These spiced apple cupcakes taste like Fall in a bite! They're moist and flavored with warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Studded with fresh chopped apples and topped with cream cheese frosting, these cupcakes make the perfect, cozy Fall dessert.
Fall is here, and baking up a batch of spiced apple cupcakes with cream cheese frosting is the perfect way to ring in the season. Each cupcake has an incredible texture thanks to the reverse creaming method and buttermilk. I use this technique in almost all my cupcakes, including these almond cupcakes and apple cider cupcakes! They're soft like vanilla cake but slightly dense and moist, almost like banana bread or a muffin. They're gently spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice too!
Small, tender pieces of freshly chopped apples are folded into the cupcake batter. They're soft, tart, juicy little surprises that melt in your mouth!
With a swirl of tangy cream cheese frosting on top, you have the perfect cupcake! You can make a traditional cream cheese frosting or try a softer cream cheese frosting without butter.
You can easily whip up a batch of these cupcakes in less than an hour with only a few pieces of equipment, nothing too complicated! You'll be the talk of the town after making these for your next Fall picnic, party, or Thanksgiving get-together.
And if you love desserts with cream cheese frosting, try pumpkin chai snack cake (also perfect for Fall!), small batch vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, or chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting next.
Here are some notes about the ingredients used. For quantities and the full instructions, see the recipe card below.
- All purpose flour- This flour makes up the structure of the cupcakes.
- Baking powder- This reacts with the other ingredients to make the cupcakes rise. Make sure it's fresh and no more than 6 months old.
- Spices- Ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice are used to give the cupcakes a warm and cozy taste.
- Granulated sugar- White sugar adds sweetness and retains moisture. You also use cane sugar or caster sugar.
- Brown sugar- This sweetens the cupcakes plus adds moisture and a deep flavor. You can use light or dark brown sugar.
- Salt- A little salt adds depth and activates the leavening agent.
- Unsalted butter- This adds more fat to improve the density and a rich, buttery flavor. Make sure it's softened so it's easy to mix in and won't get clumpy.
- Oil- Using butter and oil in cupcakes makes them super soft and fluffy. Use a neutral, flavorless oil like canola oil, avocado oil, or vegetable oil.
- Egg and egg white- An egg holds the ingredients together and adds richness. An extra egg white makes the cupcakes extra fluffy. Make sure both are at room temperature so they mix in easily.
- Vanilla extract- A splash of vanilla enhances all the other flavors. You can use vanilla bean paste or imitation vanilla too.
- Buttermilk- This adds tang, and its acidity tenderizes the gluten, creating an extra soft crumb. Make sure it's at room temperature; pull it and the eggs out of the refrigerator about an hour before baking.
- Chopped apples- You can use any apples you like, but my favorites for baking apple pie, tarts, and cakes are Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Cortland, and Pink Lady. You need something crisp enough to not get mushy while baking. I used 1 Honeycrisp and 1 Granny Smith for the perfect mix of sweet and tart. You don't have to peel them, but feel free to if you don't like the extra texture.
- All purpose flour: Use Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour instead to make these gluten free.
- Buttermilk: Plain kefir, plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream can be substituted for buttermilk at a 1:1 ratio.
Helpful Equipment and Tools
- You need a 12-well cupcake tin and some cupcake liners. I recommend using a light colored aluminum pan since it will conduct heat better than silicone or black pans, which can burn your cupcakes.
- I recommend an electric hand mixer or a 5-quart stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for mixing the cupcake batter. The instructions below are specifically for a stand mixer.
- For decorating the cupcakes, you'll need a piping bag and a large piping tip of your choice. I used a closed star tip for these!
Step by Step Instructions
Here is how to make the cupcakes. Before you start, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and prepare a cupcake pan with 12 liners. Set aside.
STEP 1: First, add the flour, baking powder, spices, sugars, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Spin about 5 times until well mixed.
STEP 2: Next, add the softened butter to the bowl. Mix on low for 3-4 minutes or until the texture looks like wet sand.
STEP 3: Add in the oil, egg, egg white, and vanilla and mix on low until a thick batter forms.
STEP 4: Next, slowly pour in the buttermilk while the mixer runs on low. The batter will be quite thin.
STEP 5: Stop the mixer and fold in the diced apples with a rubber spatula until they're evenly distributed throughout the batter.
STEP 6: Evenly portion the cupcake batter between the 12 liners (you may have batter left over to make 14-16 cupcakes). Bake for 18-22 minutes until the tops spring back when lightly pressed or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
STEP 7: Once they're done, remove the cupcakes from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Don't leave them in the pan too long or condensation will form in the wrappers and make the cupcakes soggy.
STEP 8: While the cupcakes cool, make the cream cheese frosting by beating softened butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Gradually mix in the powdered sugar until creamy and well combined. Then beat in the vanilla and salt.
STEP 9: Once the apple cupcakes are completely cool, fill a piping bag fitted with a large tip with frosting and pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake. Garnish with an apple chip if desired and enjoy!
Expert Baking Tips
- Use room temperature ingredients. Room temperature butter, eggs, and buttermilk mix in more easily that cold ones, creating a uniform batter.
- Use a kitchen scale. Weighing the ingredients in grams instead of using cup measurements is the most accurate! Metric measurements are provided in the recipe card below. If you don't have a scale, gently fluff up the flour before scooping it into your measuring cup. Don't pack it in!
- Don't overmix the batter. With the reverse creaming method, overmixing is harder to do! Just be careful to fold in the apples until they're just combined. Overmixing makes tough and gummy cupcakes.
- Don't overbake. Check on the cupcakes a couple minutes before the suggested baking time since oven temperatures can vary. They're done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.
Additions and Variations
Here are some extra ingredients you can add to the cupcakes to customize the flavor. I haven't tested any of these ideas, so if you try one, let me know how it turns out in the comments!
- Chopped nuts- Fold chopped pecans or walnuts into the batter with the apples for extra crunch.
- Lemon zest- Mix some lemon zest into the diced apples before mixing them into the batter for an extra bright flavor.
- Salted caramel- Drizzle salted caramel sauce over the frosting for extra decadence and a caramel apple vibe. You could even make a caramel frosting!
- Cinnamon cream cheese frosting- Add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon to your cream cheese frosting for extra warmth.
- Coffee cream cheese frosting- With coffee cream cheese frosting (used on these instant coffee cupcakes), these cupcakes taste like an apple crisp macchiato!
- Streusel topping- Top the cupcakes with a sprinkle of cinnamon streusel. You can use the recipe from these mini cinnamon muffins. Adding oats would be delicious too!
Storage and Freezing
Unfrosted apple spice cupcakes can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days. After that, store in the refrigerator for an additional 3 days.
If the cupcakes are frosted, store them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let them thaw on the counter for about an hour before eating.
Keep leftover cream cheese frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days. Let it come to room temperature and give it a good mix before using.
Freeze the cupcakes on a baking sheet for 2 hours or until frozen solid. After that, place them in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy, let them thaw at room temperature for 2 hours or in the refrigerator overnight.
Frequently Asked Questions
I'm not sure if it would work, but you can try substituting an equal amount of apple sauce for the buttermilk.
The most likely reason is that you over-measured the flour! This is why I always recommend measuring flour in grams with a digital food scale. It's so much more accurate!
Yes! You can use a classic vanilla American buttercream, cinnamon buttercream, Swiss meringue buttercream, or whatever your heart desires.
More Autumn Recipes to Try
Spiced Apple Cupcakes
Spiced Apple Cupcakes
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar light or dark
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter softened
- ⅓ cup neutral oil
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 egg white room temperature
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup buttermilk room temperature
- 1 cup chopped apples Honeycrisp or Granny Smith
Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Spiced Apple Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Fill a cupcake pan with 12 liners and set aside.
- Add flour, baking powder, spices, white and brown sugars, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Spin 5 times until well mixed.1 ½ cups all purpose flour, 2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon allspice, ½ cup granulated sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- Add the softened butter and beat on low for 3-4 minutes until the texture is like wet sand.⅓ cup unsalted butter
- Add the oil, egg, egg white, and vanilla extract. Mix on low until a batter forms.⅓ cup neutral oil, 1 large egg, 1 egg white, 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pour in the buttermilk and stir on low until well combined. The batter will be thin.⅔ cup buttermilk
- Gently fold in the apples using a rubber spatula.1 cup chopped apples
- Evenly portion the batter between the cupcake liners, filling each ⅔ full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Beat room temperature butter and cream cheese together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed until creamy and lump free.½ cup unsalted butter, 8 ounces cream cheese
- With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.4 cups powdered sugar
- Add the vanilla and salt and mix well on medium-low speed.1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Fill a piping bag with frosting and pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake. Enjoy!