These apple cupcakes with cream cheese frosting have warm spices, grated apple and moist cupcake crumb. They’re topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting which pairs perfectly with the apple cinnamon flavor and isn’t too sweet. They’re the perfect cupcake for apple season!
**This post was updated August 2, 2022 with new photos, new recipe tips and a slightly updated recipe for more foolproof results**
These apple cupcakes have a delicious spice cake flavor with grated apple for flavor and moisture. Brown sugar, apple pie spices and warm vanilla complement the apple perfectly and you’ll love the moist and slightly springy texture of these cupcakes. Then they’re topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. The frosting is tangy and not too sweet so that it doesn’t overpower the cupcakes.
Making Apple Cupcakes
These apple cupcakes are made from scratch and really quite easy. Because we’re using melted butter, you can make the batter entirely by hand. I’ve included recipe photos and step-by-step tips below.
- You’ll start by preheating the oven to 350F (180C or 170C fan forced) and line a muffin tin with muffin papers. This recipe yields about 14 cupcakes in total. I know that number is slightly annoying, but I find these proportions of ingredients yielded by far the best results.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and salt. The spice combination is really complements the apple.
- In a separate lager bowl whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla and milk. The butter should be cooled slightly and the eggs and milk are at room temperature. This ensures that everything whisks together well and that hot butter doesn’t scramble the eggs.
- Then whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until smooth. Stop whisking as soon as you no longer see lumps. Over mixing can end up making the cupcakes tough.
- Carefully stir the grated apple into the batter. When grating the apple, peel the apple first.
- Then spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin filling each about ⅔ to ¾ full.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 18-22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the tops look just set.
The Perfect Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
The frosting for these cupcakes is tangy, creamy and not overly sweet. You can obviously adjust the sweetness to your liking depending on how much powdered sugar you add, but what I love about this frosting recipe is that it has more flavor than just sugar. The cream cheese makes it a little tangy and the addition of cinnamon really pairs well with the spice cake flavor of the apple cupcakes.
With cream cheese frosting its extremely important to use full-fat, brick style cream cheese. Do not use anything labeled light, low fat or spreadable or that comes in a tub. These varieties of cream cheese are too soft for making frosting.
While I opted for cream cheese frosting with these apple cupcakes, you could also use caramel frosting and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce if that’s your preference. You can find my favorite caramel frosting recipe here.
Choosing the Best Type of Apple
For these cupcakes, a variety of apple types work. I typically use galas, honey crisp, ambrosia or pink lady. I like to use a flavorful, sweet apple that’s extra crispy. You can use granny smith apples for a more tart flavor , or use a combination of a sweeter apple and a tart apple. I don’t recommend using red delicious or MacIntosh apples or Red Delicious because the flavor and texture don’t work well in baking. You’ll need 1 ½ cups of grated apple. This is about 2 large apples.
At the end of the day these apple cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are super flavorful, moist and perfect for apple season. I love the combination of apples, warm spices and cream cheese frosting – and they’re such an adorable way to get your apple a day!
For more apple recipes, try these other favorites:
Apple Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 12-cavity muffin pan
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (188 grams)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ cup unsalted butter (112 grams) melted and cooled slightly
- ½ cup brown sugar (100 grams)
- ½ cup white sugar (100 grams)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- ⅓ cup milk (80 ml) I used 2%
- 1 ½ cups grated apple peel the apples first to remove the skin
Cream Cheese Frosting
- ⅔ cup unsalted butter (150 grams) softened slightly
- 4 oz brick-style cream cheese (112 grams)
- 2 - 3 cups powdered sugar (220 -330 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon to taste
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream as needed
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C or 170C fan forced) degrees and line a muffin pan with papers. You'll end up with 12-15 cupcakes - so you may need 2 pans.
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and salt.
- In a separate bowl whisk together the melted butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla and milk until no lumps of sugar remain and you no longer see pieces of egg.
- Carefully whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until smooth. Stop mixing once incorporated.
- Stir in the grated apple until evenly distributed throughout the batter.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan filling each about ¾ full. You'll end up with about 12-14 cupcakes in total.
- Bake 1 tray at a time in the middle of the oven for for 18-22 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting. Cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Beat the butter until no lumps remain.
- Cut the cream cheese into a few lumps. Add into the bowl and beat until just combined.
- Add in 1 cup powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Start with the mixer on a low speed and beat until combined.
- Beat in the rest of the powdered sugar about ½ to 1 cup at a time until the desired sweetness is reached. If needed (ie the frosting is too thick), beat in 1 tablespoon of cream
- Frost the cooled cupcakes using a piping bag and tip (I used a Wilton 1M) or a knife. Optionally sprinkle with a little extra cinnamon and apple slices. Only add the apple slices right before serving so that they don't go brown, or use dried apple slices.
- Milk: 1%, 2% or whole milk work well in this recipe. I do not like baking with skim milk because the fat content is so low.
- Apples: I recommend using galas, honeycrisp, pink lady, or ambrosia apples. Green apples work for a more tart flavor. I don't recommend using McIntosh or red delicious apples for this recipe.
- Cream Cheese: Make sure to use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese. Do not use anything low fat or spreadable.
- Storage: Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 8 hours or in the fridge for up to 4 days. Cupcakes are always best when fresh.
- Make Ahead Tips: Cupcakes can be made 1 day in advance, cooled fully and stored in an airtight container at room temperature overnight. Frost the cupcakes the next day.
- Nutrition: Details provided are an estimate only and based on 1 cupcake with frosting, assuming that the recipe yields 12 equal-sized cupcakes and that all the frosting is used.