These apple cider cupcakes with an apple cider buttercream on top is an easy Fall cupcake that would be perfect for your Thanksgiving table! With lots of brown sugar, cinnamon, and apple cider stirred in – this apple cider cupcake recipe will be become a huge hit with your friends and family! And a fun topping – easy to make pie crumbs for a little crunch!
Apple cider is something that always conjurs up happy memories for me. Growing up we always would visit this local cider mill. It was a tradition in our house. We would watch the apples get pressed into fresh cider right before our eyes.
We would enjoy a sip of the sweet apple beverage, enjoy a hot apple cider donut, and take home with a fresh baked apple pie. Every Fall. No matter what.
So I might not be able to get a chance to go every Fall since moving out to Boston, but I still can’t help picking up a gallon of cider and then turning them into a delicious dessert.
Like these apple cider cupcakes. I used my Easy Vanilla Cupcake Recipe and made a few changes to the recipe to create these delicious cupcakes. And then topped them with a brown sugar apple cider buttercream to send them over the edge.
- Flour – I used all-purpose flour for this cupcake recipe. I’ve made it before with cake flour and I love them both! But I always have regular flour on hand so I wanted to simplify the recipe.
- Rest of the dry ingredients – In addition to the flour, I added baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Unsalted butter – I used melted unsalted butter. No need to soften the butter so these whip up quickly. I recommend unsalted butter so you an control the amount of salt.
- Brown sugar – The vanilla cupcake recipe used granulated sugar, but for this recipe I knew I wanted to use brown sugar to complement the apple cider. You can make your own brown sugar in a pinch if you are out!
- Eggs – I use two whole eggs, and 1 egg white. You want to make sure these are at room temperature before you begin.
- Vanilla extract – I like to use a little vanilla to help round out the flavor.
- Apple Cider – Of course these cupcakes wouldn’t be complete without it! I reduced the cider on the stove first to concentrate the flavor so you get more apple cider flavor in every bite.
- Sour Cream – I used sour cream for richness and flavor as well. It also keeps the cupcakes super moist!
How To Make These Apple Cider Cupcakes
Step 1 – Make the apple cider reduction
To get maximum apple cider flavor you want to reduce the apple cider on the stove. Start with 2 cups and reduce the cider over medium heat to 1/2 cup. This will take about 45 minutes, but you can do this a day ahead of time to cut down on the time it takes to make these cupcakes.
Once it’s reduced you need to cool it down to room temperature (but not cold!) and you will use half in your cupcakes (1/4 cup) and then half in your buttercream (1/4 cup).
Step 2 – Combine Your Dry Ingredients
You want to whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Pro Tip: Be sure to measure your flour correctly. Or use a kitchen scale for best accuracy.
Step 2 – Combine brown sugar and butter
In a second mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and melted butter.
Step 3 – Add the eggs, vanilla, and sour cream.
You want to then add the 2 eggs, 1 egg white, vanilla extract, and sour cream.
Step 4 – Add the dry ingredients
At this point you want to stir in the dry ingredients. Make sure to stir in the flour mixture until it’s just incorporated. Overmixing will cause a tough cupcake.
Step 5 – Bake your cupcakes
Once the batter is whisked up, go ahead and portion out the batter into a cupcake pan lined with cupcake liners.
This cupcake recipe makes about 12 cupcakes. You can fill these cupcakes up to about 3/4 full.
- Measure your flour correctly. Be sure to measure your flour correctly if you are using dry measuring cups or you can use a kitchen scale for best accuracy
- Make sure your large eggs are room temperature. Place your eggs in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before using them in your recipe
- Double check that your baking powder is still fresh. Because this recipe uses melted butter there is no creaming step to incorporate air, so you need to make sure the baking powder is fresh so your cupcakes rise properly. To check the freshness, add a teaspoon of baking powder to some hot water. If it bubbles, it’s still fresh. If it doesn’t throw it out.
- Check your oven. Use an oven thermometer to make sure that your oven is heated correctly so these bake properly. For more oven 101, read this post.
- Make sure your apple cider reduction is room temperature. If it’s cold it will solidify the butter again. If it’s too warm it could curdle the mixture or melt the buttercream.
How Do You Make The Apple Cider Buttercream?
I topped this cupcake with a twist on my favorite vanilla buttercream.
I made a brown sugar buttercream and then swapped out the heavy cream and used the remaining apple cider reduction, and then sprinkled in a little cinnamon as well. Apple cider heaven!.
A Fun Topping For These Cupcakes!
You could stop there. Sure. Why not. Perfect cupcake with a delicious buttercream swirled on top. But why stop there if you don’t have to?
Let’s take it one step further. Pie crumbs. Oh. My. Word. I can’t say I invented these. By no means at all is this my invention. Pie crumbs are the invention behind pastry chef, Christina Tosi, from Momofuku Milk Bar.
Pie crumbs are easy I promise. You only need a half batch for decoration. And any leftovers, can be frozen.
Pie crumbs are just made with:
And then just combine the ingredients in a stand mixer until they form crumbs. Crumble them on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. They will crisp up more after baking. These crumbs take an extra few minutes of effort but totally worth it.
For Cupcakes: This recipe with generously frost 12 cupcakes. I like to pipe a pretty tall amount of frosting on each cupcake. So if you don’t want to use as much as I do as in the photos, then you might get more frosted (around 24 cupcakes). For help decorating the cupcakes, be sure to check out my The Ultimate Guide To Baking Cupcakes At Home and The Ultimate Guide To Making The Best Buttercream Icing.
For Cake: This frosting will cover a 9×13 sheet cake or a two-layer 8-inch or 9-inch cake.
Absolutely you can! These cupcakes can be made ahead 2 days in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature.
The frosting can also be made 5 days in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.
If you have leftover cupcakes they also keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. You can also freeze these cupcakes, without filling, for up to 2-3 months. Then just thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then fill and frost as normal! For a full tutorial on how to freeze cupcakes, click here.
I haven’t used apple juice, and I don’t think the flavor would be the same.
More Recipes to Try
If you like this recipe, let me know by leaving a comment and star rating below!
Apple Cider Cupcakes
Apple Cider Reduction
- 2 cups (480 ml) apple cider
For the cupcakes
- 1 1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 113 g) unsalted butter melted, slightly cooled
- 1 cup (213 g) packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 large egg white room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) apple cider reduction * see instructions
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup (57 g) sour cream
For the buttercream
- 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
- 1/2 cup (107 g) packed light brown sugar
- 2 1/2 cups (313 g) confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) apple cider reduction
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the pie crumbs
- 3/4 cup (120 g) all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 57 g) unsalted butter melted
- 2 1/2 teaspoons water
Make the apple cider reduction
- Pour apple cider into a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and let it cook, watching carefully, until the cider is reduced to ½ cup. This took about 40-45 minutes for me. If it reduces too much, add enough cider to make ½ cup. Let it cool for about 10 minutes before using. I pop mine in the freezer to cool down faster. This can also be done the day before. Simply cover and refrigerate until ready to use the next day, but make sure it comes back to room temperature before using. You will use 1/4 cup in the cupcakes, and the remaining 1/4 cup in the buttercream.
For the cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk together and set aside.
- In a separate mixing bowl, add the butter and sugar and whisk to combine. Mix in the eggs and egg white until incorporated. Add the vanilla, sour cream, and apple cider reduction.
- Stir in the dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated. Do not overmix.
- Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way full.
- Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.
For the buttercream
- Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the powdered (confectioners sugar) one cup at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated.
- Add salt, cinnamon, and vanilla extract, and mix on medium speed to incorporate. Add in the apple cider reduction (make sure it's at room temperature) a tablespoon at a time, and mix on low to incorporate. Once it's all added, then you can increase the speed to high speed for 8 minutes until light and creamy. If the mixture slightly curdles, keep mixing it will smooth back out. Once cupcakes are cooled, fill the piping bag and pipe the frosting on top.
- If not using immediately, store in a container in the refrigerator until ready to use, mix again until light and fluffy.
For the pie crumbs
- Heat the oven to 350oF.
- Combine the flour, sugar, and salt, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until well mixed.
- Add the butter, and water and mix on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.
- Spread the clusters on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (or line with a silicone baking mat). Bake for 25 minutes, breaking them up occassionally. The crumbs should be golden brown and still slightly moist to the touch at this point. They will dry and harden as they cool.
- Let the crumbs cool completely before sprinkling over the cupcakes as a garnish. You can store these in an airtight container for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.
- Storage/ Make Ahead: These cupcakes can be made ahead 2 days in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. If they are frosted, I prefer to store in the fridge. The frosting can also be made 5 days in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. If you have leftover cupcakes they also keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days.
- Freezing: You can also freeze these cupcakes, without frosting, for up to 2-3 months. I let thaw at room temperature and then frost as normal. You can freeze the buttercream. Let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then re-whip in the mixer before frosting and using.
- Apple Cider: This can be made the day ahead of time, and refrigerated. Make sure it’s at room temperature before using. I haven’t used apple juice and don’t recommend as it won’t have the same flavor.
- Sour cream: I used full-fat sour cream for best results. I haven’t tried with greek yogurt but think it would be fine. I’ve also made these with milk instead, and it works great, but I found them to not be as moist.