Caramel apple cupcakes are moist, tender cupcakes that start with a box of cake mix and fresh apples and ends with a homemade caramel buttercream. It’s the perfect fall dessert!

Hand holding frosted caramel apple cupcakes

Alright, it’s that time of year. We have to have the Fall debate on what is better apples or pumpkin. We are firmly team apple (though I do love a good pumpkin pie dip).

All things apple from this delicious caramel apple cupcakes recipe to caramel apple dip, or cinnamon sugar baked apples and apple spice cake are at the top of our list for fall desserts.

These easy cupcakes start with a box of yellow cake mix and with a few additional ingredients and an amazing homemade caramel buttercream frosting they capture that caramel apple at the state fair flavor that I associate with happy fall memories.

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Ingredients You’ll Need

We broke the ingredients down into two lists: for the frosting and for the cupcakes.

Ingredients for homemade caramel buttercream

Here’s what you’ll need for the frosting:

  • Sugars – You’ll need both powdered sugar to help give the frosting body and brown sugar for the caramel apple flavor.
  • Unsalted butter – Allow the butter to sit out at room temperature until it becomes softened.
  • Caramel sauce – We like Smucker’s caramel sauce, but you can use your preferred brand.
ingredients for caramel apple cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

  • Granny Smith Apples – If you make any changes to the apple, be sure to use an equally tart apple that is similar to a Granny Smith.
  • Yellow Cake Mix – You’ll also need any of the ingredients listed on the box like eggs, water, and oil or butter.
Caramel apple cupcakes with a drizzle of caramel sauce on top.

Instructions

For the frosting, follow these instructions:

Step 1 – Mix the confectioner’s sugar and butter. This creates the base of the frosting.

Step 2 – Mix in the caramel sauce. Make sure to thoroughly mix the caramel sauce into the frosting. Keep beating the frosting for approximately 2 minutes until it is light and fluffy.

Step 3 – Frost and decorate cupcakes. Once the cupcakes are cool, use a piping bag and tips or knife to frost them. Once they are covered in frosting, drizzle some additional caramel sauce on top and place a small apple slice on each for added decoration.

For the cupcakes, follow these steps:

Step 1 – Preheat the oven according to the instructions on the box.

Step 2 – Prepare the batter. To do this, mix all the ingredients listed in the instructions on the back of the box in a large bowl.

Step 3 – Mix in the apple. Add the grated apples and mix until incorporated. 

Step 4 – Pour into cupcake liners and bake. Place cupcake liners in a cupcake pan and then fill them until they are about ¾ full. Place the cupcakes in the oven and bake for 12-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely before frosting.

Top down shot of frosted caramel apple cupcakes with a drizzle of caramel on top

Does the Type of Apple Matter? 

Yes! Yes! YES! Apples have different sweetness and moisture levels, which can affect the flavor and the texture of cupcakes. Granny Smith apples are almost always used for baking because they have the right combination of sweetness, tartness, and moisture.

In other words, they won’t make the cupcakes too sweet. And their low moisture will not interfere with the rising batter, so they will be light, fluffy, and delicious.

What Type of Caramel Should I Use for the Buttercream? 

When you make the frosting, you will want to use a runny caramel sauce. This makes it easier to incorporate into the frosting. 

We used Smucker’s sundae sauce caramel flavor, but Ghirardelli premium caramel sauce or any other sauce that easily flows out of the container will work fine too.  

For a Smooth Frosting Make It Ahead of Time 

The brown sugar in the frosting can give it a slightly grainy texture. This doesn’t affect the flavor, so you can use it right away, but you get the best result if you make it a day in advance. 

You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time if you like. It can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature as long as you are using it within a week of making it. 

When you’re ready to frost, use a mixer with the whisk attachment to fluff the frosting up and then add to your piping bag. It should be stiff enough to create lovely designs with most frosting tips.

How to Make it Ahead of Time 

If you want to make these cupcakes for a party or to bring to a friend’s house, you can bake them up to 2 days ahead of time. To keep them fresh and tasty, store them in an airtight container until ready to frost. 

Once frosted, the cupcakes will last in an airtight container for up to 4 days at room temperature. 

Whether you plan to take them to a party or just serve them to your family, we highly recommend this cupcake container. It is easy to tote and you can add additional layers to it if you plan to make large amounts of cupcakes.

Hand holding frosted caramel apple cupcakes

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Servings: 20
Prep Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 20 mins

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Ingredients

Apple Cupcake

  • 2 cups Granny Smith Apples, grated
  • 1 box Yellow Cake Mix, and ingredients listed on package

Caramel Frosting

  • 2.5 cups Powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup Brown sugar
  • 1 cup Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons Caramel Sauce
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Instructions

  • Preheat oven according the cake mix instructions.
  • Mix the ingredients for the cake mix up according to the package using all ingredients listed on the back of the box.
  • Add 2 cups of grated apples to the mix and fold it into the batter.
  • Prepare a cupcake pan by placing a cupcake liner into each cup.
  • Fill each cupcake liner approximately with cake batter. Each one should be filled approximately 3/4 full.
  • Place cupcake pan in the oven to bake for 12-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • When cupcakes are baked remove them from the oven and let them cool completely.
  • While the cupcakes cool make the frosting. Place the Mix the powdered sugar, brown sugar, and butter in the bowl of your mixer and mix with the whisk attachment until well combined.
  • Add the caramel sauce to the frosting and mix thoroughly. Keep beating on high until it is light and fluffy, approximately 2 minutes.
  • Place the frosting in a piping bag and frost each cupcake. Add a drizzle of caramel sauce on top if you like.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  1. The brown sugar in the frosting can give it a slightly grainy texture. This doesn’t affect the flavor, so you can use it right away, but you get the best result if you make it a day in advance.
    You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time if you like. It can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature as long as you are using it within a week of making it.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupcake, Calories: 262kcal, Carbohydrates: 43g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 24mg, Sodium: 205mg, Potassium: 36mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 30g, Vitamin A: 294IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 63mg, Iron: 1mg
Nutrition Disclaimer: We are not certified nutritionists. Nutrition facts are an estimate and are provided as a courtesy. They are generated by an online API which recognizes ingredient names and amounts and makes calculations based on the serving size. Results may vary.
Author: Kat Jeter & Melinda Caldwell
Course: Dessert