Time consuming: yes - there are 4 different components that are completely homemade, but you can make it less time consuming by using some store bought items.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!! The teachers in my district are some of the most hardworking people and definitely deserve some appreciation. I thought I'd contribute to the day by making some caramel apple cupcakes - it's my take on "apples for the teacher."
The cake is a cinnamon cupcake adapted from Annie's Eats. It has a delicate, light texture and is seasoned with just enough spice to make the apples in the filling shine. The cakes are cored and filled with homemade cooked apples and vanilla bean caramel sauce. Either of these components could be purchased already made from the store, but just make sure that the apples are diced finely enough to stuff into the little cake. The cupcakes are then topped with a caramel swiss meringue buttercream. One bite into these explode into caramel apple deliciousness that make you roll your eyes and savor the moment.
The cupcakes have a lot of components to them, and I wanted to make them homemade. In part because I like to do things 100% homemade, but also I really wanted to go above and beyond to make these treats special for the teachers. That made this a two day project. On day one, I made the caramel sauce, the apple filling, and the cupcakes. On day two, I made the frosting and put the whole sha-bang together.
Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce
makes about 2 cups (but you only need about 1/2 - 1 cup)
from Not Without Salt
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
1 cup sweetened, condensed milk
1. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and lemon juice in a medium sauce pan. Remove any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan by wiping down the sides with water (use a pastry brush). Heat over medium-high and bring to a boil. DO NOT STIR. Let the mixture cook and boil. When it starts to even slightly turn brown, pop in your candy thermometer and continue to heat until it reaches 300 degrees.
2. Remove from heat, let the bubbles slow, and whisk in heavy cream. Scrape the caviar from the vanilla bean and add to the caramel. Then add the sweetened condensed milk and whisk. Return to heat, and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees.
3. Let mixture cool to room temperature before using in cupcakes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
makes about 2 cups
from the Craving Chronicles
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds baking apples (I used 2 large honeycrisp because I like their texture best), finely diced (~1/4" cubes)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1. Make a cornstarch slurry by mixing the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Melt butter in a large sauce pan. Add apples, lemon juice, white and brown sugars, and cinnamon. Mix over medium-low heat, until the apples become soft and release their juices.
3. When you see a good amount of juice in the pan, add the slurry, mix and continue to cook over low heat until thickened. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. Store extra in an airtight container in the fridge.
makes 24-26 cupcakes
adapted from Annie's Eats
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
2. Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
3. Beat eggs and sugar using a paddle in the stand mixer until thick ribbons form (about 5 minutes). Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, and mix to combine. Add 1/2 the milk mixture, mix. Then 1/3 of the flour mixture, mix. Then the rest of the milk and the vanilla, mix. Then finish by adding the last 1/3 of flour mixture, and stir until just combined.
4. Place just over 1/4 cup of batter per cupcake liner (filling about 2/3 of the way full). Bake for 16-18 minutes. The tops will still look sticky but a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let cool in pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Caramel (Apple*) Swiss Meringue Buttercream
yields enough to generously top 26 cupcakes and still have over a cup leftover
adapted from Flour Child
6 large egg whites (about 3/4 cup)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of coarse salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
1/2 cup Vanilla Bean Caramel sauce (above), cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(*if you have leftover apple filling, you can puree it until smooth - I added about 3/8 cup pureed apples)
1. Create a double boiler by placing a saucepan with about 2 inches of water over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites, sugar and salt. Place bowl over pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until mixture reads 160°F on an instant read or candy thermometer. (Note: the sugar will be dissolved and mixture will start to resemble loose marshmallow fluff.)
3. Remove the bowl from the heat and attach it to the stand mixer. Beat with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form and the bowl feels neutral (not too warm) to the touch - about 10 minutes. Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment.
4. Slowly add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until incorporated before adding the next tablespoon. Once all the butter is added, slowly add the caramel (which should not be warmer than room temperature - if it's too warm, it will melt the butter). If you are adding pureed apples, do that now and mix until well blended and the mixture resembles frosting.
(Note: my buttercream was very loose and soupy, so I popped the bowl into the fridge for 20 minutes, then returned to the mixer and beat on a low speed. I stared at it for awhile and it was still loose, and while I was googling how to fix it, I turned around and it completely came together beautifully. Lesson of the story: just keep mixing and it will come together eventually. If after 5 minutes it doesn't come together, return to fridge for 10 minutes, then mix. Repeat as needed).
To make the cupcakes:
1. Core the cupcakes with a cupcake plunger or a paring knife. Save cupcake holes if you want to make lids.
2. In a small bowl, mix a quarter cup or so of caramel sauce with about 3/4 of the apples.
3. Fill each cupcake with a heaping teaspoon of caramel apples. Trim cupcake holes to lids and close each cupcake.
4. Frost cupcakes (I used a Wilton 2D) and drizzle with caramel sauce.
See more of the same at The Craving Chronicles where adapted the recipe from.