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Caramel-Glazed Apple Spice Cupcakes

cranberry applesauce cupcakes with caramel glaze

When I made my big batch of cranberry applesauce last week, I wasn’t sure what do do with all of it. I’m not really into canning and, when I make something like applesauce or jam, I prefer just to work my way through it right away. Jam is more limited in its uses, but applesauce can have a variety of applications beyond being a simple side dish. In this case, I used up some of that applesauce to make cupcakes.

Applesauce is often used as a fat replacer in recipes and, as such, it kind of has a bad rap. There are too many baked goods that are mushy or dense because applesauce has been used overgenerously. These cupcakes, however, do not use applesauce as a fat replacer. Instead, the applesauce is one of the primary flavoring agents of the cake – rather like how carrots are used in carrot cake. As a result, these cupcakes have a very light texture and a tender crumb, which is exactly what you want to have in a cupcake. They are moist, but not overly wet or dense by a long shot.

The cupcakes are practically the epitome of fall. Every flavor in them reminds me of the season: the spices, the cranberries, the apples. Each element comes through in the finished baked good. If pecans are a big fall favorite, you can add some of them into the batter, as well, or use a large piece to garnish the top of each cake.

I really loved the glaze on top of these cupcakes, since I reminded me – especially in flavor – of tart tatin or other caramelized apple dishes. It’s not a really thick glaze, so it will probably run down the sides of the cupcakes; keep some napkins on hand when you’re serving. If you want a thicker layer, glaze the cupcakes, let the glaze set, then reglaze them. 

Caramel-Glazed Apple Spice Cupcakes
6 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups cranberry applesauce*
3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars until lght and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla extract.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Add one third of this mixture to the butter mixture, stirring to incorporate, followed by half of the applesauce. Repeat with the rest of the flour and applesauce and mix only until no streaks of flour remain in the batter. Stir in pecans, if using.
Divide evenly into prepared muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the muffins spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Caramel Glaze
2 tbsp butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Stir in brown sugar, milk and salt. Bring to a boil and boil for about two minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in powdered sugar. Frosting should be somewhat thick, but not stiff.
Drizzle over cupcakes.

*Plain applesauce will work just fine in these cupcakes, too, if you don’t want to make the cranberry applesauce. Throw in a handful of dried cranberries if you’re using plain to get a similar flavor effect.

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  • Susie
    November 16, 2007

    I am so happy I found this site… i was on Cook’s Illustrated’s site and found your link thru another poster. make sense? I am making the apple pie tomorrow…I love the idea of not fluting the edges of the crust. I never thought that would make the crust tough but it makes perfect sense.
    Keep up the good work and I hope you have a swell holiday.

    Susie from Orange County.

  • meeso
    November 17, 2007

    My daughter loves this kind of thing, I can’t wait to try the applesauce and then these cupcakes!

  • Wanda
    November 26, 2007

    Really like the idea of using the cranberry – applesauce in the cupcakes and finishing off with the caramel glaze. Yum


  • tnlamb
    April 24, 2008

    As written, the ‘glaze’ for these cupcakes is more like a very heavy frosting…not sure what was left out or mixed up….I had to add at least 1/2 of milk to get it to even drizzle, and it’s still really thick and caramel-brown colored…not at all like the picture shows. The cupcakes are great, and definitely worth finding another glaze or altering this one.

  • Gwyneth
    July 3, 2008

    these turned out great! I made regular and mini sized cupcakes and took them to work. Judging from my co-workers rave reviews your recipe is excellent. Thanks for sharing

  • Marwa
    September 6, 2009

    Hello NIC 🙂 i tried these and they were absolutely amazing! so moiset and fluffy.. but the glaze was not glaze-y at all! it came out thick and dark brown colored TOO SWEET! apart from the the actualy cupcakes were delicious and smelled great 🙂

  • Nicole
    September 6, 2009

    Marwa – The glaze is more of a caramel actually, but thin enough that I described it as a glaze. I’m glad to hear you liked the cupcakes, though!

  • Natalie
    October 2, 2011

    I loved the cupcakes!! Made a slight adjustment on the icing used a little less sugar and more milk…I loved it though. Keep up the good work!

  • Emily
    June 5, 2012

    I just found your website, I love it!! For the glaze, it says 1/4 salt. I’m assuming 1/4 tsp, but can you please clarify? I really want to make these this weekend. Thanks!!

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