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Well, I know it’s sad, but bake sale week has come to an end. What will we do?

An apple cake recipe caught my eye in a recent Donna Hay Magazine, and I decided to let it be my inspiration for a bake sale cupcake.

As I tried to decide what to fill it with (as I now believe that all good cupcakes MUST be filled with some sort of gooey surprise), I could not believe it took me so long to come up with caramel. What could be more obvious?

Anyway, these are very fall-ish, very moist, and very apple-y. I thought they really delivered.

caramel apple cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting

2 1/2 cups (375g) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups (300g) brown sugar
1/2 cup (175mL) pure maple syrup
2 sticks (224g) unsalted butter, melted
4 eggs
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled and grated*
caramel (recipe follows)
maple cream cheese frosting (recipe follows)

1. Line 24 muffin tins with paper liners and preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees celsius). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, maple syrup, melted butter, and eggs. Stir in grated apple*, and then fold in the flour mixture. Using an ice cream scoop, dived the batter evenly among the muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the center cupcake bounces back when touched. Let cool completely.

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3. When they have cooled, use a melon baller to scoop out a small amount of cake from the top of each cupcake. Fill with a teaspoon of caramel, and top with frosting.

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*I used a food processor to grate my apples which produced really long threads of apple. I didn’t think that would work too well, so I threw the mixture back into the food processor (this time fitted with the blade attachment), and pulsed it for a few seconds to break up the apple. If you had just used a box grater, then just ignore this. I just wanted to explain that picture of shredded apple.

caramel

Please read all these directions a couple times before starting, and get all your ingredients set out before hand. Kick all other family members out of the kitchen, and best of luck. Caramel is very simple, but it requires good timing. Remember, I burned my first batch, so you might want extra cream on hand in case that happens. Experience is the best teacher for this. Give yourself plenty of time, and don’t be discouraged if it isn’t perfect at first. Once I got the hang of it, I made an extra batch which came out as well as the one before it.

1/3 cup (85mL) heavy cream (make sure it is heavy cream, or heavy whipping cream, not regular whipping cream)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (220g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (65g) water
1 teaspoon butter

1. Measure out cream into a liquid measuring cup. Stir in vanilla and set aside within an easy reach of the stove.

2. Stir sugar and water in a medium pot with tall sides. Set over medium-high heat. As the sugar dissolves and begins to boil, you may swirl the pot to mix the boiling sugar water. DO NOT STIR WITH A SPOON. This will make the sugar crystalize.

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3. As the sugar syrup boils, watch very carefully for the color to change. You are looking for a nice, warm amber color, about the shade of cinnamon sticks. Don’t let it get any darker. (Even if it doesn’t look burnt, it can taste burnt. If it starts to smoke, you’ve let it go too far.) On a side note, my candy thermometer did not reach far enough into the pot to get an accurate reading of the syrup, but with such a small amount of syrup, the temperature changes pretty quickly anyway. It’s best to watch it and wait for it to turn the right color.

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4. As soon as it turns the proper amber color, pull the pot off the heat. Whisk in the butter, and then pour in the vanilla-cream mixture. It will now bubble violently. Whisk carefully but briskly. The caramel will start to solidify a bit., but keep whisking. Put the pot of caramel over low heat and whisk carefully for a minute or two until smooth. Pour into a heat proof jar, and allow to cool. Can be refrigerated for up to a week (Well, I think. Mine never lasts that long.)

maple cream cheese frosting

1 stick (112g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces (226g) cream cheese at room temperature
4 cups (450g) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together with an electric mixer until smooth.