It’s been a few years since I’ve had the opportunity to go apple picking, but nonetheless, apples are still one of my favorite fruits. As much as I don’t look forward to fall (I know blasphemous, but I really dislike cold weather, even autumn cold) I still look forward to apple season, when I can get fresh crisp apples in all kinds of sweet and tart varieties. My favorite apples are usually a pleasant blend of sweet and tart, with just a hint of berry in the finish, like the pink lady apple. And while I definitely prefer all of my fruit fresh, apples are probably my favorite to eat cooked into a pastry, be it pie, cake or muffins. It came as no surprise then, when I discovered Woodchuck hard cider about two years ago, and instantly fell in love. It’s the perfect drink to casually sip, and never gets old given the preponderance of seasonal flavors and special batches. I particularly like the Summer blend, with it’s hint of blueberry, as well as the 802, which is slightly richer and has some deep caramel notes. Of course it was completely necessary to turn my favorite drink into a cupcake, one which is perfect for a northeastern autumn—or my birthday, which falls at the end of September. I hadn’t planned on making my own birthday cupcakes this year, but I accidentally joked about doing so when I invited my friend out for my birthday party, and everyone kinda took that seriously. So I heeded their advice and made not one but two kinds of cupcakes (the second of which I’ll post about at a later date).
I blended the cider into a cake with just a hint of warming cinnamon, and then filled it with a scrumptious spiked apple filing, and topped it off with a cinnamon buttercream. It’s garnished with a slice of fresh apple, and drizzled with a little dulce de leche. The first time I made these, I actually used several different spices in the cake, but I found that they overpowered the cider, whereas I think cinnamon will be complementary, and add that hint of warmth we expect with apple cakes, without overpowering the cider flavor.
- 3/4 c hard apple cider, such as Woodchuck 802
- 1/4 c non dairy milk
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 c brown sugar
- 1/3 c canola oil
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners Combine the non dairy milk and the vinegar, and set aside while you mix the cider, sugar, oil and vanilla together in a large bowl. Add the milk mixture, and beat (a fork does the trick) until the mixture looks fairly homogenous. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in two batches, mixing well before adding the second batch. The batter should be fairly smooth, with only some small lumps remaining. Add the batter to the liners, filling until each is about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool.
- 1 medium sized apple, diced small. Skins on or off. (I used a pink lady apple and left the skins on for color)
- 1-2 tbsp Earth Balance (or other non hydrogenated vegan margarine)
- 2 tbsp maple syrup (or to taste)
- 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 tbsp liquor of choice*
*I used bourbon here because that’s what I had and I didn’t want to buy a whole new bottle of something since I was moving out of my place the next day, but I think an apple brandy would also be excellent in this filling. Melt the margarine in a skillet over medium heat, add the diced apples and sauté for about five minutes until they just start to caramelize, add the cinnamon, water, and maple syrup and cook until soft, then let the water reduce until there’s only about a tablespoon of liquid left. Now add the liquor, and (VERY CAREFULLY, this step is not entirely necessary, mostly it’s fun) light it aflame! Let the flames burn out, then cook down until there’s only a tablespoon or so of liquid left. We don’t want soggy cupcakes. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool. Cinnamon Buttercream (adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World):
- 1/2 c non-hydrogenated shortening
- 1/2 c non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (like Earth Balance)
- 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-4 tbsp non dairy milk
*You really only need a half batch for 12 cupcakes. I made this whole recipe in conjunction with the chai cupcakes, and was able to frost 2 dozen with this amount of frosting.
Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined. Add the sugar and cinnamon and beat for another about 3 minutes more. Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of the non dairy milk. Beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy. If it is too dry add more milk, 1 tbsp at a time.
- 1 apple (I used another pink lady)
- Dulce de Leche*
- Piping bag fitted with a large star tip
- Paring knife
- a few tbsp of lemon juice
*I used this recipe to a T because I already had it on hand, but if I were to make it specifically for this recipe, I would probably substitute the Jameson for apple brandy. Just make sure you match the liquor to what you use in the filling. Using the paring knife, cut a circle out of the top of the cupcake, so you end up removing a small cone of cake (you can almost see it in the picture). Do not discard the excess cake! Add about a teaspoon of the apple filling to the center, so the hole is just full. Fill the piping bag with buttercream and pipe a beautiful swirl over the top of the cake to cover the filling. Take the apple, and cut off one side, close to the core (but don’t cut into the core). Slice that side into very thin slices (so they look similar to the photo all the way above), discarding (ie eating…ok or maybe sharing with the dog if you’re nice) the weird triangular ends. Dip the slices in lemon juice and pat dry. Place the cake piece you cut out just off center of the cupcake, with the smooth part perpendicular to the cupcake surface. Now lay the apple slice over the cupcake, so it is leaning on the little cake cone. Drizzle the with dulce de leche, and serve! While these look fairly delicate, I managed to transport them from my apartment to a dinner and then a bar with my friends, and then even managed to take the (one) leftover cupcake to my mom’s in NJ.