Celebrate the best fall flavors with these moist, decadent apple spice cupcakes! Filled with a luscious pecan praline sauce and topped with a brown sugar buttercream, these fall cupcakes are the perfect seasonal dessert. Fall baking has never been more delicious.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Fall in cupcake form: Every bite of these soft, fluffy cupcakes is filled with real apple and a medley of warm spices to welcome the most festive season of the year. It’s not fall until you bake a batch of these spiced apple cupcakes.
Perfect for parties: Not only do these cupcakes make for a head-turning display but everyone always quickly gobbles them up with rave reviews. No one can resist that delicious apple flavor.
Simple but impressive: With that praline filling and beautiful tuft of swirled brown sugar buttercream, you will look like a master baker. These cupcakes certainly taste like a gourmet treat, but it can be our secret that they’re super simple to whip up.
Related: If you can't get enough cupcake recipes, make sure you also try my brown butter-pumpkin cupcakes.
Apples: I like to use a combination of sweet and tart apples. Honeycrisp and Granny Smith apples are perfect here.
Flour: This recipe has specifically been tested for all-purpose flour.
Butter: For a depth of flavor, we brown the butter rather than use plain melted butter. Brown butter has a wonderful nutty quality that goes so well with these cupcakes, so it's definitely worth the extra effort.
Dark brown sugar: While you can use light brown sugar, I love the richness the extra molasses adds here.
Spices: For that warm, cozy apple pie spice, we use a mixture of ground cinnamon and grated nutmeg.
Pecans: These add a bit of texture and nutty flavor. However, if you’re serving anyone with nut allergies or just don’t want nuts in your cupcakes, you’re more than welcome to skip them.
How to Make Cupcakes
Step 1: First, we melt butter in a small skillet until it turns golden brown (photo 1). This is our browned butter. Once it browns, we remove it from the heat to let it cool for a few minutes.
Step 2: We stir together the dry ingredients, which includes flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt, in a medium bowl and set it aside (photo 2).
Step 3: Now we whisk together the cooled brown butter with the white and brown sugars, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla extract, maple extract, applesauce and shredded apples in a large mixing bowl (photo 3). These are our wet ingredients.
Step 4: With our dry and wet ingredients prepared, we’re ready to combine them. We start by stirring in about a quarter of the flour mixture into the wet ingredients (photo 4) and repeat the process until we have one cohesive batter. Once we have our batter, we stir in the pecans (photo 5).
Step 5: Now we scoop the batter into a muffin pan with cupcake liners and bake (photo 6). When a toothpick comes out clean from the center, these delightful spiced cupcakes are ready (photo 7). We remove the cupcakes from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool completely.
How to Make Praline Sauce
Step 1: We first melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and toast the pecans with a wooden spoon until they smell nice and fragrant (photo 8).
Step 2: From here, we whisk in plenty of dark brown sugar, heavy whipping cream, corn syrup, cornstarch and a pinch of salt (photo 9).
Step 3: As our final step, we shut off the heat and stir in a touch of sweet vanilla extract (photo 10).
How to Make Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting
Step 1: We start by beating some butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until it turns fluffy like so (photo 11).
Step 2: Now we add some dark brown sugar with a touch of molasses and vanilla extract and beat until they incorporate into the butter (photo 12).
Step 3: We add a little powdered sugar at a time to the butter mixture with a periodic splash of heavy cream. I recommend starting with a low speed and then increasing it. Otherwise, the powdered sugar can get a bit messy. Once we incorporate all the powdered sugar, the frosting is ready to add to a piping bag and decorate (photo 13).
Bonus: For more favorite apple recipes, you'll love my apple shortcakes.
We simply cut a small hole with a paring knife in the center of the cupcakes, fill them 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.
Yes, we definitely want to peel the apples first. Otherwise, we’ll get little bits of peel that make for an unpleasant texture. The peeled, grated apples soften while baking and meld beautifully into the cupcake.
As long as you store these cupcakes in an airtight container, they should stay fresh for a good three to four days, though I’d be shocked if they last that long. Thanks to the apples, butter and oil, these cupcakes are super moist to give them some longevity.
You can keep them at room temperature or in the refrigerator. If you do store them in the refrigerator, remove them 30 minutes before serving.
Measure properly: For best results, do not scoop your measuring cup into the flour. This packs in too much flour and can mess up the entire recipe. Instead, spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level with a butter knife.
Use room-temperature eggs: Cold eggs do not incorporate as well as room-temperature eggs. To bring the eggs to temperature, simply leave them at room temperature for 30 minutes. If you forget, you can place the eggs in warm — not hot — water for 10 minutes.
Get those brown butter bits: Use a spatula to add those brown butter bits to the wet ingredients. They have so much rich flavor.
Half the frosting recipe if you don’t plan on piping: The recipe for this brown sugar frosting makes a huge batch for piping with a decorating bag. If you don't plan on piping and prefer to spread frosting on with a knife, you can half this recipe.
Scrape the frosting while mixing: As we beat the butter, it will get stuck to the side of the mixing bowl. We want to occasionally stop mixing to scrape the butter off the edge of the bowl and reintroduce it into the mix.
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.
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. Every bite is full of warm fall spices.
Get More Fall Baking Recipes
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Apple Spice Cupcakes With Praline Filling and Brown Sugar Frosting
- Mixing bowls
- Cupcake liners
- Muffin tin
- Wire racks
Apple Spice Cupcakes
- ½ cup salted butter
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg preferably freshly grated
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs room temperature
- 2 cups peeled and grated apples preferably a combination of sweet and tart, such as Honeycrisp and Granny Smith
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- ¼ cup salted butter
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup dark corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
Brown Sugar Frosting
- 2 cups salted butter softened
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or paste
- 2 pounds powdered sugar about 7 ½ to 8 cups
- ¼ cup heavy cream or milk
Apple Spice Cupcakes
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place liners in muffin pan. Bonus points for festive fall-themed liners.
- Melt butter over medium heat in a small skillet until it turns a golden brown. Whisk occasionally. Remove from heat. This is our brown butter.
- Stir together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk together the brown butter, eggs, grated apples, white and brown sugars, applesauce, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and maple extract until combined. When adding the brown butter, use a spatula to get all those brown bits.
- 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 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. Once cooled, cut a small hole in the center of each cupcake, spoon in praline filling and top with brown sugar frosting if desired. Enjoy!
- Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add pecans and cook for about four minutes until the pecans are toasted and the butter begins to brown.
- Whisk in dark brown sugar, heavy cream, dark corn syrup, cornstarch and salt. Constantly whisking, cook until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. This should take about six to eight minutes.
- Turn off the heat and stir in vanilla extract.
Brown Sugar Frosting
- Beat the butter until fluffy. Add the dark brown sugar, molasses and vanilla extract. Beat until the dark brown sugar is incorporated.
- 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.
- About four or five apples should be enough to grate 2 cups. 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.
- For best results, do not scoop your measuring cup into the flour. This packs in too much flour and can mess up the entire recipe. Instead, spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level with a butter knife.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.