You’ve got to make these Apple Cider Cupcakes for dessert! They’re bursting with apple and cinnamon flavors and topped off with an absolutely indulgent and creamy Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting (or make it a cider cream cheese frosting as a delish alcohol-free alternative!).
I know, I know, take it all in.
Apple Cider Cupcakes with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting is THE ultimate fall dessert recipe.
Apple cider? Check. Cinnamon? Check. Bourbon? Check.
Can you handle it? Like, really handle all the excitement coming your way with this decadent, perfectly-fall, apple recipe?
Yes, yes, of course, you can handle it. I have complete faith in you. You are here, after all, the best place to find a just-over-the-top enough recipe to wow your friends, neighbors, or hey, yourself, this season. You have tried pumpkin bars and apple crisp already, right?
Let’s start talking about the cupcake part of this equation. When I say OBSESSED, I mean OBSESSED.
Like, can’t stop thinking about the cupcakes day or night obsessed.
These beautiful cupcakes were inspired by my Salted Caramel Apple Cake. When the moist, tender crumb cake with real apple pieces entered my life, I knew I needed to have those flavors – the cinnamon, the apple, the indulgence – in every form.
These cupcakes are no different on the texture spectrum: they’re moist, tender, and melt-in-your-mouth.
The flavor is sweet and warm from the cinnamon, balanced out with the subtle tang from the apple cider. Hellllloooo, perfect fall cupcakes.
We have pretty basic cupcake ingredients, with a few unique flavor bursts. Here’s what you’ll need as always, see the full recipe card below):
- All-Purpose Flour: please use your kitchen scale to measure out the flour to ensure the proper ratios when baking these cupcakes!
- Baking Soda and Baking Powder: help create the light and fluffy texture.
- Granulated and Brown Sugar: both add to the light, moist texture and sweetness.
- Unsalted butter and Salt: I use unsalted butter so that I can control the amount of salt that goes into the cupcakes, especially because the amount of salt in salted butter can vary by brands
- Vanilla Extract: be sure to use the real stuff for the most luxurious flavor!
- Eggs: room temperature, so they incorporate fully.
- Oil: a little bit to keep things moist!
- Cinnamon: can we really have a fall dessert without it?!
- Apple Cider: sweet, crisp, and slightly tart, apple cider adds the perfect apple flavor to these cupcakes!
When baking, it’s important to remember that the temperature of your ingredients matters. Room temperature ingredients will combine much more easily and keep the batter uniform.
Apple Cider or Apple Juice?
You may be wondering, can I substitute apple juice for apple cider? What’s the difference? Does it matter?
Apple cider is raw and has no filtration, which means it’s often a little more tart than its juice counterpart. Apple juice, on the other hand, has been pasteurized and is shelf-stable; it’s generally sweeter, too.
So can you swap them? Sure, I’m all for using what you have on hand, especially when these two ingredients truly are so similar.
However, if you do plan to use apple juice instead of cider, I highly recommend replacing 1-2 teaspoons of the juice with fresh lemon juice to add in the slightly tart component that the cider would deliver.
How to Make Apple Cider Cupcakes
First, combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. When you use your kitchen scale to measure these out, you save on dishes, too! Making sure they’re fully mixed together streamlines the batter process and ensures they get completely incorporated into the batter.
Then, use a stand or hand-mixer to cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. This usually takes about 2 minutes. It helps work air into the mixture, resulting in a lovely cupcake texture!
Then mix in the eggs and vanilla, keeping in mind that room temperature eggs will mix in best.
Now, alternate adding the dry ingredients and a combination of apple cider and oil, the wet ingredients. Start and end with adding the dry ingredients, and only mix until just combined, being careful to not overmix the batter.
Once the batter is mixed, evenly divide it between 12 muffin tins. Bake for about 14 minutes until the tops bounce back when lightly touched, or you can use a thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should be right around 200F.
How to Make Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
You’re going to want to sit down for this. Obviously, cream cheese frosting is the frostings of frostings, and just when you didn’t think it could get better, we’re adding bourbon to the mix.
Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting is a game-changer.
When you start mixing up the cupcakes, take out the butter and cream cheese for the frosting so they have time to come to room temperature.
It’s essential that the butter and cream cheese are at room temperature so they mix together smoothly, otherwise, you’ll be left with lumpy frosting.
And that’s where we start when we’re ready for the frosting: mixing together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Then, add the bourbon and vanilla extract, and the powdered sugar bit by bit until smooth.
You have flexibility in how much powdered sugar you’d like to add, depending on desired sweetness and texture. The more powdered sugar, the firmer the frosting will be.
There’s just enough bourbon in the frosting to give it a hint of that deep, spicy, woody, maybe slightly sweet complex flavor that bourbon delivers. It’s not overpowering, it’s subtle yet adds a delicious element to the cupcake.
And I know, because friends, I’m not one to just sit by and drink bourbon (well, ok, now unless it’s in this Hot Apple Cider Vanilla Bean Cocktail) but in this frosting? With these cupcakes? It’s outta this world.
Oh, and to really take it up a notch, drizzle bourbon caramel sauce on top. You’re welcome.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you don’t like bourbon, are alcohol-free, or want to make these kid-friendly, there is a super simple swap to make the frosting without any alcohol! Just use apple cider in place of the bourbon for a cider cream cheese frosting. It’s just as delicious!
On the first day, I usually store them in an airtight container at room temperature. Because of the cream cheese frosting, I’d recommend storing them in the fridge in an airtight container any longer than that.
Yes, you can make the cupcakes ahead of time. If it’s the day before, it’s safe to frost them and store them in the fridge until ready to serve. Otherwise, I would recommend frosting just before serving if you need to freeze the cupcakes for later use.
More Fall Apple Desserts to Love:
Apple Cider Cupcakes with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs room temperature
- 2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons apple cider
- 8 oz. cream cheese room temperature
- 2 Tablespoon unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon Bourbon or sub apple cider
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar
- Optional: 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Apple Cider Cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin tins with liners.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, use a hand or stand mixer, with a paddle attachment, to cream together sugars and butter for about 2-3 minutes. Once light and fluffy, add vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, mixing between each addition, and scraping the sides as needed.
- Combine oil and apple cider. Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients together, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (3 dry additions, 2 wet additions). Mix together the batter until just combined between each addition.
- Divide the batter evenly between each muffin tin, filling approximately 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 14-17 minutes until the internal temperature reaches approximately 200°F. Be careful to not overbake. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, add softened cream cheese and butter; beat until fully combined and smooth.
- Add bourbon, and vanilla extract if using, stirring to combine. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing to combine between each addition. Continue mixing until smooth, adding an additional 1/2 cup of powdered sugar for a thicker texture.
- Spread or pipe the frosting on top of cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with additional cinnamon, as desired.
- Make the frosting alcohol-free by substituting apple cider in place of the bourbon.
- Apple cider or apple juice? You can use them interchangeably, however, if using juice I’d recommend replacing 1-2 teaspoons of it with lemon juice to add the tart flavor you get with apple cider.
- When updated in October 2020, the flour increased from 1 1/4 cups to 1 1/2 cups, and the oil was added. The butter amount in the frosting was reduced from 1/4 cup to 2 TBSP to thicken the consistency, and additional apple cider was removed.