This year, I decided to ask him what he might like and he responded with "cupcakes!". Cupcakes... an excellent choice I thought, but now I had to figure out what to make! Jeff loves (I don't think that is even a strong enough word) caramel apples... every year after we do our big holiday baking spree I always make a few for us (him) to enjoy. So, to play off that idea, I decided to try out these Caramel Apple Cupcakes.
These light cupcakes are flavored with individual spices that conjure memories of tempting fall treats - cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, fresh grated nutmeg and clove. I didn't want any apple chunks in these cupcakes, so to give a smooth apple flavor, applesauce is used as part of the wet ingredients to impart that flavor. In addition to the melted butter, a bit of sour cream is used to keep these cupcakes tender and very moist.
Rather than a traditional buttercream frosting, we upgraded his birthday cupcakes by smearing the crowns of each with creamy melted caramel. You'll need to try and work quickly as the caramel will begin to set, but don't be too concerned if the phone rings or someone comes to the door. If the caramel in the bowl begins to set before it gets onto the cupcake, just gently rewarm the mixture to loosen it up.
One of Jeff's favorite candies is M&M's, which his regular caramel apples MUST be rolled in, so I chopped up a few and scattered them on a couple of the cupcakes - the rest were showered in nuts or sprinkles (and yes, those are Mickey-shaped sprinkles...). To complete the theme, each cupcake gets is skewered with a popsicle stick to give that caramel apple look. Since it also was officially "talk like a pirate day" on his birthday (inside thing with his co-workers!), I did switch out some of those sticks with these pirate-themed candles I put on a toothpick... hee hee!
Caramel Apple Cupcakes