If ever there was THE perfect back to school, It's Almost Fall, Y'all, sort of treat, it's most certainly these caramel apple cupcakes. Fall may not be here yet, but it's right around the corner and that's close enough for me. It's my favorite time of year so it's never too early to pull out all the fall and Halloween decorations in my house. It's also not too early to dive into fall baking, and this year my caramel apple cupcakes are first on the list. Apple spice cupcakes are filled with a salted caramel apple compote, and topped with brown butter cream cheese frosting, salted caramel drizzle and rolled in roasted, salted peanuts. SO good.
How to make the apple spice cupcakes
The ingredient that makes these apple spice cupcakes super moist is unsweetened applesauce. Fall spices - cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves makes the cupcakes super flavorful. Like an apple pie in a cupcake. Butter is beaten with brown and granulated sugar until light and creamy, followed by two eggs. After the eggs, and vanilla are incorporated, the batter may look a little curdled. It's totally ok, keep going. Flour and applesauce are added to the batter alternatively, and the batter is given a final mix with a spatula to ensure everything is incorporated thoroughly.
This batter makes exactly 12 cupcakes. You will use all the batter, so be sure to scrape down the bowl to get every bit of it. After the cupcakes are baked, allow them to cool before adding the apple compote filling.
How to make the salted caramel apple compote
This filling is so good, it's hard to not just eat it all out of the pan. And when it's cooking, your home will smell incredible. You can use any apples you wish in this recipe, but I recommend using apples that don't get mushy. I've used Honeycrisp and Granny Smith apples because they're my favorites to bake with. Dice the apples pretty fine -½" or a bit smaller. You want these apples to be to fit in the cupcakes. The diced apples are mixed with a bit of lemon juice so that they don't brown while preparing the caramel mixture. Butter and salted caramel sauce are melted together in a saucepan. Cinnamon and salt are whisked in, followed by the apples. The apples cook in the salted caramel sauce until the sauce has thickened, and the apples are tender, about 5-8 minutes. Cool to room temperature before using. I will admit, these cupcakes with the apple compote still warm in the center are amazing. But, too warm and the filling could melt the frosting.
To fill the cupcakes with the compote, use sharp paring knife to cut a hole out of the top of each cupcake, while cutting down into the cupcake at an angle, about an 1" - 1 ½". Don't cut all the way down to the bottom of the wrapper or the filling will fall out. The piece you remove from coring the cupcakes should be a cone shape. Cut the bottom off of the cone, leaving a flat disc. Fill the cupcakes with the compote to the top, then place on the cupcake "lid".
How to make the brown butter frosting
I firmly believe that brown butter makes all baked goods taste better, and this brown butter cream cheese frosting is no exception. Brown the butter and let it cool until semi-solid, where it's cooled, opaque and similar to a thick paste when stirred. The brown butter is whipped with the cream cheese until light and fluffy, and confectioner's sugar is added a cup at a time. This is to avoid confectioner's sugar from flying everywhere. Vanilla and salt are added, and the frosting is whipped on medium speed for 3-5 minutes, until the frosting is light and fluffy.
I used an ice cream scoop to place equal amounts of frosting onto the cupcakes. Use an offset spatula to spread out the frosting to the edges of the cupcake, but also while keeping the dome shape. The dome shape gives these more of an apple-like look.
Roll the sides of the cupcakes through the chopped peanuts to coat. The peanuts are my homage to those store bought caramel apples my kiddos love. You can use any nut you like here - pecans are really good with these, or you can omit them altogether if there's an allergy.
Drizzle the cupcakes with salted caramel sauce. Pop a popsicle stick, lollypop stick or cake pop stick in the center of the cupcakes, and serve. The cupcakes should be stored in the refrigerator due to the cream cheese frosting, but serve at room temperature.
For more autumn inspired recipes, check out these posts:
Brown Butter Maple Pecan Cookies
Caramel Apple Cupcakes
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (59ml) water
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup (120ml) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Apple Spice Cupcakes
- 1½ cups (185g) all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon cloves
- ½ cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (50g) light brown sugar, packed
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (191g) unsweetened applesauce
Caramel Apple Compote
- 2 cups apples, diced in small pieces I used two medium Granny Smith apples.
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons salted caramel sauce
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup (115g) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (8oz/227) cream cheese, room temp
- 4 cups confectioner's sugar
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 salted caramel sauce
- ¾ cup roasted, salted peanuts, finely chopped
Make the salted caramel
- In a medium sized saucepan, combine the sugar and the water. Stir just until combined.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat. Let the sugar mixture cook, without stirring, until the sugar mixture turns a rich amber color. Take the mixture off the heat to stop the cooking process.
- Add the butter to the saucepan and whisk to combine. Be very careful as the mixture is incredibly hot and will bubble up and steam when the butter is added.
- Whisk in the heavy cream, followed by the vanilla and the salt until smooth.
- Let the caramel cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a glass jar to cool completely.
Make the apple spice cupcakes
- Heat the oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar and brown sugar. Beat on medium speed for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until they're fully mixed in. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
- Add the flour mixture into the mixer in three additions, alternating with the applesauce in two additions. Start and end with the flour. Mix until just combined.
- Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure everything is fully mixed and incorporated.
- Divide the batter into the liners. You will use every bit of this batter. Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before filling.
Make the caramel apple compote filling
- While the cupcakes cool, make the apple compote. Combine the diced apples and lemon juice, and stir to combine.
- In a skillet over medium-low heat, combine the butter and the caramel and cook until melted and bubbling. Whisk in the salt and cinnamon.
- Add the apples to the caramel mixture. Cook until the apples have softened, and are a bit translucent, and the sauce has thickened, about 5-6 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
Make the brown butter cream cheese frosting
- Place the butter in a light-colored skillet. Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. Keep stirring occasionally.
- After 5-8 minutes, the butter will begin browning. There will be lightly browned specks forming at the bottom of the pan and it will have a nutty aroma.
- Once browned to an amber color, remove from heat immediately and allow the butter to cool until solid, but still soft, like a thick paste.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cooled brown butter, and the cream cheese. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Mix in the confectioner's sugar, a cup at a time, mixing after each addition until combined.
- Add the salt and the vanilla.
- Turn the mixer up to medium speed, and whip for 3 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Whip again for another 2 minutes.
Assemble the cupcakes
- Using a sharp knife, cut a hole into the center of the cooled cupcakes to create a space for the apple filling. The piece you removed will be the shape of a cone.
- Spoon the apple mixture inside each carved out cupcake. Fill the cupcake with apple filling to the top. Slice off the pointy end of the cone piece you removed so that it can fit on top of the filling. Place on top of the filling.
- Use a large ice cream scoop to scoop heaping portions of the frosting onto each of the cupcakes.
- Use a small, offset spatula to smooth out the frosting to the edges, while still maintaining the dome shape.
- Place the peanuts in a shallow bowl. Roll the sides of the cupcakes through the peanuts.
- Drizzle the salted caramel sauce over the cupcakes. Insert a popsicle stick or cake pop stick into the center, and serve.