Are we all talking about the seasons right now? It seems that way. This shift from summer to fall is so abrupt, especially here in the hinterlands. One day its tomatoes and sun and the next is apples and frost.
It was so cold this morning when I got out of bed, but I refused to turn the heat on—I can't accept that summer is over yet. So I put on my robe, some socks, and looked for an excuse to turn the oven on. I remembered this airy, moist apple cake I had made last fall.
This cake starts out innocently enough, butter, sugar, you know, the usuh. But then it gets all autumn-y with strands of juicy apple, warm spices, and some little, tiny cinnamon chips. There is no reason on earth I should have things like mini cinnamon chips in my pantry, but I do, so I use them. You—sane person—could just leave them out.
But the icing on the cake (yeah, I said it) is the maple frosting. What is it about maple syrup that makes you want to go jump in a pile of leaves? Is it that it comes from a tree? Whatever it is, the maple frosting has two feet firmly planted in fall. That's okay, I'll return to my tomatoes tomorrow.
Note: I have self-control issues and a four-year-old in my house so everything gets turned into cupcakes, but I have made this in a Bundt pan and a 10-inch cake pan with excellent results, just bake it for 50 minutes instead of 30.
Apple-Buttermilk Cupcakes with Maple Frosting
Adapted from The Naptime Chef
Makes 20 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 packed cup peeled, grated apple (about 3 small apples)
1/2 cup mini cinnamon chips (optional)
For the frosting:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup maple syrup
Heat oven to 350°F. Line a 12-well muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl until combined.
Beat butter and sugars in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg, one at a time, until well combined. Add vanilla and mix again.
Add half the buttermilk and mix on low until incorporated. Add half the flour mixture and mix on low again, just until incorporated. Repeat until all buttermilk and flour mixture have been used.
Add the apples and cinnamon chips and stir just until combined. Fill paper liners with batter and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the pan immediately and let cool completely. Bake remaining batter.
When cupcakes are cooled, make frosting: combine butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add maple syrup and beat until incorporated and smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes and serve.