It’s fall and for me, that means apple season. Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Apple Cider Swiss Meringue Buttercream packs all kinds of apple flavor into this little package. The cupcakes are topped with swirl of fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream flecked with a cider reduction. Hands down one of my favorite cupcakes of all time.
While everyone is currently pumpkin-crazed, here I am in my little 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. 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.
When I was in elementary school, our church had apple cider doughnuts (YUM) and fresh apple cider after services. I’m not going to pretend that I went to church as a kid solely for the sermon. During the fall, I went for the doughnuts. I looked forward to this every year. I mean, who wouldn’t?! Fresh apple cider doughnuts and cider straight from the mill? Yes, please! So, you see, I have a long-standing affection for apple things. One might even say it’s rather American of me.
These cupcakes do require a smidgen of effort. Those of you who are in my tribe know that most of the recipes here are made from scratch. So, before we get into the recipe, let me say a few things. Melting caramel into apple cider is necessary. It gives much better flavor than tossing caramel bits or chips into the batter. Does it take a few extra minutes? Yes. Is it worth it? Hell yes. You will be richly rewarded for your effort. These cupcakes are no joke. They take a little extra time, but man oh man, they are so dang good!
Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Apple Cider Buttercream:
See? It’s not that difficult. These cupcakes will be the hit of your fall parties. You really must make them, they are so very tasty!
Shop This Recipe:
- Muffin/Cupcake Pan – I like this one because of the wide edges making it easy to grab without sticking the thumb of your oven glove into a cupcake.
- Red Gingham Cupcake Papers
- 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
- 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
- 10 caramel candies
- 1/3 cup half and half or cream
- 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.
- 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.