Friday, February 7, 2014

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Welcome to my first blog post!  I decided to start my blogging adventure with this recipe because these are absolutely amazing cupcakes!  Enjoy!

Each year for the past few years, I have hosted a Sibling Thanksgiving for my and my husband's siblings and their families.  This was a tradition that I started in order to establish our own traditions and to carve out some time that we could all spend together without having to worry about the rush that often accompanies the holiday season.  Our Thanksgiving never takes place on the actual Thanksgiving Day--sometimes it is the weekend after, and this year we had it in early January. I look forward to this day every year and cherish the time that we get to spend together cooking, drinking, watching football and catching up!

This year for dessert, I decided for forgo my typical pumpkin tart for this recipe, and I was not disappointed.  It was so good, that I decided to make the recipe a second time a few weeks later in cupcake form so that i could easily share with friends and coworkers.  
This recipe may be a lot of work, but the end product is completely worth the effort.  The cupcakes are so moist and flavorful.  The icing doesn't overpower the cake, but rather complements it perfectly.  For this recipe, I used a cooked butter cream icing.  I will admit, when I first saw this recipe, I was intimidated.  I have not had the best luck with making icings in the past, and this one called for egg whites and a candy thermometer...yikes!  However, I decided to give it a go, and I am glad that I did.  I will say that the use of a thermometer is essential, and there is a lot of whisking involved, but in the end, this icing has turned out great for me every time.  What I am saying is, give it a try... it is only eggs and butter, after all!
In addition, you will see that this recipe calls for homemade applesauce.  You can substitute store-bought unsweetened applesauce in the cake if you choose. I have not tried the recipe this way, and quite frankly, I probably never will.  By itself, the applesauce is the best I have ever tasted.  Because you get to control the texture, I decided to leave it chunky, which resulted in chunks of apples in the cake.  I know it may seem like a lot of work to make your own applesauce and then make the cake, but TRUST ME, it is worth it.  I made the applesauce the night before making the cake to split up the work.  Give it a try!

As a warning, this recipe makes 36-40 cupcakes, so have a plan for sharing in place!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Makes 36-40 cupcakes

For the From Scratch Applesauce
Recipe adapted from The Great Cake Company

3 Fuji apples
3 Golden Delicious apples
1/4 cup Boiled Cider (or substitute with 1/4 cup additional apple juice, but I think this really adds to the taste of the applesauce)
3/4 cups all natural apple juice
2 Tbs Laird's Apple Jack
3 Tbs unsalted butter
3 Tbs honey
1 Tbs dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Peel, core and segment the apples.  Combine the apples and all other ingredients in a large saucepan, stirring to combine.  Cover and cook the mixture on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very fork tender, about 20 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat and smash the apples into a chunky consistency (I used a pastry cutter, but a fork will work fine).  Cool completely (or refrigerate overnight).  

***For me, this recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups of applesauce.  As you will see, the cake recipe calls for 4 cups of the applesauce.  I made up the difference with store-bought unsweetened applesauce.  You could also double this recipe and have leftovers for snacking (believe me you will want to eat this right out of the pan)!

For the Apple Cake
Recipe adapted from The Great Cake Company and Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
4 cups homemade applesauce (you can substitute some or all of this with store-bought unsweetened applesauce)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners.  

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice and cloves together in a large bowl.  Set aside.  

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with he paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth.  Add the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Crack eggs into a separate bowl to avoid getting any shells in the batter.  Add the eggs one at a time to the batter and mix to combine.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the batter in three parts, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined.  

Scoop the batter into the prepared cupcake tray, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake for 21 to 25 minutes until a tester inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Allow cupcakes to cool for several minutes in the pan, then remove and allow to cool completely on wire cooling rack.  

Caramel Buttercream
Recipe adapted from Bakers Royale

5 large egg whites
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut in pieces
1 Tbs vanilla
1/3 to 1/2 cup caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel caramel sauce, but you could make your own if you choose)

Combine egg whites and sugar in a heat safe bowl.  Place bowl over a pot of simmering water (make sure the water does not touch the bowl).  Using a candy thermometer, bring the mixture to 160 degrees F while whisking constantly.  

Once the mixture reaches temperature, immediately transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix at high speed until the mixture cools, doubles in volume and forms stiff peaks (the time this takes has varied for me, anywhere from 6-12 minutes--be sure to keep an eye on the mixture).  Add the butter in one piece at a time making sure that the butter incorporates into the mixture before adding the next piece.  Pause several times to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

**Note--some people have found that during this process the icing becomes clumpy.  I have found that the icing looks runny until the very end.  Do not worry if these things happen.  Continue adding the butter and mixing, and the icing will become thick and smooth in the end.**

Add the vanilla and mix to combine.  Add the caramel sauce to taste (I like a stronger caramel taste, so I use the full 1/2 cup).  Scrape sides and bottom of bowl and mix for a few additional seconds to combine.

This recipe makes enough icing for the cupcakes when doing basic icing with a spatula.  If you are going to do fancier piping for your icing, you may want to make a double batch.  

Assembling the Cupcakes

After the cupcakes have cooled completely, generously ice each cupcake.  Drizzle additional caramel sauce over the cupcakes if desired.  Enjoy!


  1. This is very similar to what I made for my firefighters' Christmas dinner last year (topped instead with candied bacon instead of caramel drizzle)--they loved it.

    I'm also stoked you have a blog now so I can raid your recipe collection virtually (You'll be proud to know I have adopted your old 3-ring binder and page protector system). Rock on Andrea! Miss you!

    --Stacy :)

  2. Ooooh...sounds awesome. Bacon makes anything taste better!

    So good to hear from you--hope everything is well! Miss you too!