How adorable, right? And just in time for Halloween! I must say, I’m pretty excited about this one! They’re just so good and I feel like they’re also a somewhat original idea – the whole hard candy shell instead of frosting thing. Anyway, I’ve never seen anything like them before…so maybe just let me keep believing that I invented them…and that Martha Stewart would be so proud. (Okay, I just searched for “candy apple cupcakes” and there seem to be a couple of recipes for caramel apple style cupcakes with a whipped caramel frosting, but none that use actual candy.)
Ask me how cool Jason felt holding a miniature, candy-coated cupcake on a stick. He’s the best.
Now, if you’re anything like me, or if you’ve been visiting this blog for any length of time, you might be a little taken aback by these. They seem pretty sweet for around here, right? Like…um, diabetes on a stick perhaps? Or like some kind of vicious prank on your dental work. I know, I know. But you kind of have to trust me on this: they are perfect. I’ve made them 4 times and have tweaked the recipe just right so believe me when I tell you that, as sweet as they look, they’re not too sweet!
That’s because I didn’t use as much sugar in the batter as most cupcakes recipes call for. I wanted these to really resemble a candy apple and the only way to do that was to let the natural sweetness/tartness of the apple shine through! I went with golden delicious cause they’re my favorite and have a great balance of flavor. This recipe calls for a lot of apples so be sure to cut them small enough, else your batter will get too lumpy and your cupcakes will have irregular tops (round is better for candy coating). Dice small or julienne to be safe.
Warning: the batter is kind of irresistible.
I did a pretty thin layer of the candy so it wouldn’t be too much. And now we’re getting into the second reason that I’m so excited about this recipe: it’s my first time making candy!
To be honest, I thought the whole making candy thing would be a disaster. I imagined the sick smell of sugar drippings on the burner and sticky everything for weeks. But none of that happened. You just simmer the sugar, water, corn syrup and food coloring (like I was saying earlier, this isn’t my healthiest recipe yet) for about 20 minutes or until it reaches 310°F if you’re using a candy thermometer.
I don’t have one either, so this little test worked great for me. The candy is done when it keeps its form or makes nice tight ribbons when dropped in a bowl of room temp water (the candy in the left picture is not ready, the candy on the right is). When the candy reaches this point (what’s called the cracking stage in candy lingo), you want to maintain that temp and start dipping your cupcakes!
Note: If you let the candy continue to boil, it can burn. I didn’t have that happen during my dipping process, but then I forgot to turn it off and after another 10 minutes of simmering, it transformed into a giant, stinky candy turd.
You can store them in a cool, dry place for a couple days (a lidded container in the fridge works). However, I find that by day three, the candy will start to soften a tad and may even bleed into the cake. Still tasty though ;) but no crunch.
Everyone who has tried them has been surprised and pleased. They kind of make you giggle or something cause you just don’t expect them to be so good! The thin candy shell on top is what really makes them. That sweet little layer snaps when you bite into it, giving way a spongy cinnamon apple cake. Crunchy not sticky. So amazing. It gives me the same thrill as biting into a tootsie pop with just a little of the candy left on it. Incidentally, what’s that owl is up to these days? It’s been a while.
Oh yea, I totally forgot to mention what inspired me to make these playful treats in the first place! I’m catering the grand opening party for Fiction place the night before Halloween so some treats are definitely in order. My friend slash catering partner and I were discussing what to make for the “treat table” and candy apples came up. We agreed that they are way too messy and kind of gross…but, candy apple CUPCAKES on the other hand…
RecipePrep time: 30 mins + cook time: 10-12 minutes for minis 18-20 mins for full size. Makes 44 mini cupcakes and 20 full size ones. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use the water test shown in the post. You can store these covered in a cool, dry place (fridge is best) for up to 3 days.
For the cupcakes:
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 4 cups golden delicious apples (diced small or julienne)
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted, room temp butter (1 stick) OR 1/2 stick butter + 1/4 cup apple sauce
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
For the candy coating:
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon red food coloring (or more if you want it deeper red)
- Cream softened/room temp butter and sugar together in a bowl using a mixer or whisk until well combined and creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix/whisk again until evenly incorporated.
- In another bowl, mix all dry ingredients together using a fork or whisk. Add in wet ingredients from the other bowl and mix together until well combined. Fold in the apples.
- Divide batter among lined cups and fill at least 3/4 of the way (maybe even a tad more) to the top so you get a nice round peak to dip into the candy. When done, you want the cupcakes to be bulging over the paper liners a little so there is enough surface area to dip and the paper doesn’t get covered in candy. Bake mini cupcakes at 350°F for 10 minutes (full size ones for 18 minutes) or until spongy to the touch.
The candy topping:
- Bring water, sugar, corn syrup to a boil in a small pot, add food coloring and reduce heat to a simmer. You’ll need to babysit the pot and cook it this way for about 20 minutes. After 12 minutes, check the temp using a candy thermometer or the water test. You need the candy to reach 310°F (the cracking stage) before dipping or it won’t harden into a shell.
- If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use the water test. Drip a few drops of the hot candy into a small bowl of room temp water. When the candy holds its form or makes ribbons, it is done. Try dipping the top of a cupcake and see what happens. The candy should harden on it within 30 seconds if it’s ready.
- Continue to dip each cupcake, one at a time, using tongs and holding in the candy just long enough to coat the top. Slowly rotate each cupcake right side up after dipping and set to dry.