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.

Cupcakes

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.

Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. 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.
  3. If using the flaxseed egg, prepare that now.
  4. Beat the sugars and softened butter together using a Kitchenaid or a large bowl with a hand mixer.
  5. Add (flaxseed) eggs (if using real eggs, add one at a time, beating after each).
  6. Add cinnamon, salt, baking soda, vanilla, buttermilk, and flour and mix until well combined.
  7. Mix the apples gently in the rest of the cake batter.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes; use a toothpick to make sure they’re done.
  9. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. Mix in the salt and the vinegar or lemon juice until well combined.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.)
  8. Pipe or spread your icing onto your cooled cupcakes.
  9. 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:

  1. 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.)
  2. Combine your apple slices, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and a sprinkle of cinnamon in a small saucepan or skillet.
  3. Cook over a medium heat until the apples are slightly softened (approximately 5-8 minutes).
  4. 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!

Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes