Can we all agree that there's no better time for baking than the fall? Don't get me wrong. I love baking every month of the year. Whether it's June or October, I'm not one to turn down a baked good, but there's something extra special about fall treats. I love the rich, warm flavors that come with so many fall desserts, and these apple spice cupcakes with a praline filling and brown sugar frosting are the perfect example.
I created this recipe a few years ago for a day of tailgating, and these apple spice cupcakes immediately became one of my favorite fall desserts that must make an appearance at least once a season. First of all, these cupcakes flew off the tray and received rave reviews. Isn’t that the exact reaction we hope to receive when baking for a crowd? Call me needy, but that’s what I like to see and hear after I set down a tray of cupcakes.
Second, everything I love is in one miniature dessert —- a soft, moist cake full of apple flavor with a nutty, gooey center and a fluffy frosting to bring it all together. See? These apple spice cupcakes are nothing but love in a muffin tin.
I realize baking a from-scratch cupcake, cooking praline sauce and whipping up frosting may sound a bit labor intensive, but I promise you'll be happy you took the time to make each element of this recipe. Plus, it's actually helpful to make the praline sauce ahead of time, so it has a chance to thicken. You can get the recipe for my praline sauce on my previous blog post, and it takes little time to make.
For these cupcakes, we start by browning some butter and then letting it solidify, so we can cream it. You can either take care of this step ahead of time and let it soften as you would regular butter, or if you brown the butter first and pop it in the freezer, it should be nearly solid yet soft by the time you measure the rest of the ingredients. Just make sure you don't use it until it's solid. Brown butter has a wonderful nutty quality that goes so well with these cupcakes, so it's definitely worth the extra effort.
Once the brown butter is ready and creamed, mix in oil, white sugar, dark brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, maple extract and applesauce. We now add the dry ingredients, which includes all-purpose flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg, in batches.
When the batter is good and mixed, stir in some chopped pecans and grated apples. I like to use a combination of Honeycrisp and Granny Smith apples for a mix of sweet and tart. We’re now ready to bake.
How to Make Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting
After the cupcakes bake and we set them aside to cool, it's time to start on the brown sugar frosting. The recipe for this brown sugar frosting makes a huge batch for piping. If you don't plan on piping and prefer to spread frosting on with a knife, you can half this recipe.
We start by beating some butter until it turns fluffy and then add some dark brown sugar with a touch of molasses and vanilla extract and beat until they incorporate into the butter. From there, we add a little powdered sugar at a time with a periodic splash of heavy cream. Be sure to occasionally stop mixing to scrap the butter off the edge of the bowl and reintroduce it into the mix.
How to Make a Filled Cupcake
Now that our frosting is ready, we simply cut a small hole with a paring knife in the center of the cupcake, fill it with praline sauce, and pipe or spread on the frosting. There's no need to put the cake top back on. The frosting will seal the hole and lock in the cake's moisture.
You can also use one of those fancy cupcake corers to cut the hole. I used to have one, but it broke shortly after I bought it. Maybe they usually have a longer life span, but I figure cutting the hole with a paring knife is plenty easy and one less gadget to store. But do whatever method makes the process more convenient for you.
With the apple spice cupcake, praline filling and brown sugar frosting, this is a decadent little bite full of bold, rich flavors. To stand up to everything going on in this cupcake, a Belgian quad is just what you need. Belgian quads are full bodied and typically show off plenty of dried fruit and brown sugar notes from the sweet malt, which is a lovely match to each element of this apple spice cupcake.
Not feeling beer? No problem. These cupcakes pair well with a glass of sweet Madeira. Most Madeiras feature nutty, caramel-like flavors with a touch of orange --- all of which are perfect complements.
Oh, and for you cocktail lovers, these apple spice cupcakes were made for a bourbon-spiked apple cider cocktail. Promise.
Now that fall baking is well underway, I hope you whip up a batch of these apple spice cupcakes with praline filling and brown sugar frosting. Please leave me a comment if you try these delightful cupcakes and don't forget to sign up for my newsletter.
Love Fall Baking?
- Buttermilk pumpkin pound cake
- Apple cinnamon rolls with maple cream cheese glaze
- Ginger-maple cookies with fresh orange zest
- Brown butter pumpkin cupcakes
These apple spice cupcakes with praline filing and brown sugar frosting are the perfect fall dessert. Everyone who tries them instantly falls in love.
For Praline Sauce
See recipe here or use store-bought
For Apple Spice Cupcakes
½ cup butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 eggs, room temperature
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple extract
2 cups apples, peeled and grated
1 cup pecans, chopped
For Brown Sugar Frosting
2 cups butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon vanilla bean extract or paste
2 pounds powdered sugar, about 7 ½ to 8 cups
¼ cup heavy cream
- Prepare the praline sauce. Take care of this step first to give the sauce time to thicken. You can even make the sauce a few days ahead of time.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place liners in muffin pan. Bonus points for festive fall-themed liners.
- For the cupcakes, melt butter over medium heat until it turns brown. Whisk occasionally. Remove from heat and pour butter with sediment into a small bowl. Allow the mixture to solidify. You can either leave it out in room temperature or speed along the process by placing in the refrigerator or freezer. If you allow the brown butter to solidify in the refrigerator or freezer, just make sure you soften it before using. You can take care of this step ahead of time as well.
- Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
- With either a stand or hand mixer, cream the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla extract, maple extract and applesauce. Mix until it's all incorporated.
- Spoon about a ¼ cup of dry ingredients into the batter and mix to fully blend. Repeat this process until you mix in all the dry ingredients. Stir in grated apples and chopped pecans.
- Spoon the batter into the muffin liners. Fill about half way to two-thirds the way up the liners. Bake for 18 minutes. Insert a toothpick into a cupcake. If it comes out clean, remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
- For the frosting, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the dark brown sugar, molasses and vanilla extract. Beat until the dark brown sugar is incorporated.
- Add powdered sugar and heavy cream as needed.
- Once all the powdered sugar is incorporated, beat for a couple additional minutes.
- To finish the cupcakes, cut a hole in the middle of the cupcakes and spoon in a dollop of praline sauce. Finish by either piping icing onto the cupcake or spreading it on with a knife. Enjoy!
- About four or five apples should be enough to grate 2 cups. I like to use half Honeycrisp and half Granny Smith apples. You can use a box grater to grate the apples.
- The frosting recipe makes enough to pipe on cupcakes. If you plan to spread frosting on using a knife instead, you can cut the frosting recipe in half.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
- Category: Desserts
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1 cupcake
- Calories: 430
- Sugar: 56
- Sodium: 231
- Fat: 17
- Saturated Fat: 0
- Unsaturated Fat: 0
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 68
- Fiber: 0
- Protein: 3
- Cholesterol: 24
Keywords: apple spice, apple, apple cupcakes, praline sauce, brown sugar frosting