Caramel Apple Cupcakes

This post first appeared on my other blog in 2019, but since I no longer maintain that one, I'm reposting some of my favorites here!

It’s back to school week!  Actually, my one of my boys started last week and the other started this week.  It is such an adjustment having the boys back in school!  I love summer at home with my kids.  Yet, I know they miss the structure of school and they have a passionate love for learning.

For our school’s Back to School Potluck, I was in charge of bringing dessert <insert happy dance here>!!  

Since I’ve more or less established myself as a cake lady at the school, I decided to bring some super fun back to school cupcakes!

I knew I wanted the cupcakes to look like apples.  And I knew that if they looked like apples, I wanted them to taste like apples!  The apple flavor was so successful, in fact, that several children came up to me thanked me for bringing the muffins – ha!

Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Initially, I was going to frost these cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream to complete the caramel apple flavor profile.  But then, I removed the cupcakes from the oven and the centers fell, leaving a divot (I think it’s probably because I used both sour cream AND applesauce AND oil in the recipe).  But this actually ended up being a good problem.  Instead of using salted caramel buttercream, I added a dollop of caramel sauce to the top of each cupcake before frosting for some instant filling and people (the parents especially) went nuts over it!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

1 yellow cake mix
1 (3.9 oz) vanilla instant pudding
8 oz sour cream
4 eggs
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
¾ cup 100% apple juice
½ cup canola oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon

To Decorate
Caramel sauce, optional
Basic Buttercream OR Salted Caramel Buttercream
Red MM Fondant
Pretzel sticks
Green royal icing or buttercream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a cupcake tin with paper liners (alternately grease two 8-inch cake pans).

Place all of the cake ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Divide the batter evenly between 24 cupcake liners.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or until the tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean (a few moist crumbs are fine).  Cool completely, the tops of the cupcakes may cave in slightly.

Once cool, place a bit of caramel sauce into the divot on the cupcake (if your cupcakes didn’t fall, hollow out a small bit of cupcake or skip this step).  Frost lightly with buttercream.  Roll the fondant out very thin and use a circle cookie cutter (slightly larger than the cupcake) to cut a round.  Cup the fondant circle in your hand and place the top of the cupcake onto the fondant.  Gently wrap the cupcake.  Place a pretzel stick in for the stem and add a royal icing or buttercream leaf (tip 67).