These caramel apple cupcakes are the perfect fall dessert. Bite into one and you’ll be rewarded with a rich caramel apple filling.
» You might also like these Pink Champagne Cupcakes.
These cupcakes have a spice cake base with caramel apple filling and caramel frosting. I’ve crowd tested these cupcakes and they’re a huge hit!
Caramel apples have always been a favorite of mine, but they were put on the no fly list when I got braces, years ago. If I wanted to taste my favorite fall combination again, I’d have to adapt.
These cupcakes are so much easier on the teeth than a caramel apple, and they’re just as fun to eat. We also love this salted caramel apple crisp.
My first round of taste testers, Melissa and Brendan, who sampled the first version of these, offered feedback that helped me improve upon them. It was Melissa’s idea to use a pound cake batter instead of a regular cupcake batter, so we have her to thank for this delicious outcome.
Ingredients You’ll Need
I know what you are thinking. It is a bunch of ingredients, but most of them are pantry items that you probably already have. These cupcakes turn out amazing with a fun surprise filling!
For the cake
- Butter – Room temperature.
- Cream cheese – Room temperature. Always use full-fat cream cheese for this recipe. It adds the wonderful rich creaminess that you won’t get with low-fat versions.
- Sugar – Granulated sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Flour – All-purpose flour
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Sour cream
For the caramel sauce
- Brown sugar – I always use light brown sugar, though you could use dark brown sugar if that is all you have. It will have a deeper flavor.
- Heavy cream
- Rum extract – This is optional. You could substitute vanilla extract.
- Apples – Granny smith apples, peeled, cored and finely diced.
For the buttercream
- Butter – Room temperature.
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
What Apples to Use?
Since there is a lot of sugar in this dessert, you don’t need to add sweet apples to the mix. In fact, the more tart the apple, the better. It adds a much needed acid that helps cut through the decadent caramel sauce.
Granny Smith apples are my favorite to use in this recipe. They offer the perfect balance or tartness and firmness. They won’t break down under the heat, so they have enough bite.
Red delicious and gala apples, which are two of the easiest to find, don’t do particularly well in this recipe. They tend to disintegrate under the heat and become too mushy. Honeycrisp apples are too sweet and the crunch doesn’t stick around after baked.
Other apples you can use in this recipe are Golden Delicious and Pink Lady. If you want to get creative, use a combination of apples for a variety of flavors and textures.
How to Make Caramel Apple Cupcakes
First, preheat the oven to 350° F. Then line a muffin tin with cupcake wrappers. I used orange cupcake lines, but I think solid black or white or even brown would work well with this design.
In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix together.
Resist the urge to over mix. Beat just until the flour is incorporated.
Fill the cupcake tins 2/3 full and put the tin in the oven to bake for 18-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Take them out of the oven and place onto a wire rack to cool.
How to Make the Caramel Apple Sauce
For the caramel sauce, add brown sugar and water into a small pot. Stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 240° F, then remove from heat.
Add the butter, salt, and heavy cream and stir until combined. Let cool to room temperature then add the rum extract.
Pour half the caramel sauce into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and leave half in the pot.
Peel the apples and finely dice them. Add the apples to the pot with the caramel sauce and bring to a low boil. Cook just until the apples are tender, then remove the pot from the heat.
How to Make the Frosting
Add the butter for the frosting into the bowl. Add the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments, beating after each addition.
Once all the sugar is added, turn the speed on the beater up to high and whip for five minutes or until fluffy.
Once the cupcakes are cooled, you can assemble them.
Core the cupcakes using a cupcake corer or a spoon. Don’t scoop out too much, just a little well in which to put a teaspoon of caramel apple filling. I like to do this in stages, so I core all the cupcakes first, then spoon in the filling, dividing it equally among the cupcakes. Then I frost from all.
As a garnish, just before serving, I drizzle some of the remaining caramel sauce over the top of the cupcakes.
Tips and Notes
- Make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature before you start mixing them all together. It will ensure that they mix together evenly and not clump.
- Don’t over-mix the cupcake batter. You will mix all of the air out of the batter making them stodgy and hard.
- Don’t leave the cupcakes in the pan to cool. They will continue to cook which could lead to overbaked and dried out cupcakes. Remove them to a cooling rack.
- You can make the cupcakes the day before and then just assemble them the day you need them to save time.
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Caramel Apple Cupcakes
For Pound Cake
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 4 ounces softened cream cheese
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sour cream
For Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons water
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 teaspoon rum extract
- 2 apples peeled and finely diced
- caramel for drizzling
- 1 cup softened butter
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Fill a cupcake tin with wrappers.
For the cake:
- Cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla and combine.
- In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients. Alternately add flour and sour cream to the mixture and mix until incorporated.
- Fill each cupcake wrapper 2/3 full and bake for 18-23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool.
For the caramel sauce:
- Add the brown sugar and water into a small pot, stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 240° F, remove from heat.
- Add the butter, salt, and heavy cream and stir together. Let cool to room temperature. Add the rum extract. Pour half the caramel sauce into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and leave half in the pot.
- Peel and dice the apples and add to the pot. Cook until the apples are tender.
For the buttercream frosting:
- Add the butter into the bowl with the remaining caramel sauce. Beat until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments, beating until combined between each addition. Then turn the speed on the beater up to high and whip for five minutes or until fluffy.
- Core the cupcake and fill with apple mixture. Frost with the buttercream and drizzle with caramel.
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Jillian Morris is the resident baker for A Food Lover’s Kitchen. She started baking when she was very little and found she had a great passion for it. She is a high-schooler in a small town in Oregon, where she enjoys music, writing, and baking in her spare time.