sara loves cupcakes

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

So I went apple picking Saturday morning with my daughter. For being 2, she had a blast and did all the apple picking for me! I was able to fill my bag full of delicious Melrose and Suncrisp apples. Obviously my first instinct was to find a way to incorporate the apples into a cupcake without turning it into a muffin. So I went scouring the net. I found 2 awesome recipes – one for apple pie filling and one for a caramel buttercream frosting. I then adapted a favorite doctored cake mix for the base (from I came up with a caramel cupcake, filled with apple pie filling and topped with a caramel buttercream and a half caramel for garnish. One some of the cupcakes, I also drizzled some caramel sauce for added flavor.

I made the apple pie filling first, then the cupcake batter and worked on the frosting once the cupcakes were out of the oven and cooling.

Apple Pie Filling

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large (or 4 medium) apples – I used Melrose – peeled, cored and finely diced
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water


Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium sized saucepan. Add the sugars, apples and apple pie spice. Cook for about 10 minutes until the apples release their juices. Combine the water and cornstarch in a small bowl and add to the apples, stirring until the mixture thickens. Allow to cool.

For the cupcakes:

1 (18.25 ounce) package Duncan Hines Caramel Cake Mix (I found this at Meijer! I suppose you can also use Spice Cake Mix if you cannot find the caramel)
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup warm water (you can also use 1/2 cup of apple juice)
1/4 teaspoon of apple pie spice


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla, water and apple pie spice. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined.
3. Using a large cookie scoop, distribute the batter between 24 muffin wells; about 3 tablespoons of batter per well.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Allow cupcakes to cool inside muffin tins for about 10 minutes.
5. Remove cupcakes. Once cupcakes and apple pie filling are both cool, use a paring knife or an apple core to cut a hole in the middle of the cupcake – fill with about a teaspoon or so of the apple pie filling.

The Frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups + 4 tablespoons of brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
4-5 cups powdered sugar (I used about 5 cups to get a thicker consistency for piping the frosting.)

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the brown sugar and bring to a boil (stir often). Stire in the baking soda, corn syrup and milk and then bring to a boil again. Once it’s boiling, remove from heat and cool completely (I placed it in the fridge for about an hour). Add mixture to a mixing bowl, add the powdered sugar and beat until you reach the consistency you want. Add the frosting to a piping bag and frost the cupcakes. You can drizzle caramel sauce on top. I also added half a caramel for garnish.


Strawberry Cupcake Fail

So I have attempted strawberry cupcakes once before. I used a vanilla cupcake with strawberry yogurt in place of sour cream in the batter. The cupcakes turned out delicious, but I was not impressed at all with the Strawberry Cream Cheese frosting recipe I had to go with them. It’s possible I didn’t add enough strawberry puree to the frosting, but all I could taste was cream cheese, even when piped onto the cupcake. SO… that being said, I wasted a LOT of cream cheese frosting and my husband ended up eating most of the unfrosted vanilla cupcakes.

This time around, I found a new recipe for the cupcake and the frosting that I was dying to try. This comes from Jamie’s awesome blog, and the recipe is Easy Strawberry Cupcakes.

Sadly, the cupcakes did not turn out the way I wanted, so I didn’t even try to make the frosting as I didn’t want to waste the ingredients if I had no plans on taking the cupcakes to work. The batter was delicious, using a French Vanilla cake mix doctored accordingly with Greek Strawberry yogurt and vanilla pudding mix. Unfortunately, where I failed was the strawberries. The recipe calls for diced strawberries folded into the batter.

Now the cupcakes didn’t bake perfectly, but I knew I would be covering up the imperfections with frosting. I was making the cupcakes for a work picnic and had spent most of the morning putting together my homemade macaroni salad, so I guess my brain was a little frazzled by the time I started baking.

I always turn my oven up to 400 degrees for the pre-heat and then when I place the cupcakes inside, I turn the heat down to 350. I found this adds a really nice dome to my cupcakes. Unfortunately… again, brain frazzled, I forgot to turn the oven down after the first batch of cupcakes went in. So, yes, this meant I overbaked the first batch of 12. They still felt a bit soft around the bottom, so I cut one open and found mush inside. How on earth had I managed to turn the tops dark brown and yet the batter inside didn’t bake all the way through?

After a quick taste, I found the cake baked fine. It was the diced strawberries! They had become extremely soft and mushy and in turn, made the entire cake mush. Disappointed, I baked the second batch properly, but found the same thing happened with the strawberries.

So I didn’t attempt the frosting this go around. I am not sure if I just overbaked both batches, or if there is a trick to baking fruit in a cupcake batter. With my next strawberry attempt, I will make the strawberries into a puree and add that to the batter rather than just dicing the fruit.

The cupcakes, second batch, after proper baking:

And when I cut open the inside… strawberry mush!

So…. Strawberry Cupcakes – 2 Me? – 0!

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