The Apple of My Eye Cupcakes

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The term fruit-lover, in our family lexicon, dates back to something that happened when my sister, X (who agreed to me sharing this story on condition that she remain nameless), was around twelve years old. My parents, being sensible and caring people who attempted to instil in us healthy eating preferences, did not make a habit of serving dessert after dinner (we did have it on special occasions, but never if we hadn’t finished our main meal). Usually when one of us expressed a desire for something further once dinner was done, we were encouraged to ‘have a piece of fruit!’. None of us especially loved to hear this. The general consensus was that fruit wasn’t an appropriate substitute for dessert – fruit was HEALTHY! What an outrage. What a joke.

One evening, the well-meaning exhortation to ‘have a piece of fruit’ tipped sister X right over the edge. She nagged and wheedled, wanting ice-cream – but still the reply came, firm & fair – ‘have a piece of fruit!’. She was not persuaded. She started to beg. Her ‘please’ grew a few extra syllables, becoming “PUH-LEEH-HEEH-HEEEEEEAAASE!”, the word no longer a polite addition to a reasonable request, but in and of itself a full-blown whinge. Within moments a Category 5 tantrum descended. Ranting and railing against the tyranny of our parents’ insistence on fruit, she stormed out of the kitchen towards the sanctuary of her bedroom. As she reached the stairs, she paused briefly and turned on her heel for one parting shot. Eyes blazing, she screamed the line that would go down in family history:

“I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! YOU – YOU- YOU FRUIT LOVER , YOU!”

I know it’s a bit of a stretch to go from pre-teen dummy spit to Father’s Day, but I really wanted an excuse to tell that story. And if you think about these cupcakes it actually makes perfect sense – whether you are a hardcore fruit-lover, or conversely if the thought of fruit for dessert is enough to make you incandescent with rage, you will love these sweet apple cupcakes. They have real fruit in them, as well as a very (un)healthy dose of butter, sugar, more butter and more sugar. I was inspired to make them to celebrate Father’s Day, as my Dad is both a fruit-lover and a dessert-lover.

The cake recipe is inspired by smitten kitchen’s spiced applesauce cake and uses homemade applesauce. Don’t be put off by the extra step this adds – this applesauce is easy and this recipe uses it for both the cake and the curd filling. If you have any leftover applesauce, it is perfect as baby food. Alternatively you could do what I did and, once you have portioned out your required amounts for both cake and curd recipes, stand over the saucepan greedily spooning warm applesauce into your mouth.

Recipes and instructions below. I have also included some process pictures to show how I assembled these cupcakes. I apologise in advance for the picture quality – my kitchen is in many ways a lovely place to be, but it gets nearly no natural light.

Apple of My Eye Cupcakes

Easy As Applesauce

  • 1kg apples, peeled and cored
  • 2 strips of lemon peel
  • 1 small pinch cinnamon
  • 125ml water

Chop apples into uniform sized chunks and put all ingredients in a saucepan over low-medium heat. Cook with lid on until apples are soft enough to be squished with a fork (about 20 minutes, but check at 10 minutes to see how they’re coming along). Pull out the lemon peel and puree until smooth using a blender, food processor or stick blender.

This will yield enough applesauce for the cake and the apple curd filling, and possibly a little extra. You know what to do with the leftovers.

Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes

  • 250g flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 115g butter at room temperature
  • 195g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 365g applesauce

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius and line cupcake trays with paper liners. I got 15 cupcakes from this recipe, using a 1/3 cup scoop to portion out my batter.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.

Cream butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until very fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl and beating well after each addition.

Beat in applesauce.

With a wooden spoon, mix in flour mixture until just combined. The batter might look curdled and horrible, but it will bake up nicely.

Divide batter among cupcake liners (I used a 1/3 cup measure to portion out the batter) and bake for 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool cupcakes on a rack. Once cool, if not decorating straight away, wrap tightly in gladwrap and freeze. Bring back to room temperature before decorating.

Apple Curd Filling

  • 250g applesauce
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 65g unsalted butter
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs

In a small bowl or jug, whisk the eggs with a fork or a gem whisk until just combined.

Put the lemon juice, butter, sugar, and applesauce into a separate large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.

As soon as the butter has melted and the mixture is hot and glossy, pour a little of the mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly to combine, then add the eggs back to the applesauce mixture and whisk constantly over low heat until thick and creamy. This may take around 10 minutes – the temperature should be about 82 degrees celcius on a candy thermometer.

If your curd does curdle at any stage, take the pan off the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth.

Once thick, strain the curd through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps or pieces of cooked egg.

Allow the curd to cool. If not using straight away, store in a jug covered with gladwrap in the fridge. This recipe makes about 400ml of curd, which is about double what you need for the cupcakes, but I haven’t tested the recipe in a smaller quantity and I’m not sure whether it would work. If you are braver than I and decide to try it in a smaller amount, please let me know how it goes either in the comments or at hellohappybirthdaycake@gmail.com.

Cinnamon cream cheese frosting

140g cream cheese, room temperature
40g unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
120g icing sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated.

Marshmallow Fondant

  • 150g marshmallows, divided
  • 300g icing sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp water
  • Red & green food colouring

Put 50g of the marshmallows and 1/2 tsp of the water in a large, heatproof bowl. If you have multicoloured marshmallows, only use white marshmallows for this step. Zap in the microwave for 1 minute until marshmallows are puffy and expanded.

With a rubber spatula, stir until smooth. Add green food colouring, a little at a time, stirring to combine, until you have a green colour you are happy with (this will be for the apple leaves).

Add 100g of the icing sugar and stir to combine. When the mixture becomes too stiff to stir, turn it out onto a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and knead until smooth and no longer sticky. Wrap in glad wrap until ready to roll out and use.

Put remaining marshmallows and water in a large heatproof bowl and zap in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir with spatula until smooth and add red food colouring. You are aiming for a rich red colour.

Add remaining icing sugar, then stir & knead as before until smooth. Wrap well until ready to use.

To assemble & decorate:

  • Cupcakes
  • Apple curd
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup raspberry jam, melted (you can do this in 30 second bursts in the microwave) & pushed through a small sieve to remove seeds & lumps
  • Red & green fondant
  • Chocolate covered biscuit/pretzel sticks, cut into 2cm sections (I used these Gap biscuits, which I found in the Asian Foods section of my supermarket)

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Take your red fondant and microwave it for 20 seconds until it is warm and pliable. On a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, roll it out until quite thin, and then cut out 15 circles (or the same number as however many cupcakes you have) roughly the same size as your cupcakes using a round cookie cutter, glass, or anything else that’s the right size. I used an egg ring. Set the fondant circles aside.

Take your green fondant and microwave it for 20 seconds until warm and pliable. On a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, roll it out until thin, and then cut out 15 little circles. With your fingers, fold them in half around a bamboo skewer, pinching at the ends to make an oval shave so they look like leaves. You can use the tip of the skewer to indent ‘veins’ in the leaves to make them look even more realistic. Set the fondant leaves aside.

With a small, sharp knife, dig little holes in the cooled cupcakes. Discard (into your tummy) the little cupcake nubbins that this process produces.

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Add a few teaspoons or so of apple curd to fill up the little hole you have just dug.

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Cover the cupcake with a layer (not too thick) of cream cheese frosting. The curd and frosting will probably get a bit mixed up at this stage, which is fine, but I found it easier and a little neater to portion out the cream cheese frosting before spreading it on the cupcake.

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Take a cupcake and lay a red fondant circle on top, pressing down gently and evenly. Press down in the middle with your thumb or finger (very gently!) to make an indent. This will make it look more realistic once you add the stem and leaf. Do the same with the rest of the cupcakes. Brush the top of each fondant circle with the melted raspberry jam, mixed with a little red food colouring (this will make it shiny).

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To finish, poke a pretzel section into the middle of the fondant circle (so it looks like an apple stem). Tuck a fondant leaf next to the stem, et voila!

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4 thoughts on “The Apple of My Eye Cupcakes

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