apple | brown sugar | cupcakes | friends | frosting | fruit | seasonal

Brianne’s apple cupcakes with brown sugar buttercream.

October 20, 2009

This recipe is courtesy of an old schoolmate & friend of mine from the wonderful Sacred Heart Academy, aka SHA YES (don’t make me burst out into the school song…). Brianne entered this Martha Stewart recipe in my giveaway, and it sounded so freakin’ delicious and really, I had so many apples here, I had to make it. And Martha is the queen, so of course it’d be good.

Last year I made caramel apple crisp cupcakes, which were very good, but they weren’t the best, mainly because they were kinda like the ugly girl in school. She may be smart, she may be really cool, but she’s not pretty, so no one talks to her, so no one knows. It’s sad but true. An ugly cupcake, no matter how delicious, doesn’t get the press a pretty one does, much like women (not that I’m endorsing this behavior, I’m just pointing out how shallow people can be). Plus, my caramel was a bit of a fail since I used shortcuts (sometimes the experiments work out, sometimes not so much), so I was looking for a new apple cupcake recipe that wasn’t too muffin-y.

But these came out much better. And let me just say, these are pretty awesome cupcakes in general. Us Catholic school girls know our way around a kitchen. Which leads me to my next train of thought: Catholic School Girls Rule. Oh yes, we do. However, we don’t rule enough for me to get my ass to go to the 10-year reunion. No thanks. I’ll be home eating cupcakes (and probably drinking a bottle of wine) instead.



  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups coarsely shredded apples, such as Macintosh (about 1 ¾ pounds)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and then add vanilla.
  2. Meanwhile, mix flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a small bowl.
  3. Mix apples into batter, careful not to over-beat. Then add flour slowly, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  4. Spoon into muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes or until springy to the touch. Cool.



  • 2 large egg whites
  • ½ cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons


  1. Put egg whites and sugar into the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees).
  2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.
  3. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter, several tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. (If the frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.)
  4. Reduce speed to low; mix to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes. Stir with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth.

This buttercream is awesome. It may be difficult to do for newbies, or if you don’t have a mixer, but I loved it. It’s like real Swiss meringue. And the cupcakes were moist and …seriously, they tasted like fall. I messed up my frosting application because, well, I was watching ’30 Rock’ and got distracted. So they don’t look as good as they could. But they’re definitely cuter than my last apple cupcakes. I guess the leafy liners and toppers don’t hurt 😉 I’d double the frosting recipe, however, because I didn’t have enough for all my cakes. Which brings me to this: I got more than 2 dozen. Who knows why. It happens.

Also, my frosting came out a bit weird, my butter did not absorb fully. I think it was a recipe problem, because the lovely Erin on Twitter confirmed it when she said her frosting had the same issue. Nonetheless, it was delicious. I’d recommend softening the butter and not using it cold, though, and seeing if that helps.

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  1. YUM! yours came out much better looking than mine (again, note to self: do NOT attempt NEW recipes hopped up on painkillers!) but my buttercream did the same thing. I think it’s a recipe thing.

    I used jumbo muffin pans and got 11 cupcakes both times instead of 12. Go figure. LOVE LOVE LOVE them though 😉

  2. Yeah it’s totally a recipe issue. I think it’s the butter… but either way they were fucking awesome. Way awesome.

    As a matter of fact, that girl Erin said she made them because of you calling them “amazeballs” on Facebook. Seriously.

  3. I just wrote you the longest comment ever but didn’t enter the right “CAPTCHA” code. Damn it.

    Anyways. I didnt’ get to mention it to you on Twitter, but…

    1. I made the frosting twice out of crazed frustration. The first time I used softened butter and it might have gotten slightly warm because I wound up with frothy slop. Would have gone great with some waffles or pancakes, however.

    2. The second time I used cold butter and wound up with little chunks of butter still. It tasted delicious and held together OK, so this is what I frosted half of them with, in the end.

    And, both times, I made double what you did. Flippin wasteful, I know. But I had high hopes. If the frosting would have turned out better, I think I would have had enough for all 27 cupcakes.

  4. I think I will try and make the frosting….and then just eat the frosting. Brown sugar anything gets me going in the fall!

  5. Erin: Yeah, my butter was cold right out of the fridge, I’m thinking if it’s just soft but not too soft it might work better? It’s frustrating. Maybe I’ll e-mail Martha and ask her haha.

    Mandie: The frosting is very good, really, even with all the issues. 😀

  6. Mmm… even with the icing struggles, this cupcake sounds really tasty. The brown sugar icing looks great… I wouldn’t have known there were butter issues unless you said something.

  7. Whenever I make SMBC I always have butter softened – so I would definitely suggest doing that. I love brown sugar SMBC – yum!

  8. i sent this to my girlfriend at work, who made the recipe. she’s not a big blog commenter, even though i told her multiple times she should come on here and tell you how it worked for her. so since i tasted it i will let you know! she improvised on the icing when she realized last minute she didn’t have dark brown sugar, so it wasn’t the same type as the recipe and i can’t comment on that. the cupcake itself? DELICIOUS. she had just picked apples that day so it was SUPER fresh and so moist to boot! she loves baking, and liked this recipe. just thought you should know 🙂

  9. I’m so glad! I love hearing stuff like that… but I can understand the fact she’s not a big commenter- I’m not either! And I always feel bad about it. But I’m glad she liked it 😀

  10. Hi! I tried this recipe & it is fantastic! Just wanted to let everyone know that my brown sugar buttercream frosting came out ok – it seemed weird at first & the butter didn’t mix in well, but in efforts to make it work, I kept it in the blender longer than the 5 mins on medium high to high speed. And voila! It mixed in well! Hooray! I also used room temperature butter if anyone was wondering.

  11. Thank you Jennifer! I’m glad it worked our for ya, and thank you for the tip on the frosting. I like having all these different sides in the comments so when people come and want to make it, they know what they’re in for 🙂

  12. So I’m a bit late making these, but they are GREAT! A big success here at my house. My mil said they are the best cupcakes I have made thus far. Thanks! However, the middle of my cupcakes sunk in. Can you think of any reason why it did this?

  13. Hi Abi!

    It’s been a while since I made these, so I can’t really remember the recipe, etc. However I think it could’ve been either the apples (sometimes moist fruit added to cupcakes, like apples or bananas, can cause that to happen, especially if they aren’t mixed in completely) or perhaps your oven temp. is off, which cause the outside to cook faster than the inside, making the inside collapse when removed from the oven. Of course, there could be 1,000 other reasons… maybe try them again and see how it works out?

    I am glad you liked them though! 😀

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