I recently got into baking cupcakes. It’s still relatively new to me, but I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. Since my aunt the caterer wasn’t going to be available for the baby shower I hosted in July, I decided I would attempt to make the cakes using one of my favorite recipes of hers. Since it was only the second or third time I attempted to make cupcakes, I figured that practicing would be the best option — plus I knew my coworkers wouldn’t mind me bringing in my practice cupcakes.
The trial round was definitely a trial round — it was chaotic, but I was so glad I did it. I learned a lot from trying and also was incredibly glad I didn’t try to make them in one try before the shower. After I figured out how to master the cupcakes I was making for the shower (which took about three tries) and I started to invest in some of my own cupcake baking and decorating supplies, I decided to try out a few new recipes. Since then, I think I’ve found a new, fun, and tasty hobby.
This past weekend I was planning to attend a birthday party and I thought it would be a great way to test out a new recipe…one that was a bit more complex than my previous attempts. On Pinterest (go figure) I stumbled upon a recipe for salted caramel buttercream frosting (um…YUM!) and that also linked to an apple cake to pair with it. I tried it, tasted it, and now I have a new favorite.
Note: Before you attempt this recipe, know that this isn’t an easy recipe. It’s time consuming and involves a lot of steps — but the result is well worth it.
Estimated time: 3 hours, varying depending on complexity of decoration and how many cupcakes you cook at a time.
- 2 eggs (or flaxseed eggs)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (I used soy milk mixed with a little vinegar or lemon juice)
- 4 cups of diced apples (approximately 3 medium/large apples), plus 1 for topping
Directions for Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Peel and chop the apples. You want your pieces to be fairly small. I used Fuji apples, but you can consider using a few different types to add various texture and flavors.
- If using the flaxseed egg, prepare that now.
- Beat the sugars and softened butter together using a Kitchenaid or a large bowl with a hand mixer.
- Add (flaxseed) eggs (if using real eggs, add one at a time, beating after each).
- Add cinnamon, salt, baking soda, vanilla, buttermilk, and flour and mix until well combined.
- Mix the apples gently in the rest of the cake batter.
- Bake for 25 minutes; use a toothpick to make sure they’re done.
- Remove from the oven, let cool, and then refrigerate (or freeze for faster cooling) before you add your icing.
Ingredients for Icing:
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 pounds powdered sugar (approximately 3-3/4 cups unsifted)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon corn starch
- Coarse sea salt (optional)
- Caramel syrup (optional)
Directions for Icing:
- Before you start, you need to caramelize the sugar — this helps give your salted caramel icing an extra punch. It’s made with real, homemade caramel! Mix water, corn syrup, and the granulated sugar, until evenly combined, in a very small saucepan or skillet with tall edges.
- While this is starting to boil, measure out your cream so you are ready to add it to the caramelized sugar mixture as soon as it’s ready — plus it will allow your cream to be less cool and mix easily with the caramelized sugar.
- Bring the water and sugar mixture to a boil over medium heat, but DO NOT STIR. Stirring encourages crystallization — which you don’t want! Cook until the water and sugar mixture caramelizes into a beautiful golden brown color, and then remove from heat. (Note: It will seem to take a while for it to start turn into the caramel color, know that once the edges starts browning, the sugar will caramelize quickly.)
- Remove the caramelized sugar syrup from heat, and start pouring a small amount (a few teaspoons) of cream into the mixture slowly. Mix together using a rubber spatula. Continue adding a little bit more at a time, followed by mixing, until your entire 1/2 cup of cream is mixed in.
- Mix in the salt and the vinegar or lemon juice until well combined.
- Set the caramel aside to cool completely before moving on to making the icing — for me, this took about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. You want it to cool completely, otherwise, you may end up with a runny icing. (Note: If you want to drizzle caramel over the top, portion a small amount of the caramel and set aside so you don’t pour it into the icing. Or you can use some caramel syrup from a bottle, if you have it.)
- Optional: I opted to take a note out of an apple pancake recipe I tried a while back and brown some apples to use as a topping. If you want, you can make these while you wait for your caramel to cool.
- Once the caramel sauce is completely cool, blend the softened butter to avoid chunks, then add your powdered sugar, vanilla, corn starch, and caramel together in a stand mixer, or bowl with hand mixer, and beat until smooth. If the icing is too stiff, add a little milk, cream, or water. If it’s too runny, you can add 1/4 cup more powdered sugar. (Tip: Add a sprinkle of salt to help reduce the ‘powdered sugary’ taste.)
- Pipe or spread your icing onto your cooled cupcakes.
- Finish it off with a little extra salted caramel sauce sprinkled with some coarse sea salt, or perhaps some brown sugar apples pieces, or just plain apple slices.
Brown Sugar Apple Garnish Ingredients (Optional):
- 1 apple
- 1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- cinnamon, to taste
Brown Sugar Apple Garnish Directions:
- Cut your apple slices into your preferred shapes. I chose apple slices, cut into half, resembling shark fins — since I figured they would be easiest to display on top. (Note: Don’t slice them too thin or they’ll be hard to display.)
- Combine your apple slices, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and a sprinkle of cinnamon in a small saucepan or skillet.
- Cook over a medium heat until the apples are slightly softened (approximately 5-8 minutes).
- Set aside and let cool before garnishing.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did! And I hope I provided enough detail to make making these cupcakes for yourself, a breeze. The original poster mentioned sprinkling powdered sugar on top of the cake instead of doing the icing. I actually found myself using this technique, coupled with a few brown sugar apple slices and caramel syrup, to finish off the last few cupcakes I didn’t have enough icing for. (I may have had enough icing, but I was in a hurry and didn’t scrape all of it into my piping bag, or attempt any that wouldn’t look quite pretty.) Enjoy!