 Comments

  • Brett

    These cupcakes were so delicious! my husband, who swears on his life that he ONLY likes chocolate cake, devoured them…I’m talking within an hour of frosting them, there were only maybe 3 left…thanks for the wonderful recipe! Definately a keeper! :)

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      That is awesome to hear Brett! I’m so glad they were enjoyed! Thanks for your comment!

  • Jamie

    This sounds soooo good! We’re making it in cake form. Cake is cooling right now. Had a bear of a time with the caramel sauce though; not enough water, we think. It seized and crystallized instantly before it even started changing color. After that, we used a “cheat” caramel recipe using brown sugar, heavy cream, butter, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Once it’s all together and we have some tonight, I’ll report back! I love caramel apples, so this sounded just lovely!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      If that’s the case with your caramel sauce you may just want to reduce the heat slightly next time. It shouldn’t need more water, to make a caramel sauce you actually don’t need any water at all but I prefer to use it because the caramel doesn’t usually burn as easily if water is used. Caramel can be pretty tricky though, sorry yours didn’t turn out!! I hope you love the cake!

      • Jamie

        I’ll definitely have to try making the sauce again; I’m determined to get it right. I was just impatient yesterday. :) The cake was delicious. Oh, that frosting…YUM! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  • Ashley

    Wow these look so good!

    I’m making a cake for my best friend’s birthday and she absolutely loves caramel apples; I’m planning to stack a cake and carve it into the shape of an apple, fill it with caramel frosting, and cover it in chocolate fondant. Do you think this recipe would hold up to being stacked as a layer cake?

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      I think that it should but I wish I could say I’ve tried it before with success, I’ve only ever made this recipe as cupcakes =). If you do try it please let me know how it goes!

  • Shanzay

    I tried making frosting, it turned out great but when I started piping it over my cupcake, it started melting… What could be done to make it perfect ?? That stays over it ??

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Shandzay – I would recommend next time that you use chilled caramel sauce and also make sure you cook the caramel sauce long enough so it has a thick enough consistency. You could also use firm but not cold butter or reduce the amount slightly. I hope that helps!

  • Bernadette

    These look great! I tried the caramel recipe for the pumpkin cheesecake and had a hard time with it. I use sugar in the raw which starts out a tan color so I couldn’t tell when it went through the stages – it’s hard to tell when an already tan sugar turns amber! Is there a temperature I could look for with a candy thermometer? I know it wasn’t at the right stage because it never bubbled when I added the cream. It still tasted good but didn’t have the really rich flavor I expected.

  • Anonymous

    I made my own cupcake recipe,but used your caramel and frosting recipe and that caramel is to die for! Making it again right now for another event tomorrow. :)

  • Nicolette

    These were delicious, and they were a hit on Thanksgiving! I’ll be saving this for the future!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jaclyn, just wanted to stop by and say we just made your cupcakes! Weren’t quite ambitious enough to make the caramel sauce but the cupcakes were wonderful all the same! They taste great slightly warmed like cinnamon rolls :)