Applesauce cupcakes are an easy fall dessert to make from scratch. These cupcakes are tender and moist, with a soft apple flavor and a hint of cinnamon. Topped with rich brown butter frosting!
While vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes are nice, it's time for a cupcake just for fall. One that includes all of the best fall flavors.
Applesauce cupcakes are moist and tender, filled with applesauce and cozy spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Topped with a sweet brown butter frosting, you won't find a better fall dessert than this!
Applesauce cupcakes are great year round, but are especially popular for cold-weather holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Unsalted butter - Adds moisture and flavor to your cupcakes. If using salted butter, omit half of the listed salt from the recipe.
- Granulated sugar - Adds the perfect amount of sweetness and also helps your cupcakes retain moisture during and after baking.
- Vanilla extract - Adds flavor to your cupcakes.
- Egg - Only one egg is needed for this recipe. Egg adds moisture and structure to a cupcake recipe. Normally, a recipe of this size would call for two eggs, but we're replacing one egg with the listed applesauce.
- All-purpose flour - Adds structure and balances with the wet ingredients in the recipe. I have not tested this recipe with other types of flours, so I can't say for sure how it would turn out with substitutions. To refrain from wasting ingredients, I highly recommend searching for a recipe written with the ingredients you have on hand instead of making substitutions that haven't been tested.
- Salt - Enhances the flavor of the cupcakes.
- Leavening - You'll need a combination of baking soda and baking powder to get the proper lift.
- Spices - Cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg give these cupcakes a warm fall flavor.
- Applesauce - I recommend only using unsweetened applesauce in this recipe. Sweetened applesauce will make these cupcakes too sweet.
Cupcake tips and tricks
For all of my favorite cake tips, see my full post: 10 tips for baking cake
- Properly measure your flour either by measuring with a kitchen scale, or using a spoon to scoop flour into your measuring cup, then using a knife to level off the top. Scooping using your measuring cup compacts flour into the cup, adding extra flour to the recipe.
- Only mix the batter until the ingredients are incorporated. Overmixing your batter can whip extra air in, causing the cupcakes to rise quickly and then fall in the center when they bake.
- When dividing cupcake batter, I like to use a large cookie scoop (amazon affiliate link) which is the perfect size to fill a cupcake liner with a single scoop. This ensures that your cupcakes all turn out the same size, and makes dividing batter a breeze.
- Do not unwrap cupcakes while they're still warm. Cupcakes will stick to the liners until they are fully cooled throughout. Once cooled, your cupcakes will easily unwrap.
- Are your cupcakes sticky on top? This can be caused by humidity in your home or storing cupcakes while they're still warm. This can't really be fixed, but can easily be covered with frosting.
- Do not frost warm cupcakes! Ermine frosting and buttercream frosting are sensitive to heat and will melt between 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to brown butter
If you've never browned butter before, don't be scared of this additional step. It's as simple as warming butter in a saucepan until it begins to caramelize.
Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Once the butter is completely melted, stir frequently until small flecks of brown develop at the bottom of the pan.
Butter browns quickly. You'll see deep golden flecks accumulating at the bottom of the pan. Once you see a good amount of golden brown (not black or burnt) specks, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
To speed up this process, pour the brown butter in a small bowl and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, or until it begins to solidify. You're looking for room temperature butter, not cold or hard butter.
I've included my recipe for brown butter frosting below. This recipe makes enough to pipe tall frosting on all 14 cupcakes, like shown in the photos. If you prefer less frosting, feel free to cut the recipe in half to make less.
Other types of frostings that work well on applesauce cupcakes:
- Ermine frosting - A less sweet, cooked flour frosting that's perfect for those who don't like the intense sweetness of buttercream frosting.
- Cream cheese buttercream frosting - A no-cook buttercream frosting with added tanginess from the addition of cream cheese.
How to test for doneness
Toothpick - Using a toothpick is a popular method to test for doneness. Stick a toothpick into the center of a cupcake. If it comes out with crumbs, they're done. If it comes out with wet batter, they need more time.
Spring back - Press a finger gently onto the top of one of your cupcakes. If it springs right back, your cupcakes are done. If it leaves an indent, your cupcakes need more time.
Thermometer - You can also use an instant read thermometer to test for doneness - cupcakes are done when they reach 205 degrees Fahrenheit in the center.
Applesauce cupcakes will keep for 3-4 days in a tightly sealed container at room temperature.
Cupcakes (frosted or unfrosted) can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or for several hours on the countertop before serving.
- 1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups (180 g) all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup (255 g) unsweetened applesauce, room temperature
Brown butter frosting
- 1 ½ cups (339 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 cups (454 g) confectioner's sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons (42 g) heavy cream, or milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line cupcake pan with liners. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add butter and sugar. With a hand mixer (or stand mixer) cream ingredients together until light and fluffy, about a minute. Add egg and vanilla and mix until combined and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir until just incorporated. Add half of the applesauce and mix until just incorporated. Repeat once more until all ingredients are incorporated into batter. Do not overmix.
- Divide batter between 16 cupcake liners. Bake in preheated oven for about 18 to 21 minutes, or until cupcake pops back up when pressed down in the center, or when toothpick inserted in the center comes back with crumbs, not wet batter.
- Remove pan from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Brown butter frosting
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, stirring frequently. Butter will begin to foam and boil. After 4 to 5 minutes you will see brown flecks appear in the bottom of the pan. Continue to stir until butter is golden and flecks are a medium brown color. Watch closely, butter will brown quickly. The entire process will take about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Remove butter from heat and pour into a small bowl. Refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes, or until butter has cooled to room temperature and beings to solidify.
- Add browned butter to a large bowl and whip until creamy. Add confectioner's sugar, half at a time, mixing slowly to incorporate. Increase speed and whip for 2 minutes until fluffy.
- Then, add vanilla extract and heavy cream. Whip another 2-3 minutes, or until frosting is fluffy.
- Pipe or spread frosting with a knife onto cupcakes and serve.
- Cupcakes will keep for 3-4 days at room temperature in a tightly sealed container.
- Allow cupcakes to cool completely before removing from paper liners or frosting. If still warm, cupcakes will stick to the paper liners. Buttercream frosting melts between 90-95 degrees, and will melt if frosted onto a warm cupcake.
- Frosting recipe makes enough frosting for tall, dramatic piped frosting (as shown in the photos). For less frosting, cut frosting recipe in half.
- Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking cake, based on reader comments and questions!
Would it be ok to add raisins to the recipe or would that mess it up?
I haven't tried adding raisins to this recipe before, so I can't say for sure how it would turn out. If you give it a try, let us know how it goes!
Why just one egg? Thanks Sandy
Hi Sandy, the applesauce adds structure and moisture, so we're able to reduce the amount of eggs needed.
Light, fluffy and delicious!! Also super easy!
Batter is strangely thick and stiff, more like bread dough than cake or cupcake batter. I followed the instructions as written, without modification. The cupcakes were tasty but dense and did not produce a flat top – the shape of the dough remained throughout baking, as with bread.
Hi Anne, the batter should be a little thick (like the photos above), but it sounds like it was thicker than it should be if the cupcakes turned out dense.
Potentially too much flour was added to the dough, which can cause the batter to turn out thick and baked cupcakes to turn out dense. How was your flour measured? I recommend using a kitchen scale, or scooping your flour into a measuring cup with a spoon, then leveling off with a knife. Scooping flour directly from a bin (especially if it's been sitting for a while) can compact flour into the cup, adding up to 25% extra flour to the recipe.
Made these and they're so delicious! The browned butter frosting is the best part for sure!!