Caramel Apple Pie Cupcakes

I cannot believe Thanksgiving is next week.  Fall of fourth year has proven to be a crazy storm of patients, residency interviews, and attempting to finish up classes and national board exams – all making time fly by incredibly quickly.  Add our attempt to send out save the dates before next Thursday and you’ve got a recipe for crazytown.  Somehow I managed to fit in some baking for a party Scott wanted to bring cupcakes to, and I used it as a reason to do something festive for the upcoming holiday.  I’ve been bookmarking apple pie cupcake recipes for forever, and finally got around to combining all of my favorite components of the different recipes to create these.  They’re cute, tasty, and would make a great companion for your pumpkin pie next week!

 I started off with an applesauce spice cupcake that baked up super moist and full of fall flavors.  After cutting a little cavity in each cupcake, I filled them with a baked cinnamon apple mixture that is completely reminiscent of good ol’ apple pie.  And of course this wouldn’t be a cupcake without some frosting, so a caramel cream cheese frosting is piped on top to create a lattice pattern and provide some extra sweetness.  I wish I had added a drop or two of brown food coloring to the icing so it would have looked more like a golden brown crust instead of the unbaked look they ended up with.  Oh well, the flavors are all there and with these adorable liners from Fancy Flours they certainly look the part!

As I’ve said over and over again, I’m not one to go crazy for the vast array of pies available on Thanksgiving, so I would definitely be excited to see something like these cupcakes on the table.  I love that the flavors (and even little pieces of baked apples) are all there, but without the mounds of warm fruit that I dislike so much.  If you loved the Apple Pie Cookies I posted last year, you’ll understand why I was drawn to this recipe too.  I’m off to Oregon for the weekend followed by a string of other travels and I have a feeling that before I know it 2012 will be a thing of the past!  Have a great Thanksgiving!!

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Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes and Annie's Eats

Yield: 20 cupcakes

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

for the apple filling:
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp cinnamon
2-3 tbsp sugar
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced

for the caramel cream cheese frosting:
10 oz store-bought caramels (I used Trader Joe's brand)
Splash of whole milk
8 oz cream cheese, cold
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

for the cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 20 muffin tin wells with cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each additional and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the applesauce and beat well.
- Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.
- Divide batter evenly among the liners, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake for 19-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, or until cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

for the apple filling:
- Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Add the cinnamon and sugar and cook for a minute, until the mixture starts to bubble.
- Lower the heat to medium and stir in the apples, coating them evenly with the cinnamon/butter mixture. Cook the apples for about 10 minutes, until they are somewhat tender. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

for the caramel cream cheese frosting:
- Combine the caramels and splash of half-and-half in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until caramels are completely melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and cooled caramel and beat well.
- Slowly add the powdered sugar, and beat until well combined.
- Load the frosting into a piping bag fit with a coupler tip and set aside.

for assembly:
- Cut a conical well in the top of each cupcake using a sharp paring knife and fill each cupcake with the apple filling.
- Attach a flat tip to the coupler (like Wilton #47) and pipe a crisscross pattern over the tops of each cupcake. I didn't bother making a real lattice pattern for each and I still think they came out great!
- Then attach a medium round tip and pipe a border around each as the "crust".
- Store cupcakes in the fridge and allow the cupcakes to come to room temperature before serving.