Caramel Apple Cupcakes

October 9th, 2013

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Some people look forward to trick-or-treating, some like to dress up as their favorite characters and attend parties and gatherings.  While I like to do both, I get more excited about caramel apples.

Every autumn, I anticipate tart, juicy Granny Smith apples dipped in luscious sweet and creamy caramel.  I love the crunch of the apple, the way the caramel sticks to my teeth, and how portable it is!

TheChic_caramel-apple-components

Rather than make regular caramel apples, why not take my favorite components of the treat and make it into a cupcake?!

Remember when cupcakes were all the craze?  That fad has slowly faded, but it still ranks high to me.  I love the creativity cupcakes afford you.  They’re perfect for any occasion and already portioned out.
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This cupcake is super moist through the use of vegetable oil instead of butter.  Rather than cook the apples, I added them fresh into the batter to get that slight crunch.  To add more tart flavor, I made a cream cheese based frosting.  It provides a really nice clean balance to the sweet caramel.  And because I think sparkly things are pretty, I sprinkled a little sanding sugar to make this cupcake super fun and festive.
TheChic_caramel-apple-cupcakes

Apple Cupcakes, makes 12

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 large egg, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

1 1/2 cups diced granny smith apples, peeled and cored

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.  Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together oil and brown sugar. Mix until sugar is well moistened.  Add egg and vanilla and mix until combined.

4.  Alternate adding dry flour mixture and buttermilk to mixing bowl.  Begin with 1/3 of flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of buttermilk.  Repeat and end with flour mixture.  Mix until just combined.  Add diced apples and fold to combine.

5.  Evenly distribute batter among 12 cupcakes.  Fill molds to the top.  Bake for 16-20 minutes until toothpick inserted of cupcake comes out clean.  Let cool in muffin tin for a couple minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.  Once cooled, cupcakes are ready to be frosted.

[Apple-Cinnamon Muffins] recipe adapted from Baking Bites

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

Caramel:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 Tbsp water

1/4 cup heavy cream, heated

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

Frosting:

8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, softened

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 cup thick caramel (see recipe above or use good quality store bought caramel)

3- 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Instructions

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1. Caramel: In a small heavy bottomed sauce pot add sugar and water.  Stir to combine.  Set over high heat until sugar begins to melt.  Lower heat to medium.  Do not stir or agitate mixture.  Keep a watchful eye on mixture to make sure sugar does not scorch and burn.  Heat until sugar is amber in color and fragrant.

2.  While sugar is cooking, heat up cream in the microwave for 45-60 seconds until hot.  Use a large enough container as cream may rise and bubble when heating.

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3. Remove cooked sugar from heat and let sit for about 15 seconds.  Then slowly pour 1/3 of hot cream mixture into pot.  BE VERY CAREFUL.  The mixture will steam and bubble vigorously.  Whisk the mixture and continue to add remaining cream.  Whisk until combined.  Then add butter and continue to whisk.  Let caramel sit at room temperature until cool and thickened.  Alternatively, you can cover the caramel (let plastic wrap sit on top of caramel to prevent a skin) and let chill in the fridge until thick.

4. Frosting:  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together cream cheese, butter, and salt.  Beat until smooth.  Scrape down bowl as needed.

5. Add 1/2 cup thick caramel (caramel can be used straight from the fridge, do not heat up).  Mix until combined.

6.  Add sifted powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time until desired thickness and sweetness is achieved.   Transfer frosting to a piping bag or use a mini offset spatula (or spoon) to frost the cupcakes.

*note: If you have additional caramel, warm it up and drizzle caramel over frosted cupcakes.

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I like to surprise people by adding a little extra frosting inside the cupcake.  Dig out a tiny hole using a 1-inch cookie cutter (or a spoon).  Fill the cavity with a dollop of frosting.  Then cover the hole by frosting the cupcake as you would normally do.
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