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Caramel Appletini Cupcakes

27 Oct

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Halloween has got to be one of the best holidays out there, if for no other reason than because it’s a just-for-fun holiday. All you have to do is put on a crazy outfit and go out and collect more candy than you should ever eat. (Some of us also know this as a trip to the Walmart.)

Caramel apples are probably the iconic Halloween treat for me. They’ve been associated with the spooky holiday for as long as I can remember. When I was little, there was always that one brilliantly crisp fall Saturday when my parents would load us all up into the Rambler station wagon and drive us out of town to the nearest apple orchard. In those days, it was actually a bargain to pick your own, and as anyone who follows this blog knows, my parents loved a bargain. We’d bring back a big bushel basket of apples that we kept in the garage, where it was always nice and chilly.

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Invariably, there were always several apples in that bushel that looked less than great. Those were the special ones, set aside for the profound honor of becoming caramel apples. My mom would bring out the bag of Kraft Caramels, take out the little popsicle sticks, and set us down to start unwrapping those lovely little squares. With the four of us popping more of those caramels into our mouths than into the bowl, it’s a wonder there were ever enough for the apples.

As my mom melted down the caramels, we’d get busy pushing the popsicle sticks into the apples. Once the caramels were sauce-ified, we’d start twirling and swirling the apples, trying to get as much caramel as possible on the apple, never quite making it all the way to the stick. On to the wax paper then, to cool, which always took too long.

Finally! time to eat – and to this day, it’s always the same – a couple of big bites of caramel-covered apple, but once the caramel is gone, I am done. Nobody really wants the rest of all that plain old apple, right? It was just a way to get all that caramel-ly deliciousness.

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It’s been a while since I’ve had a good caramel apple. But I haven’t missed those flavors, because I’ve found the big girl version – the Caramel Appletini. A nice little cocktail consisting of vodka and apple schnapps in a glass rimmed with caramel sauce…mmmmmm!

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Of course, I had to try to “cupcake” it, and just in time for Halloween, too. I started with a spice cake mix, added in some Angry Orchard hard apple cider, topped it off with apple schnapps frosting, and garnished with Captain Morgan spiced rum caramel sauce.

These Halloween Caramel Appletini cupcakes are so good, it’s scary!

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Caramel Appletini Cupcakes

I used a Betty Crocker mix for this recipe, so the ingredients listed are for that mix. If you use a different brand, follow the directions, substituting the water with the same amount of hard apple cider.

1 box spice cake mix

1 cup Angry Orchard hard apple cider

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

Line cupcake tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of stand mixer, mixing at low speed for 30 seconds, then at medium speed for two minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Fill cupcake tins about 2/3 full and bake for 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

Appletini Frosting

1 cup butter, softened

4 cups confectioners sugar

pinch of salt

3 – 4 tablespoons apple schnapps

Cream butter in bowl of stand mixer. Add 3 cups confectioners sugar, salt and 3 tablespoons apple schnapps, mixing at low speed until blended and then on high speed for up to 5 minutes until light and fluffy, adding more sugar and schnapps until desired consistency is reached. Frost as desired.

Captain Morgan Spiced Rum Caramel Sauce

Follow the directions for the caramel sauce from my Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes recipe. Drizzle caramel sauce over the frosted cupcakes.

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Enjoy!

Hard Cider Cupcakes

12 Nov

Like many people, autumn is probably my most favorite time of year. The trees come alive in a blaze of firey colors, the air takes on a little nip that causes us to wrap ourselves up in a favorite old sweater. As the days gradually shorten, we start to prepare our homes for nesting in during the long months of winter.

This is the time of year we trade our zucchini and yellow squash for butternut and pumpkin, blueberries for cranberries, and peaches and plums for pears and apples. It is the time of year we turn from garden fresh salads and smoke-infused grilling to simmering soups and ginger-spiced baking.

Autumn is also the beginning of the season of traditions – family traditions, holiday traditions, this is the time of year we pull out old costumes, the good china, or handed-down family recipes to bring those traditions back to life and keep them alive.

When my daughter, Sydney, was little, one of our favorites fall traditions was to head about 25 miles outside of town to her favorite Linvilla Orchards. This place is a child’s dream with hayrides, a corn maze, face painting, and a menagerie of docile deer and goats and ponies to pet and feed. After a treat of warm apple cider doughnuts or a gooey caramel apple, we’d get down to the very important task of picking out that perfect pumpkin for the Halloween Jack-O-Lantern. But no trip was complete without stopping at the refrigerated case to pick up a gallon of icy cold fresh pressed apple cider.

Over the years, trips to the orchard were replaced by soccer tournaments, part-time jobs, college visits and now a true career. But recently, we were lucky to have a day off together. We did a little mother-daughter shopping, some lunch, and decided to run out to Linvilla to pick up some fresh apples. We looked at the pumpkins and mums, had an apple cider doughnut or two and chose our Winesaps and Cortlands to take with us. But this time, we didn’t pick up any apple cider from the case. Because she’s an adult now, and that means new traditions:

There weren’t a lot of recipes for hard apple cider cupcakes. This one, adapted from Cupcakes for Dinner, looked promising. While everyone loved the Brown Sugar Buttercream frosting, reviews were mixed on the actual cupcakes themselves. Some thought them a little bland, others liked they way they offset the frosting. So give them a try, I’d say there’s a lot of room for adding your own personal touch. I used Crispin’s Hard Apple Cider, but there are manyvarieties to choose from.

Hard Apple Cider Cupcakes
Makes 12 – 16 cupcakes

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups hard apple cider
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream butter and sugar for 5 minutes, then add egg and vanilla
Mix in apple cider – mixture will look curdled.
In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, and create a well in the center.


Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined.
Fill prepared cupcake tins 3/4 full.
Bake for 16 minutes.

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Buttercream

1/2 cup butter
1/2 brown sugar
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon hard cider
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon milk

Cream butter and brown sugar together
Slowly add powdered sugar, cider, vanilla, milk and cinnamon

Frost as desired.

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