Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Apple Cider Swiss Meringue Buttercream are full of flavor. Fresh apple cupcakes topped with soft, billowy apple cider buttercream make the perfect autumn treat.
If you are a fan of apple desserts, you are sure to love this cupcake. Filled with warm spices, like cinnamon, this cupcake is sweet without overdoing it.
The cupcakes are topped with a swirl of fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream flecked with an apple cider reduction. Hands down one of my favorite cupcakes of all time.
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Caramel Apple Cupcakes
While everyone is currently pumpkin-crazed, here I am in a corner with my apples. I like pumpkin as much as the next girl, but I feel like apple gets pushed out of the spotlight because of everything pumpkin-spiced.
Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin, but fall apples are coming in and this is the time of year when they are at their peak and shouldn’t be missed.
I have had the idea for this recipe rolling around in my head for years. It’s one of those things that sounded like a great idea, but I wasn’t sure if I could really pull it off with the intense apple/caramel/cider flavors that I craved.
The combination had to taste like caramel apple cider when eaten all together, and it does! One of the best fall cupcake flavors I’ve ever had.
The apple buttercream is everything I hoped it would be. It balances the flavor of the cupcake perfectly.
Caramel Apple Cupcake Recipe
These toffee apple cupcakes do require a smidgen of effort. You already know that the majority of the recipes here are made from scratch. So, before we get into the recipe, let me say a few things.
To make these fresh apple cupcakes, you do need to sauté the apples and let them cool before adding them into the batter. This is something you can do the night before if you are short on time.
Melting caramels into the apple cider is necessary. It gives a much better flavor than tossing caramel bits or chips into the batter (believe me, I tried it).
Does it take a few extra minutes? Yes. Is it worth it? Hell yes. You will be richly rewarded for your effort. These caramel apple cupcakes are no joke. They take a little extra time, but man oh man, they are so dang good!
Because there are a few elements to these cupcakes, I wanted to give you the steps in order.
The first thing you want to do is bring the butter to room temp. I usually set it on the counter the night before.
Next step is reducing the apple cider. This takes about 30 minutes, so put a small pot on the back burner and just let it cook down.
Then, get your apples cooked and cooled. While they are cooking, start pulling out your ingredients to measure for the cupcake batter.
Once the apple cupcakes are in the oven, start on the apple cider buttercream.
How to make Swiss meringue buttercream
If you’ve never made Swiss meringue buttercream, you are in for a treat. It is the best frosting for cakes and cupcakes. It takes patience, so don’t rush through it.
Combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved before taking it off of the stove.
Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until glossy peaks. Then, start adding softened butter.
When adding the butter – add in small pieces, not big chunks. It needs to incorporate properly before adding in more. This does take time, but if you try to do it too quickly, you will be disappointed in the result.
The good news is – this is another thing you can make the night before. It will be fine overnight in a cool room-temp location.
When the apple cider buttercream is made and you are ready to frost the cupcakes, make sure they are completely cooled. Because there is quite a bit of butter in the frosting, if the cupcakes are a bit warm, it will melt.
Here are a few helpful tips and tricks for success:
Refrigerate it. Odds are that it is too warm and the butter has melted. Once you cool it down and give the butter a chance to firm up again, it will be fine!
Warm it up a bit! The butter is likely a little too cold and needs to be warmed up a couple of degrees. If it is just a little lumpy, I hold the bowl with my hands to warm it up. If it is really stiff and curdled looking, set it over the pot of simmering water for a few seconds, then continue whipping.
Pour 2 cups of apple cider into a sauce pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and let it cook down for about 30 minutes until it is thick and syrupy. You should have roughly 2 tablespoons when it is done.
Cupcake Baking Tips
Piping lovely cupcakes didn’t happen overnight, it took practice, just like everything in life. If you are a beginner, don’t fret that they aren’t perfect, just keep at it.
I used an open star piping tip for these cupcakes. It is my FAVORITE. I use it on most of the cupcakes I make. Fill your piping bag and practice on a plate for a few minutes to get the feel of it, then scoop that buttercream back into the bag and frost the cupcakes.
Something that I do religiously is measure out all of my ingredients before I begin. I mean everything, down to the salt. That way, I know that I actually have everything I need and also, it makes the baking process go much smoother when I’m in the middle of it.
It is also a big timesaver when you prep ingredients beforehand. Because the ingredients were measured carefully, the butter has been softened, I have everything ready to go; when it’s time to bake, it’s a snap.
Lastly, use a scoop. Why use a scoop? All of the cupcakes will be uniform in size, nothing will spill over and no more sad half-filled cupcake that no one wants.
How to drizzle caramel on apple cupcakes
I used a small whisk to drizzle the caramel on these apple cupcakes. The key is to let some of it run off of the whisk before you start to drizzle.
If you have too much on the whisk (or spoon), it will look like globs of caramel instead of a drizzle. Practice on a cupcake or two to get the feel of it.
Then, it is simply a matter of quickly flicking your wrist back and forth over the apple cupcake and the caramel will fall in thin ribbons.
These cupcakes will be the hit of your fall parties. You really must make them, they are so very tasty!
How to store frosted cupcakes
These caramel apple cupcakes can sit at a cool room temperature. If it is warm, it’s best to refrigerate.
If you need to store these cupcakes for a few days, place in the fridge. They will need to be taken out roughly 30 minutes before being served for the frosting to soften. Remember there is a lot of butter and it will harden when refrigerated.
They can also be frozen, however, you’ll need to take them out a couple of hours before serving.
More cupcake recipes
Cupcake lover should check out these recipes too!
- Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
- Day of the Dead Mexican chocolate cupcakes
- Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Mint Buttercream
- Ginger Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream
Shop This Recipe:
- Muffin/Cupcake Pan – I like this one because of the wide edges. It is easy to grab without sticking the thumb of your oven glove into a cupcake.
- Disposable piping bags – they come in handy for so many uses.
- Piping tip set – This basic set contains the ones you will use most often.
- Red Gingham Cupcake Papers
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I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! Please consider rating and/or commenting. I love hearing from you! Did you make these caramel apple cupcakes? Tag me on Instagram @pookspantry or share it in the Fabulous Foodie Friends Facebook group! I can’t wait to see your version!
For the CUPCAKE
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temp
- 1/2 cup 1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 2 cups granny smith apple, peeled and finely diced (or grated)
- 1 tablespoon butter, for sauteing apples
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 10 caramel candies - I used Kraft
For the BUTTERCREAM
- 6 egg whites
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 cups apple cider, reduced to 2 tablespoons
For the CARAMEL DRIZZLE
- 10 caramel candies
- 1/3 cup half and half or cream
Make the Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small pot, heat apple cider over medium heat and add the (unwrapped!) caramel candies. Slowly melt them together, stirring very frequently. This should take about 5 - 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Cook apples in a tablespoon of butter over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook just to soften, not too mushy. Set aside to cool.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together.
- Add eggs and vanilla, beat until fully incorporated. Scrape down the bowl.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Whisk to combine.
- Add half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, stir to barely combine. Add the cider/caramel mixture, then the rest of the flour mixture. Finally, fold in the apples, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.
- Portion into cupcake pan and bake for 15 - 18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the cupcake comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.
While the cupcakes are baking, make the buttercream
- Place a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water below.
- Combine egg whites and sugar in the bowl and whisk very frequently, until sugar has melted into the egg whites. Test this by swiping your finger through a stream from the whisk and rub your thumb and finger together. If you feel any grains, it's not ready yet. It should be completely smooth. When the sugar has melted, remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg white mixture until you have firm, glossy peaks.
- On low speed, add a tablespoon of butter at a time, waiting until it is fully incorporated before adding more. When all of the butter is incorporated, add the cider reduction and the vanilla.
- Whip on medium high speed until soft, fluffy but firm peaks that hold their shape.
- Melt caramels and cream together in the microwave or on the stove, stirring frequently.
- Frost cooled cupcakes and drizzle with caramel.
The apple cider reduction for the buttercream will take about 30 minutes over medium heat. It will be thick and syrupy when it's done.
If the buttercream begins to look curdled, fear not! Just keep whipping, it will come back, I promise.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 552Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 437mgCarbohydrates: 79gFiber: 1gSugar: 65gProtein: 5g
Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.
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Originally published 8/15/19,most recent update 9/27/21.