A soft, melt in your mouth, apple cider cinnamon cake is filled with an apple cider cranberry sauce, topped with a swirl of cinnamon cream cheese frosting and adorned with cinnamon sugar pie crust leaves and apple cider syrup.
Keeping this recipe from you has been agony!
Spiced Apple Cider Cranberry Cupcakes. It's the Holidays in a cupcake!
I know. Lots going on here, but I promise the flavors come together perfectly. Cinnamon and apple cider are common themes in each component with a splash of cranberries thrown in for spice and tartness!
The cake is made with 100% brown sugar, which makes it delightfully moist and amplifies the cinnamon and apple cider flavors. It is soft with a delicate crumb but it is not light and fluffy, because if you’ve hung around here a while, you know that I like my cupcakes more dense than airy. That is just how I do.
The cranberry apple cider filling is my Spiced Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce and it is packed with fresh cranberries, apple cider, and apples, and seasoned with star anise, cinnamon and cardamom. It’s spoon-lickin’ good. The tartness of the filling nicely compliments the cake and frosting.
Speaking of the frosting, I used my favorite cinnamon cream cheese butter cream, and it is sensational. For these cupcakes I whipped it up to make it a bit lighter than in previous recipes because I planned to pipe the frosting on the cakes and nobody wants a mound of dense frosting. It’s all about the balance!
And, because I just couldn’t leave the apple cider flavor well enough alone, I boiled a cup of apple cider down to about 2 tablespoons and drizzled it over the top. Sooooo goooood!
And those sugared pie leaves? They almost stole the show. Crispy, sugary and buttery.
Would it be enough to simply sprinkle the pie crust leaves with cinnamon sugar? No. No it would not.
So I rolled the pie crust out in sugar and then topped it with more cinnamon sugar. The sugar on the bottom caramelizes and gets all nice and crunchy. I suggest you make extra to serve with the cupcakes because they are addicting and one will not be enough!
I know this is overwhelming. It’s a whole lot of awesome to take in all at once.
So for your next Holiday Party give the cookies a break and bring these Apple Cider Cranberry Cupcakes…it’ll be legendary.
If you were one of the two people who guessed "cupcakes" in this post, then you are awesome and you have won the satisfaction of knowing that you were right. 🙂
Ps- The little pie crust leaves are actually the second crust from the recipe that I wasn’t pleased with here. While I wasn’t a fan in that particular recipe, here it worked rather well. Buuuut I tossed out what I did because I didn’t like it. So I'll have to get back to you on that.
Spiced Apple Cider Cranberry Cupcakes
For the Cupcakes:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter (melted and cooled*)
- 1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup apple cider (natural & fresh)
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 8 ounces cold cream cheese (no whipped, no low-fat, high-quality preferred, room temperature)
- ½ cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
- 3 ½ cups powdered sugar (sifted)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- heavy cream if needed
- Spiced Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce
For the Cinnamon Sugar Pie Crusts:
- Your favorite pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
- ¼ teaspoon Saigon Cinnamon
- ¼ cup sugar + more for rolling
Make the Cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven 350°. Line standard muffin tins with cupcake liners.
- Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Using a hand mixer beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until thick and lighter in color, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla with the last egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition.
- Alternately add flour and apple cider in three additions on low speed beginning and ending with flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. You want to stop mixing as soon as the last flour has disappeared. I like to fold in the last addition of flour with a spatula to avoid over beating.
- Scoop or pour the batter into the liners ¾ full. I use a large cookie scoop for this task and it works beautifully. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. I always start checking at 12 because I’m not a fan of dry baked goods. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick, inserted into the center, comes out with a few clinging crumbs but no wet smears!
- Remove from tins immediately and let cool on a wire rack. They must be completely cool before frosting.
Make the Frosting:
- Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, salt and cinnamon on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, approximately 2-3 minutes.
- Reduce speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing until incorporated. Add the vanilla after the last addition and mix until incorporated.
- I continued beating the frosting until it was lighter and a good piping consistency. If it is too thick then you can add heavy cream in 1 teaspoon increments until it is the desired consistency. This is also a great frosting for spreading on with an offset spatula, so you could always go that route.
- If you want to drizzle it with an Apple Cider reduction, just boil about 1 cup of apple cider down to approximately 2 tablespoons; cool; then drizzle!
Make the Pie Crusts:
- I prepared these while the cupcakes baked, and then baked them in my preheated oven while the cupcakes cooled. Sprinkle a generous amount of sugar over a solid surface. Roll out your pie crusts in granulated sugar. If you are using store-bought, you can press some sugar into one side. Cut out little leaves or shapes and place 1 inch apart on a baking tray.
- Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until they puff up and are brown around the edges. The size of your cut outs will directly impact your cooking time. Just keep an eye on them! They are supposed to be crispy, not burned!
Make the Cranberry Sauce filling:
- If you don’t already have your filling made, I would suggest preparing it after you pop you pie crusts in the oven. That way it has some time to cool before filling.
To Fill the cupcakes:
- Cut a round hole in the top of the cooled cupcakes using a pairing knife and then fill with the cranberry sauce. You can put the cake cutout back on top or just eat them all! 😉