Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting & Brown Sugared Pecans

These apple cupcakes are one of our favorites and it’s thanks to my cousin Cindy. This Caramel-Glazed Apple Cake recipe is her signature dessert and even though she lives in Michigan, we were lucky enough to sample it at a family reunion a few years back. The cake is so divine (we totally recommend trying it), but we thought it would be fun and delicious to turn her cake into cupcakes with a caramel-cream cheese frosting. Turns out, we were not wrong! Caramel + Apples 🍎 were truly made for each other!

This cake batter is quick to assemble and you can make the cupcakes ahead of time and freeze them until you’re ready to frost them. If you don’t need all 20 cupcakes, you can frost some and save the rest un-frosted for breakfast muffins. We use a lot of cream cheese frosting for our pix, but you don’t really need all that much frosting on each cupcake, but if you are a big frosting lover, then we recommend doubling the frosting recipe. This recipe works for 10 cupcakes with the amount we used in the photos.

As far as what variety of apples to use, we love to cook with Honeycrisp, and they hold up very well once cooked, but this last time, we also included one Granny Smith apple for a little more tartness. Here is the All Recipes guide for the best apples to use in baked goods.

When it comes to making a good cream cheese frosting that is thick and stiff enough to pipe, yet creamy and fluffy, it’s best to add the cream cheese after you’ve mixed the butter with the sugar. Because cream cheese is lower in fat content than butter, if you first blend the butter and cream cheese and then add the sugar, it tends to pull the moisture out of the cream cheese and ends up making the frosting too soft and runny. So, after studying up on this, it seems best to cream the butter and sugar together first, and then beat in the softened cream cheese. Also, using full fat cream cheese is better for the frosting, because it has lower moisture content than reduced fat cream cheese. Besides, it’s frosting, and you only live once, so go ahead and knock yourself out with the real thing! 🧁 They’re just little cupcakes!

Apple & Spice Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting & Brown Sugared Pecans

Fresh diced apples, brown sugar, buttermilk and lots of spice come together in these delightful cupcakes. Then … we frosted them with a caramel cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of brown sugar’d pecans pieces. Sooooo good! 🧁
Servings 20 Standard Cupcakes
Prep Time 30 mins
18 mins

Equipment

  • Standard (traditional) Muffin Tin
  • Paper cupcake liners
  • Electric Mixer

Ingredients

Apple & Spice Cupcakes

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk can use regular or low fat
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups diced apples (peeled and cored) See link above for the best baking apple varietals. We use Honeycrisp usually for this recipe.
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 oz. butter, at room temp 4 oz. = 1 stick or 1/2 cup
  • 4+ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 8 oz. full fat cream cheese at room temp
  • 2 tbsp. caramel sauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Brown Sugared Pecans

  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar

Instructions

Apple & Spice Cupcakes

  • Line two muffin tins (this makes 20 cupcakes) with paper or foil cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 325° F.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine both sugars, oil and buttermilk and beat until well combined.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in vanilla.
  • Sift all dries together and add to egg mixture, gradually. Beat well after each addition.
  • Sprinkle chopped apples with lemon juice and fold into the cake batter.
  • Spoon batter into prepared muffing tins. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until center of cupcake springs back when indented with your finger or a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, frost with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting.

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Place softened butter in the bowl of your electric mixer (or a large mixing bowl if you use a hand-held beater).
  • Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar for adjusting the frosting consistency at the end.
  • Beat in softened cream cheese until smooth. Add caramel sauce and vanilla extract and beat until well-blended.
  • If the texture is too soft for spreading, add the remaining powdered sugar, a little at a time, until you arrive at the desired spreading consistency.
  • Using a decorating bag (with the coupler) and a #824 open star decorating tip, pipe the frosting on top of the completely cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle brown sugar’d pecan pieces on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Note* If you don’t have the decorating bag and tips, don’t worry … simply spread the frosting on each cupcake with an icing spatula or a butter knife!

Brown Sugared Pecans

  • Melt butter in a frying pan over medium low heat. Add pecans and toss well to coat. Add brown sugar and increase heat to medium-high. Keeping your eyes glued to the pan, cook until brown sugar is melted. Toss pecans in the melted sugar to coat. Remove from heat immediately and cool completely before sprinkling over frosting on cupcakes.

Notes

Please note the order when adding the ingredients to the frosting! The frosting will be much better for using the decorator tips, if you add the cream cheese after beating the butter and powdered sugar together first. 

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