So, you know my previous obsession with California? Well, because we’ve had the most amazing weather for the last month, I’m starting to realize that Ohio is pretty awesome! The leaves are starting to change, there is fog over the valleys when I drive to work, and the sun has that autumn glow. It’s wonderful! Although you will surely need to remind me of this come February, when I cannot wait for winter to be over! To keep my California dream alive, my best friend from like the fourth grade just landed a coveted fellowship spot at UCLA, so I’m quite sure my love will be rekindled when I go to visit. But for now, I’m loving Ohio.
Now about these muffins. Obviously, they totally go with October, but they would be equally perfect for Thanksgiving breakfast. They are actually pretty healthy – chunks of apple and apple sauce keep them very moist without much fat. Then of course you add this browned butter glaze, which sort of ruins the healthy aspect, but you absolutely cannot leave it off. It is amazing. Together, these were best apple muffins I’ve ever had.
A few technical points…. First, you precook the apple with a bit of sugar and spice. This step gives the apples a pie-like texture, instead of the dehydrated apple you find in some baked goods. Additionally, I found out the hard way that there are so many liquid components to these, that they will seep if allowed to sit in an air tight container. I’m quite sure this didn’t make the best presentation when John brought them into class, but apparently they were still well loved. To avoid this, go a little lighter on the amount of apple in the batter, and store with a rack underneath. These muffins are just hearty enough that you can call them breakfast without too much guilt.
Apple Cider Muffins with Browned Butter Glaze
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- 2 -2 ½ honeycrisp apples, peeled and diced
- 3 tablespoons apple cider
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch of nutmeg
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/4 cup apple cider
For the Glaze:
- 4 tablespoons browned butter, melted and cooled*
- 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider
- 1 cup powdered sugar
Begin by melting the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Continue to cook, swirling occasionally until the butter turns a deep golden brown. Be careful not to burn. *Repeat this step for the browned butter in the glaze.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat and add diced apples with 3 tablespoons apple cider, and a pinch of cinnamon and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft and caramely, about 8-10 minutes. In a bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside. Line a muffin tin with liners.
In a large bowl, whisk egg and brown sugar together until smooth and no lumps remain. Add in vanilla extract, butter, apple sauce and apple cider, whisking again until smooth. Gradually add in dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Fold in diced apples. Do not overmix. Fill each muffin liner 3/4 full to scantly full.
Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until tops slightly golden. When cool enough to handle, transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Brown Butter Apple Cider Glaze
In a medium bowl, combine browned butter, vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Whisk until the mixture comes together then add in 1 tablespoon of apple cider, continuing to mix. If it still doesn’t appear glaze-like, add in cider 1/2 tablespoon at a time and mix again. Don’t worry if it becomes too liquidy – just add a tiny bit of powdered sugar until you get the desired consistency. Spoon glaze on warm muffins or dip each top in the glaze, then serve.
Slightly Adapted from How Sweet It Is
Based on my experience thus far in life, I can firmly say that you can never go wrong with pumpkin flavored anything and cream cheese frosting. I made a different version of these cupcakes last year, and there are a few things I liked about each recipe. Last year’s recipe was ridiculously moist, but almost to the point where the cupcakes stuck to the wrapper and couldn’t support the weight of the frosting when you went to take a bite. I liked this new recipe because the cupcakes are a little bit sturdier, and you don’t have to use part of a box of cake mix (what does one do with a left over 2/3 cup of cake mix? ). Plus, when I’m going to the trouble of making cupcakes from scratch I really prefer ones made with unique ingredients that wouldn’t be part of a box mix – like butter instead of oil and buttermilk for some extra moisture. I used to think that recipes that called for buttermilk were a bit annoying because you generally have to buy a whole quart, but I’ve found it lasts a lot longer than milk (like over a month) and I’ve found several other things to do with it in that time – like John’s birthday cake, ranch dressing, and then these cupcakes. But as I said before, you can’t go wrong with pumpkin and cream cheese so if your so inclined, try both recipes!
I actually made these for the children’s Halloween party that our medical school hosts every year. Now technically this party if for children with diabetes, and while you might think cupcakes wouldn’t be the best idea, the point of the party was to help the children learn how to balance their carbohydrates with their insulin. (And it is really hard to find low carbohydrate halloween desserts). So I made a double batch of these cupcakes, and calculated that each cupcake with frosting has 35 grams of carbohydrate. I got about 40 cupcakes from the double batch, and saved a few to take with us to Cincinnati for my now living in Ohio brother and sister -in-law. These went so fast that I’m pretty sure my father-in-law thought he wasn’t going to get one. Apparently they were also a big hit at the halloween party – but really what kid can resist sprinkles?
Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: 20-24 cupcakes with piped frosting
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/3 c brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
For the Icing:
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 stick butter (softened)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 10 oz powdered sugar (about 3 cups), sifted
To Make the Cupcakes:
Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners; set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the vanilla until fully incorporated.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In another small mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin and buttermilk until smooth.
Turn the stand mixer on to the lowest setting and alternately add the dry ingredients and the pumpkin mixtures to the creamed butter. Start and end with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Spoon the batter into the pans, filling about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool enough to handle and then move to a cooling rack. Store in airtight containers until frosted. Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator.
To Make the Icing:
Cream the butter, cream cheese and vanilla together on high speed. Add the powdered sugar, a small amount at a time and blend until smooth and creamy. To ice the cupcakes using a pastry bag, chill icing in the refrigerator or freezer for about 15 minutes in order to harden the icing enough to frost. Alternatively, frosting can be added immediately to cooled cupcakes using an offset spatula.
Icing inspired Ina Garten
Cupcakes are pretty much the trendiest food item on the market, but to be honest I’ve never made a batch of cupcakes completely from scratch – that is until yesterday. I’ve been wanting to try these cupcakes since the day I saw them on Annie’s “Best of 2010” list, but it just never seemed like the right opportunity. After all, cupcakes aren’t exactly a “snack food” you want to have around the house. Plus, these particular cupcakes have an embarrassingly large amount of butter in them; which is half the reason I chickened out on making these several times. Finally, I decided to get over my fear, and went for these cupcakes, butter and all.
Of course, they were delicious! They have brown sugar batter with chocolate chips, are then filled with an eggless cookie dough, and then topped with a frosting that actually tastes like cookie dough. So if you even have a slight fondness of cookie dough- you will love these! If you think they sound too rich, don’t worry, so did I. I thought for sure I would only be able to eat half a cupcake, but they were actually perfect, and of course eating a whole cupcake by myself was no challenge. I particularly thought this was a great “first cupcake”, because it’s something you really couldn’t try to replicate with a box mix. I made these over the course of a couple days – baking the cupcakes one day, filling them the next day, and then frosting them right before serving. I would recommend this unless you have a 4-hour block of time to spend in the kitchen all at once. I found I had too much icing left over with the original recipe, so I corrected it below to make a slightly smaller yield. Additionally, I wrote the recipe out to make 12 cupcakes, because when I made 24 it was just too many- you really only need one of these! And as a final suggestion, make sure you have some friends to share these with, because they are delicious (and dangerous!).
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Yield: 12 cupcakes
For the Cupcakes:
- 1 ½ sticks butter, room temperature
- ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/3 cups flour
- ½ t. baking soda
- ½ t. baking powder
- 1/8 t. salt
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar with a stand mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternating with milk, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until all the flour and milk are used up. Blend in vanilla. Stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula.
Line 1 cupcake pan with liners (12 cupcakes). Divide batter evenly between the cups. Bake at 350 for 16-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
For the Filling:
- 2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
- 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
Using a mixer, combine butter and brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract, and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate mixture to allow it to firm slightly. While waiting for the mixture to chill, using a small, sharp knife, cut a cone shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake. (You won’t need the part you cut out anymore, so you can discard it, or make cakeballs out of it, or eat it with ice cream…etc.) Place a chunk of filling in the center of each cupcake, flattening the top, to make it easier to frost.
For the Frosting and Topping
- 10 Tbsp. (1 stick + 2 Tbsp. butter), softened
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 4 tsp. milk
- 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- Mini Chocolate Chips
- Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies*
Combine butter and brown sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time. Then add the flour, salt, milk and vanilla extract, and mix until smooth. Frost as desired. (I used a 2D Wilton pastry tip).
Sprinkle finished cupcakes with mini-chocolate chips, and push a mini-chocolate chip cookie into the center of the frosting.
*I made mini chocolate chip cookies by rolling very small dough balls from chocolate chip cookie dough, but I think Famous Amos or Cookie Crisps Cereal would also work well!