Honest Fare

Pretty Provisions and Notes from the Kitchen

Candy Apple Cupcakes! Oh yes, I did.

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Candy Apple Cupcakes! Oh yes, I did., Honest Fare by Gabrielle Arnold

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.)

Such fun!
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…

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Prep 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.

You need:

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)


The cupcakes:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.



  1. Posted October 27, 2010 at 12:22 PM | Permalink

    Just one question: What’s the age cut-off for trick-or-treaters at your house?

  2. gabi
    Posted October 27, 2010 at 1:17 PM | Permalink

    ha! Never too old. Come on by!

  3. Posted October 27, 2010 at 1:26 PM | Permalink

    I’m actually drooling. As in drool just came out of my mouth.

  4. Posted October 27, 2010 at 3:39 PM | Permalink

    Gabrielle, I am shocked and appalled.
    This is so unlike you.
    And I would really appreciate one.
    Ok, thanks.

  5. Posted October 27, 2010 at 6:39 PM | Permalink

    That’s it, get Martha on the phone quick, so you can sell her this idea first!

    Posted October 27, 2010 at 9:17 PM | Permalink

    Great idea!

  7. Posted October 27, 2010 at 9:40 PM | Permalink

    ah!! i’ve been searching for something delicious to make for our halloween party – our first hosting event here in beijing…and these sound perfect!! if i can find mini cupcake liners and pans, that is…..

  8. Posted October 27, 2010 at 10:22 PM | Permalink

    Love this! What a cool idea. My friend and I are going to try these out on Saturday, so thanks for the recipe!

  9. Posted October 28, 2010 at 2:22 AM | Permalink

    What a TREAT!

  10. Posted October 28, 2010 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

    As an adult, I find the traditional candy apple just too big these days. These mini cupcakes are much more my style. And I can eat one and be happy without feeling like I’ve eaten way too much candy, too. Great idea for a holiday treat.

  11. Posted October 28, 2010 at 3:49 PM | Permalink

    How cute are these, the kids will love these, well I think the adults are going to like them too. Thanks! The combination of textures – candy and cake – are going to be so good.

  12. Posted October 28, 2010 at 6:41 PM | Permalink

    *blink blink* It’s almost too good to be true.

  13. Posted October 29, 2010 at 5:13 AM | Permalink

    Mary at One Perfect Bite just did a post on red candy apples. I like your version too, they’re so cute! I remember red candy apples fondly from my childhood – they were always a huge treat at the local fair.


  14. Posted October 29, 2010 at 9:33 AM | Permalink

    Happiness on a stick! These little guys will hopefully be making an appearance at this weekend’s festivities.

    Thank you for sharing this one!

  15. Posted October 29, 2010 at 6:19 PM | Permalink

    Okay, THESE are freaking adorable! I’m in love!!!!! So fabulous!

    Great site; happy I found you!

    Mary xo
    Delightful Bitefuls

  16. Posted October 30, 2010 at 8:53 PM | Permalink

    What a cute idea. Well-done!

  17. Posted October 31, 2010 at 10:07 PM | Permalink

    These look AMAZING!!!! I’m so going to have to try making these!!!!!!

  18. Alison
    Posted November 1, 2010 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

    Hi! A friend sent me a link for these, and I made them for a Halloween party…I was a huge hit! So AB FAB! And I only suffered minor burns from the candy making. My batter though was super thick. So thickni thought it wouldn’t work, but it did! But I’m wondering did you really use 4 cups of apples? My cakes were so chunky (with protruding apples) the tops didn’t have that smooth finish quite like yours. Like I said, still super yummy. But I might do 3 cups of apples next time to balance out my batter/apple ratio.

    Anyway! Thank you for the recipe and awesome idea! I looooved crunching into those babycakes and so did everyone else!


  19. gabi
    Posted November 1, 2010 at 12:46 PM | Permalink

    Alison – Awesome! Glad to hear they worked out. Oh yea, that candy is hot and it’ll stick to you. Maybe your apples weren’t cut small enough? They have to be tiny pieces…
    Or yea, just use less next time!

  20. Posted November 1, 2010 at 5:40 PM | Permalink

    Love these! The crunchy candy topping sounds irresistible!

  21. kys
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 12:53 PM | Permalink

    I love this recipe, It looks great and the photos are amazing. Thanks for sharing ;)

  22. Posted November 2, 2010 at 3:23 PM | Permalink

    Oh yes you did! Pure adorableness. Love them.

  23. Jmae
    Posted November 7, 2010 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    SO excited to have found your blog. *partly because I’d followed Panic Room for their pg, but then I became pg and forgot the name of their blog! lol So was very excited to find Cole on your blog-and then be able to reconnect w their blog!
    BUT your blog is splendid! My son Truman turns 1 right after Thanksgiving-and I am using 3 of your recipes for his party! This one included! Can’t wait! I’ll try and remember to send you pics!!

  24. Jmae
    Posted November 7, 2010 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    Oh! And silly me-my questions was where did you get cupcake papers that tiny!!!?

  25. gabi
    Posted November 7, 2010 at 6:04 PM | Permalink

    So glad you found me! Actually, you should be able to find those mini cupcake papers at any party store or even the supermarket if they have a decent baking section. :)

  26. Posted November 10, 2010 at 10:30 AM | Permalink

    Saw this linked on The Kitchn yesterday — congrats!!

  27. Posted November 10, 2010 at 8:02 PM | Permalink

    These cupcakes are fabulous. I made them last night for a dinner party my boyfriend and I were hosting. Of course I never plan my time accordingly and didn’t get to the candy making bit (I plan on a second less rushed batch) so I just served them naked and everyone LOVED them. Actually, its amazing they even got baked because I kept “testing” the batter. So wonderful and easy. I know I will make these again and again.Thank you for sharing.

  28. Jmae
    Posted November 27, 2010 at 4:40 AM | Permalink

    Oh no! I’m crazy! I need a mini muffin tin as well don’t I? Yeah-it’s 2:30am and I’m tryin to make these for Tru’s party tomorrow and suddenly thought-Uh I need a tin! Or do I? I’m going to hold off until a few hours prior in hopes you’ll see this and be able to reply ;) Oh and I went with some mini houndstooth muffin papers from bakeitpretty I got almost everything for the food decor there!

  29. gabi
    Posted November 27, 2010 at 8:13 PM | Permalink

    Hey Jmae, I do use mini muffin tins actually. They help hold the shape. Muffin tins and mini papers. Hope I got back to you with enough time! Enjoy :)

  30. Kilesha Brown
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 10:11 PM | Permalink

    I am gonna make these for my seven year old little girls class and was wondering if I used a box cake mix what kind would you think I should use?

  31. gabi
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 10:31 PM | Permalink

    I don’t know too much about the box cake mixes there are out there, but I think they do make apple ones. If not as a cake mix, I’m sure you can get an apple muffin mix. I’d definitely stick with an apple flavor though to get the candy apple concept across. Don’t have an name brand suggestions though.

  32. Posted October 4, 2011 at 12:47 PM | Permalink

    Absolutely adorable! Perfect for children’s tea parties and just in time for fall. Love it!

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