Apple Spice Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
These apple spice cake cupcakes are favorites every fall in our household. They are like eating an apple cobbler or apple pie in cupcake form!
I make them with brown sugar and load them up with fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves. I also always add lemon zest to my apple desserts as it brightens up the flavor and gives them a little zing!
The most important ingredient in this recipe is apples. I like to use tart apples that hold their shape. I don’t want apple mush in my cupcakes; I want recognizable apple bits.
Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious apples are all great choices, but there are so many others that will also work well.
Tip: There is no need to peel the apples before using them in this recipe. I don’t peel them in my apple crumble pie, either!
This recipe also uses sour cream, but you can always substitute yogurt in its place if that’s what you have on hand.
How It’s Made
Start by preheating your oven to 350 F and whisking together dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl – flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.
Next, beat butter, brown sugar, and white sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. An electric or stand mixer is helpful for this.
Beat in eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon zest until blended.
Mix in flour mixture a little bit at a time until just combined. It’s always important to not over-mix cupcake batter.
Gently fold in apples.
Divide batter evenly among 12 cupcake liners (they will be filled almost all the way to the top) and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Set on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
Expert Tips and FAQs
Best Frostings to Use
Over the years, I’ve experimented with many different frosting recipes for this dessert.
Vanilla cream cheese frosting and a caramel drizzle is a classic choice and yields fantastic caramel apple cupcakes. That’s what I share in my recipe below.
Cream cheese frosting is always a win for me, but if you prefer buttercream, try my vanilla buttercream frosting.
One of my favorite ways to frost these cupcakes is with pumpkin frosting (shown below). I make that using actual pumpkin pie!
Apple cupcakes are also wonderful with a crumb topping. When you make them that way, you can actually serve them for breakfast and call them apple muffins.
For other fall recipe, frosting, and decorating ideas, take a look at my favorite fall cupcakes!
If a big piece of apple is right up against the liner, it won’t stick to the liner in the same way that the cupcake batter would. The liner will peel away. You can avoid this by cutting the apples into smaller pieces.
If you like big apple pieces or want to hide the fact that your liners separated from the cupcakes, you can use cupcake wrappers [paid link] that go over the liners after baking. Next time you make the recipe, try using baking cups [paid link] instead of cupcake liners.
Sour cream gives the cupcakes a subtle tang that enhances the recipe’s flavor while also adding more dairy and fat to the recipe. That said, I’ve done extensive testing and found that yogurt works perfectly as a substitute for sour cream. You could even use flavored yogurt as a recipe twist!
When it comes to apple pie cupcakes, you might be best off mixing several varieties of apples to achieve different notes of sweet, tart, crisp, and soft. Honeycrisp and Granny Smith apples are some of our favorites, but if you prefer a sweeter cake, go with varieties like Fuji and Gala.
Yes, you can make a shortcut version of this apple cupcake recipe by using a storebought spice cake mix and adding apples to that. It will still result in a delicious cake, though I prefer to measure out all of the cake mix ingredients and spices myself to make sure everything is just right.
- Apple crumb cake
- Apple crumble pie
- Apple strudel
- German apple cake (from Spicy Southern Kitchen)
- Apple custard pie
- Apple pandowdy
- Apple upside-down cake
- Apple butter caramel icing
- Pumpkin cupcakes
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 3/4 cup brown sugar packed
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 pound apples roughly chopped and loosely packed, about 2 1/2 cups chopped apples
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.
- Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
- Beat in eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon zest until blended.
- Mix in flour mixture a little bit at a time until just combined.
- Fold in apples.
- Divide batter evenly among 12 cupcake liners (they will be filled almost all the way to the top).
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting Instructions
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
- Mix in the vanilla.
- Mix in the powdered sugar a little bit at a time until fully combined.
- Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.
- You can experiment with different sizes for the apple pieces. If you like chunks of apples in your desserts, cut them into 1/2 inch pieces. You can also cut them into smaller pieces or matchsticks if you want them more integrated into the batter.
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