Apple Cupcakes

A gypsy carnival pitched camp along an alley west of Seventh Street on tumble-weeded lots where the high school would one day stand. Curiosity took me there as I walked from Tope Elementary to my grandparents’ house on a warm autumn afternoon. Mesmerized, I watched an ear-ringed man twirl apples on sticks around a cauldron of bubbling red candy. The shiny taffy apples cooled on a marble sheet, then, upright on pin holders, tempted passersby. There were no paper wrappers, and this was not something my parents would have approved. Surely the apples hadn’t been washed, and the candy would smear all over my face and clothes. Besides, I had no dimes in my pocket, so I could only wish for a taffy apple, knowing full well there’d be a few butter mints in my grandmother’s candy drawer.

Apples and sugar have come together as far back as the history of sweets. Each fall we expect traditional treats based on the season’s fresh apples. The original taffy apple morphed into the now ever-present caramel apple with a soft rather than crackling coating. Apples readily take to caramel and spices, and this sweet apple cake is always welcome in October. Decades ago Sue gave me the recipe, and Pat suggested the praline icing. It’s a great keeper but won’t last long once the taste is out. The following recipe will make a deep 8-inch layer, 16-20 regular cupcakes, or 36 minis (just right for oldsters who only want a taste and youngsters who shouldn’t have too much).

Apple Cupcakes

1 ¼ lbs. (4-6) tart apples

2 eggs

10 oz. (1 1/3 cups +1 tablespoon) sugar

½ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

8 oz. (1 ¾ cups) all purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

Peel apples and grate on the large holes of a box grater. Measure 2 packed, generous cups. Preheat oven to 350°.

In a deep bowl whisk the eggs and beat in the sugar, salt and gradually pour in the oil. Blend in cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in the grated apples then sift over the flour and soda. Stir gently to combine thoroughly.

Spoon batter into 16-20 paper-lined regular cupcake tins or into 3 dozen paper-lined mini tins. (Or bake in a parchment lined, greased and floured deep 8- or 9-inch cake tin.) Bake cupcakes 20-25 minutes or until puffed and test done. Layer cake will take 35-45 minutes.

Remove from tins, cool on wire racks before topping with Praline Icing.

Praline Icing

8 oz. (1 packed cup plus 2 tablespoons) soft, light brown sugar

½ tablespoon light corn syrup

pinch salt

4 fl. oz. (1/2 cup) heavy cream

Combine all ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan. Swirl over moderate heat to dissolve sugar. Cover and bring to a boil allowing the steam to melt any crystals off side of pan.

Boil steadily to 240° on a sugar thermometer or to a firm ball

(drip a bit of syrup on an ice cube to test). Remove from heat, drop in 1 tablespoon butter and allow to cool (may take up to half an hour).

Add ½ teaspoon vanilla and beat with a wooden spoon until creamy and spreadable. If icing stiffens too much, stir in a few drops of hot water. Swirl over cupcakes and allow to set.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at



One Response to “Apple Cupcakes”

  1. Breda Says:

    Fabulous Mary Jo – cant wait to do some cooking at the weekend. Hope you are very well. lots of love and light BB

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