Mini spiced apple caramel cupcakes

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If I had to be monogamous with a single dessert, it might just be cupcakes. I’d always have a wandering eye for ice cream, but cupcakes hold their ground throughout the seasons, so I could firmly commit. These cupcakes are reminiscent of Fall, but you could use the caramel buttercream for cakes all year round. For this recipe, I intended to make a Swiss meringue buttercream, but dropped a couple eggs on the floor at 6 a.m. and there were no nearby stores open. I had to act quickly to make up a new recipe in time to bring them to school with my daughter for her birthday. I improvised by making American buttercream, which doesn’t require egg whites. Lesson learned: Always buy more eggs than you need for a recipe. If you are like me, you will overthink the simplicity of cracking them and wind up with a small spillage.

Makes approximately 48 mini cupcakes

Ingredients

Spiced apple cupcakes
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cup milk
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and chopped into very small cubes

Homemade caramel
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whipping cream

American caramel buttercream
1 1/2 cups salted butter, room temperature
3 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 batch homemade caramel (see above)

Method

For the cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Start by creaming together the butter and sugar until fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir into the butter mixture, alternating with additions of milk. Make three additions of dry ingredients and two of the milk. Chop the apple into very small cubes and add to the batter. Spoon into paper-lined mini muffin cups (12 mini cups), making sure to fill only 3/4 to the brim. Bake for 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the caramel
In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring until the sugar mixture is dark amber. Immediately remove from heat and set pan over top of a small ice bath to reduce temperature. Stir in the cream to loosen the caramel.

For the buttercream
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in icing sugar, cream and vanilla. Using a spatula, incorporate 3/4 of the homemade caramel mixture. Increase speed to medium and beat the buttercream until fluffy and homogeneous.

Once the cupcakes are thoroughly cooled, you can pipe the buttercream and drizzle the remaining 1/4 of the homemade caramel on top as garnish.

The elated birthday girl and her cake (made with the caramel buttercream!)

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