Sunday, September 11, 2011

apple caramel cupcakes, and the best frosting ever

This weeks's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe was a 8-inch, three layer apple cake, with with a caramel frosting. Although I had absolutely no occasion to serve this at, I really wanted to make it, mainly because the picture in the book is just gorgeous, and the flavors are so accessible! I mean, who doesn't like apples and caramel?!

I decided to make them into cupcakes so I could easily bring them to work for my first day back in 14 months. I figured bringing in treats would increase the odds of people being happy to see me. So I halved the cake recipe, made 18 cupcakes with it, made a full batch of caramel and a full batch of frosting. It's a very good thing I halved the recipe, because these were the best cupcakes I've made in a long while. And if 18 more cupcakes were laying around, I would have eaten them all.

Apple Caramel Cupcakes
recipe adapted from Baked Explorations
makes 18 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Sift dry ingredients together. Set aside

3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg

In the bowl of standmixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about another 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix until combined.

2 cups applesauce

Add 1/3 of the flour to the butter mixture, then half the applesauce, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the applesauce, then the rest of the flour, mixing between each addition until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on low speed for a few seconds.

Scoop 1/4 cup of the batter in each of the cupcake liners. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops spring back, and a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

While cupcakes are baking, make the caramel sauce. I  made the frosting using the Classic Caramel Sauce recipe on page 191 of the Baked book, but I prefer this recipe, and will use it next time I make this cake. I found the recipe from the Baked book too buttery for my taste, and the instructions were not as clear as I obviously need them to be. My caramel came out way too pale, and a tad too thin. The last time I made this recipe though, perfection. So I recommend this one.

Caramel Sauce
Makes about 1 cup of caramel

1 cup (8 oz.) sugar
1/2 cup (4 fluid oz./ 120 ml.) water
1 cup (8 fluid oz./ 240 ml.) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water on medium-high heat. Boil until the water completely evaporates and the sugar caramelizes to a dark mahogany color.

Working quickly, add the cream to the darkened caramel. It will bubble and pop vigorously, so add only as much cream as you can without overflowing the pot.

Return the pot to the stove on low heat and whisk gently to break up any hardened sugar. Add any remaining cream and continue stirring. Gradually, the hard sugar will dissolve and the caramel sauce will continue to darken. When the caramel has darkened to the point you want it, remove it from the heat. Add the salt and stir to combine.

I had a bit of trouble with my frosting, but nothing that couldn't be fixed. I think my butter was way too soft, because after adding it to the cooled sugar mixture, the frosting was soupy and would not whip up. I stuck it in the fridge for a good while, and was not expecting much when I started whipping it again. I ignored it for a couple of minutes, and when I came back to it, I was pleasantly surprised to see how fluffy it was. I couldn't really taste the caramel, even though I added more than what the recipe called for, but I'm sure it's because I didn't let my sugar caramelize properly, and the caramel syrup was weak. Still, hands down, the best frosting I have ever made.

The texture was just right. It was not too sweet, it didn't taste like butter. Awesome!
Caramel Frosting
recipe source: Baked Explorations

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour


1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream

Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10-15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat with the paddle attachment until cool. Reduce speed to low, and add:

1 1/2 cups softened butter, cubed
1 tsp pure vanilla

Mix until thoroughly incorporated, the increase speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.


1/3 cup caramel sauce

Continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, chill in the refrigerator until it can be beat to proper consistency.

Pipe frosting on the cupcakes, and drizzle with added caramel if desired.

I bought a 1M piping tip just for these, so I had fun practicing the only two techniques I know, basically. I had been using cheapo giant tips, but was never able to get good results, so I'm very happy with how these turned out! And it was interesting to see which ones went first with my coworkers... By mid-morning on the second day, only one cupcake with the smaller amount of frosting remained. And it was quickly gobbled up. This frosting rocks! Pile it on!


  1. Your cupcakes are beautiful - I love the design! I had some of the same issues with the frosting but mine never whipped up, still yummy though.

  2. Yes, this frosting can be pretty difficult. But once it comes together, man is it good! It seems like lots of us had the idea to halve the recipe. In my case, I cut it in half and made two 9-inch layers for my cake. Your cupcakes are gorgeous! Love the piping job!

  3. They look lovely. I want to make the whole cake, I've been sick all weekend.

  4. Wow, wonderful idea! I thought about doing cupcakes instead of the cake but was already behind on BSM....1M is one of my'll get hooked on the "800" series of pastry tips! Looks sttunning!

  5. Just wonderful & yummy. Lovely rosette/

  6. Mmmmm, what gorgeous photos and beautiful cupcakes and frosting! I agree, this buttercream is soooo good... so fluffy and silky!

  7. Wow! You did such an incredible job with this recipe! Your frosting looks amazing. I'm determined to get it right!

  8. That frosting is better than professional. It brightens up the cupcake. You are another smart person to make cupcakes.
    Thanks for linking this up here, for me.

  9. Your cupcakes look like they belong in a fancy bakery! Great photos.

  10. Your frosting is just beautiful! I want to try making the frosting until I can get it to whip up like that. I am sure everyone went crazy for your cupcakes.

  11. I'm sure I needed more refrigerator time for my frosting...just in too big a hurry this time. Yours looks perfect. And I love your cupcakes...I was thinking of making them this weekend so I'm happy to see your ideas.

  12. Love the presentation. What a way to make apple cakes. Wish you could make one for me too. Love the photos.

  13. Saw these gorgeous guys on Foodgawker and I had to tell you how beautiful they looked Add in the ingredients and we have a true winner! Really nicely done!!

  14. Everything about these looks amazing! Lovely recipe :)

  15. That frosting looks wicked good. Forget the cupcakes. Just give me the bowl and a big ol' spoon. ;)

  16. These cupcakes are beautiful! I can't wait to try them out. I'm so excited to start cooking and baking with all of the fall flavors and ingredients =)

  17. hi! i used to work at Baked for a long time, and that buttercream is fiesty! it's pretty hard to work with at first, but once you get used to it, it's one of the best i've ever used! (i actually own my own bakery now, and find myself wanting to use that buttercream!!)

    If you whip the cooked mixture for quite awhile, until the outside of your bowl is cool to the touch, if you add the butter cold, it will whip up beautifully! if the butter makes it TOO cold when you do this, you can always blowtorch the outside of the bowl while it's whipping to make it smooth and beautiful!

    love the cupcakes!

  18. These looks great, I can't wait to try them!

  19. These look divine! I've been a bit on a cupcake making spree lately...might have to add these to my repertoire.

  20. I was going to try cupcakes, but changed my mind at the last minute. I am excited to know that they bake-up nicely as cupcakes. I too fell in love with this frosting and everything else about these cupcakes :)

  21. Looking at that gorgeous looking icing I never would've guessed you had trouble with it! And of course who can resist the apple/caramel combo?

  22. excellent sounding and looking cuppie! I would devour more than a couple of these. yum.
    Laura @ A Healthy JalapeƱo

  23. What a great recipe! Normally I make swiss meringue buttercream but not having any egg whites on hand I went with your recipe!

    My kitchen aid is broken so I did it all by hand (don't do it!) and it didn't split, I made sure the mixture was very cool and whipped in the butter little at a time. It's a beautiful frosting!! thank you!!!!!!

    Bella @ Adventuress Heart

  24. I also made cupcakes from their recipe a couple weeks ago and fell in love with the frosting, too. It had all the same ingredients as my usual frosting, but the technique was so much easier and with better results. Instead of making the caramel sauce, I used Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce. Wonderful!

  25. These caramel apple cupcakes smelled divine baking in the oven! These are super simple using a doctored cake mix but taste delicious. Kids will go for the fun appearance and tasty toppings of these cupcakes. Thanks a lot.

  26. Oh my word those look amazing! The frosting looks to die for too. I'm going to try out this recipe on the weekend for my parents. Thanks for the tutorial. BTW - your pictures are beautiful :)

  27. These sound SO good! I've made a similar roux based frosting before and was really impressed with how delicious it was - I'm Pinning this one!

  28. The frosting didn't work for me. Was very runny and tasted of flour. Did I not cook it long enough?? My caramel was also runny. Hmmm.

  29. I'm very sorry the frosting didn't work for you! It's finicky, and it's often a hit or miss for me too! If you could taste the flour, i'd say cook it longer for sure!

  30. Do I need to use whole milk, or can I sub with nonfat milk in the frosting?? Pictures are gorgeous btw

    1. sorry, i never used nonfat milk in frosting not sure how it would turn out, but when making american frosting, when i use cream instead of water, it's so much creamier! i have a feeling using nonfat milk would affect the texture.


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