Apple Caramel Cupcakes

Apple Cupcakes

12 oz (340 g) apples
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp (113 g) flour, sifted
3/4 tsp soda
3/8 tsp baking powder
3/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/8 tsp ginger
1 egg
1/2 c (99 g) sugar
1/3 c (50 g) brown sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp safflower oil
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Prepare a cupcake tin with liners and set aside. Preheat oven to 350F.

Grate the apples onto cheesecloth, a clean, thin dishtowel or three layers of paper towel. Gather up edges and squeeze firmly over a bowl, collecting juices. Squeeze until you've got about 1/3 of a cup and set the juice aside to use in the caramel. Reserve the pressed apple.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, soda, powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat together the egg and sugars until lightened and fluffy, about five minutes. With the mixer running, slowly drizzle in the vanilla, melted butter and oil, then beat to combine. Dump in the dry ingredients all at once and beat just to incorporate.

Fold in the reserved pressed apple gratings.

Portion the batter into the prepared cupcake tin and bake until cakes spring back when pressed lightly, 15-20 minutes. Cool briefly in tins on cooling racks, then remove the cupcakes from the tins and allow to cool completely on the rack.

Pear Caramel

7 Tbsp cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped (alternately, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla)
1/2 cup (99 g) sugar
1/3 cup (85 ml) freshly-squeezed apple juice
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter

In a small pan, bring the cream and the scraped vanilla bean (reserve pulp) to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let steep for one hour (alternately, add the vanilla extract where directed).

Pour the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a tall and thick-bottomed pan. Set over medium heat and allow to caramelize, swirling the pan occasionally to even out any hot spots that may develop. Stella describes the process in more detail here. When the sugar becomes a nice amber color, drizzle in a little of the cream and stir to incorporate, being careful of the bubbling that will occur. After it's combined, add in more cream and continue mixing, repeating until all cream has been added. Pour in the apple juice and stir to combine. Remove the pan from heat and add the salt, butter, vanilla bean scrapings and vanilla extract, if using. Pour into a small heatproof container to cool completely.

Apple Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Please click here for a step-by-step guide to making Swiss Meringue Buttercream and troubleshooting tips!

5 egg whites
1 c (200 g) sugar
1 c (226 g) butter, room temp
Apple Caramel, cooled to room temp (above)

Cook the egg whites and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (test by rubbing some between your fingers. If it's completely smooth, it's done). Pour into another bowl (a stand mixer is preferable) and whip on high speed until room temp. Then, on a medium-slow speed, add the butter, waiting until each piece is completely incorporated before adding the next. After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer back to high speed and whip until it has come together, about five minutes. Add the apple caramel, beat to incorporate and use.

If the buttercream seems soupy after all of the butter is added and does not come together after whipping, refrigerate for 5 to 7 minutes and continue whipping until it becomes fluffy and workable.