What You Need:
- 1 jar (14.5 ounces) red spiced apple rings, drained (or substitute with 3 fresh apples; see below)
- 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix
- 1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 24 paper liners for cupcake pans (2 1/2 inch size)
- Food processor
- 45 to 50 caramels (from a 14-ounce bag)
- 1/3 cup evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
- 24 wooden craft sticks (optional)
What You Do:
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Line 24 cups on your cupcake pans with paper liners. Set the pans aside.
- Prepare the cupcake batter: Place the drained apple rings in the food processor and finely chop them with the pulse button for 15 seconds.
- Place the cake mix, pudding mix, chopped apple rings, water, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for about 30 seconds.
- Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure all of the batter is incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look well combined.
- Spoon or scoop about 1/4 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it two thirds of the way. You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes.
- Remove the empty liners if any and fill the empty cups in the pan each with a small amount of water. Place the pans side by side in the oven.
- Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and the top springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for about 5 minutes.
- Gently remove the cupcakes from the pans and place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before glazing.
- Meanwhile, prepare the caramel glaze: Unwrap the caramels and place them in a medium-size saucepan. Add the evaporated milk. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until all the caramels are melted and the mixture is combined, about 5 to 6 minutes. At the very end, stir in the vanilla.
- Immediately spoon the warm caramel glaze over the top of each cooled cupcake and sprinkle the chopped peanuts around the edges. Careful! The caramel will be hot and this part can get pretty sticky too!
- Push a craft stick in the center of each cupcake, if desired, to make them look like caramel apples. The cupcakes are ready to serve and enjoy!
Store these cupcakes, in a cake saver, under a glass dome or in a large tupperware container, at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or freeze them (without the craft sticks), wrapped in aluminum foil or in a cake saver, for up to 6 months. Thaw the cupcakes overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
The Cupcake Doctor Says...
If you can't find spiced apples, you can use fresh apples as a substitute. Cut 3 to 4 fresh apples (any kind you like) into slices and throw them into a saute pan with 1/3 cup of water, about a Tbsp of sugar, and a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg. Saute over medium low heat for a few minutes until the apples are tender. Once they've cooled for a few minutes, chop them up or throw them into the food processor for a rough chop. Add the apples to the batter and follow the recipe accordingly. These cupcakes are perfect for fall parties, and they look beautiful lined up on a wooden tray.
Some More Ideas:
Hold a Harvest Birthday Party!
- Turkey burgers (on buns) or turkey sub sandwiches: With lettuce, tomato, roasted red peppers, onion slices (if your kids like them), and a mild vinaigrette, all on a sub roll
- Vegetable chips
- Waldorf salad: Apple and celery chunks and walnut pieces mixed with mayonnaise
- Caramel Spiced Apple Cupcakes
- Apple cider
- Party favors: Miniature pumpkins and Indian corn, candy corn
- Activities: Apple bobbing; decorating and carving pumpkins