I have to admit that being an editor for a food company has its perks. Browsing through hundreds of cupcake recipes is considered research. And with a recipe library as big as ours, I feel like I’ve seen every variety of cupcake: spiced, spiked, fruit-topped, you name it. So it takes a really special recipe to catch my eye. There’s one confection that’s risen to the top of my must-bake list, and that’s our Apple Pie Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream.
This cupcake recipe is the it-girl of the season for a few reasons:
- It has a winning flavor combination (hello, spiced buttercream!).
- There’s a happy surprise in the center. Each cupcake is stuffed with apple pie filling.
- The recipe looks fancy, but it’s actually pretty simple to make.
And I’m not alone in my thinking. The recipe is blowing up on Instagram. Thousands of cupcake-obsessed foodies like me have been ooh-ing and aah-ing over this dessert.
Field Editor Jennifer Stowell, the creator of this recipe, said the idea came when a friend had asked her to bake a dessert for a fall wedding. Needless to say, the cupcakes were a hit. Now thousands more foodies are trying out the recipe for their own celebrations, like tailgates and birthday parties—I know I’ll be adding them to my Turkey Day menu alongside these Thanksgiving dessert ideas that aren’t pie.
How to Make Apple Pie Cupcakes
For the cupcakes
- 1 package yellow cake mix (regular size)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 medium tart apples, peeled and finely chopped (about 4 cups)
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
For the frosting
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Thinly sliced apples, optional
Step 1: Take a Shortcut
A big reason why we love this recipe is that it’s a genius way to upgrade store-bought cupcake mix. Start by grabbing a box of yellow cake mix (this is our Test Kitchen’s favorite brand) and prepare it according to package directions.
If you have a little more time on your hands, try our trusty yellow cupcake recipe. Just remember to skip the frosting.
Step 2: Make the Filling
Next, it’s time to cook the apple pie filling. In a large skillet, crank up the burner to medium and heat the butter. Add your finely chopped apples and brown sugar. Then cook and stir until apples are tender, for 10-12 minutes or so.
In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water until it reaches a smooth consistency. Stir this into the pan then bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for about 1-2 minutes longer and stir until your dreamy apple pie filling has thickened. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Test Kitchen tip: If apples aren’t your thing, Stowell recommends peach pie filling as an alternative.
Step 3: Prep Your Cakes
Once your cupcakes have cooled completely, take a small sharp knife (a paring knife works great) and remove a 1-inch-wide cone-shaped section from the center of each. This is where your apple pie filling will live. Fill each with about two teaspoons of filling.
What to do with the leftover cake: Now you could save those tiny cake cones to make cake pops or even a mini trifle, but I think we can agree that it’s best to eat them on the spot.
Step 4: Top Them Off
Usually, I am a proponent of shortcut ingredients, but when it comes to frosting, always opt for homemade. In a large bowl, combine all of the frosting ingredients and beat until smooth.
Test Kitchen tip: A good quality cinnamon can really send the frosting over the top!
For a professional touch, frost cupcakes with a piping bag like this. If you’re in a hurry, a corner cut from a zip-top plastic bag works in a cinch. Lastly, top your creation with a thin slice of apple to finish it off.
Craving more? Take a look at our top 10 cupcake recipes.