Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Okay, time to get back into blogging.  So Fall has yet to really hit us in the Bay Area.  We're still wearing shorts and t-shirts during the days, and summer berries are still making a weekly appearance at our farmer's markets.  I grew up in British Columbia, where I took the change of seasons for granted, and I totally miss it.  Most of the food blogs I follow are in the full swing of Fall baking, and even though it's still summer here I can't resist making all these lovely treats.

I had the idea to make these cupcakes for our first Iron Cupcake Challenge here in the East Bay (more on that later!!).  I wanted to make an apple cupcake with a caramel center, topped with caramel frosting, and finished with a mini caramel apple on top.  I don't know why but I thought other than crab apples that there was such thing as mini apples, but alas I couldn't find any.  Then my Sunset magazine arrived with the most adorable mini caramel apples made using a melon baller.  Brilliant!

Well, making the caramel apples was a bit of a debacle.  The caramel recipe wouldn't really adhere to the apple since it was so damp.  So I gave up and found a similar recipe online using melted butterscotch chips.  Not quite the authentic effect I was going for but cute enough. 

One thing I have to mention is that the caramel sauce I usually make for cupcake fillings didn't quite work out this time.  I trusted my candy thermometer (which broke shortly thereafter) instead of my gut and I ended up with gritty caramel sauce.  I was really annoyed until it hardened up and my husband told me what I made was the center of our favorite See's candy, which is a fudgy textured caramel covered in milk chocolate.  Yay!  I'm going to try and recreate my mistake and hopefully you'll be seeing a caramel candy post soon. :)

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Caramel Cupcakes
from Magnolia Bakery

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temp
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped, peeled, crisp tart apples

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 24 muffin tins with liners (note: this makes more than 24 cupcakes, but most people I know don't have an oven large enough to fit more than two 12 muffin tins so you may need to do this in batches).
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, on med speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with milk and vanilla.  With each addition, beat until ingredients are incorporated, but do not over beat.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down sides making sure ingredients are well blended.  Stir in apples.
Divide the batter into tins, filling each about 3/4 full.  Using a large ice cream scoop makes this easy peasy.  Bake for 22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  After about 5 minutes remove to a wire rack to cool.

Caramel Sauce for Filling
from Martha Stewart

2 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt (if you like salted caramel increase this to at least 1 1/2 teaspoons)

Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over high, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.

Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt.

Use immediately; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable.

Caramel Buttercream Frosting
from Bakers Royale  (this website is all kinds of awesome)

½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons of heavy cream
½ teaspoons of kosher salt
1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
11/2 cup powdered sugar

To make the caramel portion: Add sugar and water into a saucepan over medium low heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Use a wet brush to remove any crystals that form on the side. Once sugar has dissolved increase heat to high. Now and then, using the handle give the pot a swirl to keep the mixture moving. Do not stir the mixture directly. The mixture will start to bubble after a minute. As the mixture darkens to a medium amber color, approximately 5-7 minutes add the 2 tablespoons of  butter and cream to saucepan. The mixture will bubble wildly. Whisk to combine (bubbles will subside upon cooling). Add salt and stir to combine. Set aside to cool completely before adding it to the next step.
Finishing the caramel buttercream frosting: Place butter and vanilla in a bowl and beat on high until butter is pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Turn mixer speed down to medium and add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time. Beat until combined. 3. Add in  caramel sauce and beat until combined.

Mini Caramel Apples
from Sunset Magazine 

3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
About 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup decorative mini orange candies
2 large red apples

About 20 slender but sturdy food-safe twigs, such as magnolia twigs, or craft sticks
1. Heat corn syrup, sugar, butter, and 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. cream in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat until mixture reaches 275° on a candy thermometer*, about 15 minutes, stirring often with the thermometer or a wooden spoon once it starts to brown. While caramel boils, prepare the remaining ingredients (you'll need to have everything ready before beginning step 3).
2. Grease a baking sheet and set aside. Put nuts, chocolate chips, and candies on individual plates and set aside. Using a 1-in. melon baller, cut apples into balls (you should get 8 to 10 from each apple). Push thickest end of a twig into each apple ball through skin side to center. Set on paper towels to absorb moisture.
3. Remove caramel from heat when at 275° and pour in remaining 1/4 cup cream, stirring until very smooth (it will come together after about 1 minute) and being careful of any splattering caramel.
4. Dip apple balls into caramel, making sure caramel comes over edges of skin and letting excess drip off. Dip bottom of each ball into either nuts, chocolate chips, or candies, then set on the baking sheet to cool.
*You'll need an accurate candy thermometer. Check it by immersing in boiling water; it should read 212°. If it's a few degrees too high or low, cook the caramel to a corresponding few degrees more or less. If it's way off, get a new thermometer.
Make ahead: Chill until ready to serve, up to 3 hours ahead. Serve at room temperature.

Linked to:
Sweet Treats Thursday


  1. Omgoodness these are so adorable. I love them. You are so creative. My sis is in the BC area, on one of the gulf islands. I am dying to move out that way. We're in Ontario which is flat and boring. We seem to just have two seasons. It's either too hot or too cold. Or raining. *sigh*

  2. so cute! good luck in your bake off challenge.

  3. I love how your cupcakes turned out! So cool looking! I would love it if you came by CAST PARTY WEDNESDAY and shared your recipe with us.
    I hope to see you there!

  4. Apple and caramel is so delicious! Your cupcakes look gorgeous C!

    I'm hosting an apple blog hop this month. Come and share your recipe: http://bakerstreet.tv/2011/10/apple-blog-hop-cream-cheese-apple-tart/


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