Move over, apple cider donuts! These apple cider cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting will be your new favorite Fall dessert. They are fluffy and soft with hints of cinnamon and apple in every bite.
There's no better way to celebrate the arrival of Autumn than with a batch of delicious cupcakes! These cupcakes have a tart spiced apple cider cake base and an indulgent cinnamon cream cheese frosting on top that no sweet lover can resist. Don't tell anyone, but they're secretly gluten free!
Why This Recipe Works
- Apple cider cake- The cupcakes are moist, tender, and filled with juicy, spiced apple cider flavor.
- Cream cheese frosting- The warm, cinnamon spiced cream cheese frosting is rich, sweet, and slightly tangy. It's the perfect compliment to apple cider.
- Brown sugar- The only sweetener in the cake is brown sugar, no granulated white sugar! This adds extra moisture and depth of flavor.
- Easy to make- You can whip up a batch of cupcakes in under an hour! They're perfect served with coffee or tea or as a Thanksgiving dessert.
Watch How to Make This Recipe
Here are notes about the ingredients used. For quantities, see the recipe card below.
- Gluten free flour- Make sure it has xanthan gum in it. It helps stabilize ingredients in gluten free baked goods. My favorite is Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour.
- Baking powder
- Apple pie spice- Or a homemade blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.
- Unsalted butter- Pull this out an hour before baking to soften.
- Brown sugar- Light or dark brown sugar work.
- Vanilla extract
- Eggs- Pull these out an hour before baking to reach room temperature.
- Apple cider- The flavor of apple cider can vary, so choose a high quality one since it's the main flavoring of these cupcakes.
- Cream cheese- Pull this out an hour before making the frosting. Make sure it's full fat.
- Powdered sugar
- Cinnamon- Any kind of ground cinnamon works to compliment the apple flavor.
- Gluten free flour: Regular all purpose flour can be used.
- Apple pie spice: Pumpkin pie spice can be substituted.
- Apple cider: 100% apple juice can be used if apple cider isn't in season.
Helpful Equipment and Tools
You'll need a 12-tin cupcake pan filled with cupcake liners and a stand mixer or electric hand mixer. You'll also need some basic baking equipment like measuring cups, measuring spoons, mixing bowls, a whisk, and a rubber spatula. I recommend a food scale too.
Step by Step Instructions
Here are the steps to make apple cider cupcakes. Steps are associated with the image below them. Read the directions carefully so you don't miss any important steps!
STEP 1: Sift the dry ingredients. First, preheat the oven to 350F and prepare a cupcake pan with liners. Then, whisk the gluten free flour, baking powder, apple pie spice, and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
STEP 2: Cream butter and brown sugar. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or hand mixer, beat the softened butter and brown sugar together on high. Let it run for 3-5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
TIP - Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
STEP 3: Add eggs and vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time on low speed until fully combined. Then, beat in vanilla.
STEP 4: Add dry ingredients and apple cider. Gently add in ½ of the dry ingredients, folding with a rubber spatula just until combined. Mix in ½ of the apple cider and repeat. Do not over mix.
STEP 5: Bake. Fill the lined cupcake tins ⅔ of the way full. Bake at 350F for 18-22 minutes or until the cake springs back when gently pressed. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
STEP 6: Cream butter and cream cheese. Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment or electric hand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together on high until there are no lumps. Beat in the vanilla.
STEP 7: Beat in the powdered sugar. Beat in all of the cinnamon and half of the powdered sugar on low for 3 minutes. Then, add in the other half of the powdered sugar and mix on low for another 3 minutes until well incorporated.
STEP 8: Fill the piping bag. First, prepare your piping bag with a piping tip and make sure the cupcakes are completely cool. Then fill the piping bag with frosting.
STEP 9: Frost. Start at the center of the cupcake and pipe a little buttercream to create a base. Then, slowly lift the bag up as you circle around the cupcake. Next, pipe another ¾ circle moving upwards towards the center. Then, quickly twist your wrist and pull the bag up away from the cupcake. Sprinkle cinnamon and turbinado sugar on top and enjoy!
- Make sure to measure the flour properly with a kitchen scale or by using the spoon and level method.
- Don't overmix the cupcakes. Overmixing makes cupcakes dense, gummy, and more like a muffin.
- Don't overfill your cupcake liners. They might overflow and spill! Fill ⅔ of the way so they will rise properly and evenly.
- If you don't have a piping bag, you can use a Ziplock bag instead. If you don't feel confident piping, you can spread the frosting over the cupcakes with a knife. They'll still be super delicious!
Additions and Variations
- Caramel- Drizzle caramel sauce on top of the cupcakes or fill them with it. They'll taste like caramel apple!
- Apple pie- Top with pie crumbs.
- Apple crumble- Top with oat crumble or granola.
- Nuts- Add finely chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter for a little crunch.
- Apple chunks- Add finely chopped apple pieces to the batter for bites of crisp texture. I like Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and Pink Lady apples best for baking.
- Brown sugar frosting- Frost with brown sugar buttercream frosting instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cream cheese frosting can become gritty if the butter, cream cheese, and confectioners' sugar are not beat together well. It's important to be sure they are creamed together completely before piping. Sifting the powdered sugar also helps remedy this.
This could be from either over-baking or over-measuring flour. I recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh it in grams for the most accuracy. Spooning flour into a measuring cup and leveling the excess is the second best method. Also make sure your oven setting is correct and not set to convection.
Cupcakes can deflate or sink when the batter is overmixed. Mixing too much adds too much air to the batter, so when cupcakes cool the air bubbles pop and they deflate. Only mix until just combined.
Make Ahead and Storage
Apple cider cupcakes can be made ahead 2 days in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. The frosting can also be made 5 days in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator.
- Counter- Store unfrosted cupcakes at room temperature for up to 2 days in an airtight container. This is the best way to store the cupcakes since refrigeration can dry them out.
- Refrigerator- Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in an airtight container. Leftover frosting can be stored for up to 5 days separately.
- Freezer- Wrap each cupcake in cling wrap and store in an air tight container. Freeze up to 1 week. To thaw, place on the counter for at least 2 hours or microwave at 10 second intervals.
More Cupcakes to Try
Apple Cider Cupcakes
For the cupcakes
- 2 cups gluten free baking flour 240g
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoon apple pie spice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup brown sugar packed, 200g
- 2 eggs large
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup apple cider 235g
For the frosting
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
To make the cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare a cupcake pan with paper liners. Set aside.
- Whisk the gluten free flour, baking powder, apple pie spice, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Set aside.2 cups gluten free baking flour, 2 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoon apple pie spice, ½ teaspoon salt
- Beat the softened butter and brown sugar together on high. Let it run for 3-5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.½ cup unsalted butter, 1 cup brown sugar
- Beat in the eggs one at a time on low speed until fully combined. Then, beat in vanilla.2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Gently add in ½ of the dry ingredients, folding with a rubber spatula just until combined. Mix in ½ of the apple cider and repeat. Do not over mix.1 cup apple cider
- Fill the lined cupcake tins ⅔ of the way full. Bake at 350F for 18-22 minutes or until the cake springs back when gently pressed. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
To make the frosting
- Cream the butter and cream cheese together on high until there are no lumps. This will take 5-8 minutes. Then beat in the vanilla.8 oz cream cheese, ½ cup unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Beat in all of the cinnamon and half of the powdered sugar on low for 3 minutes. Then, add in the other half of the powdered sugar and mix on low for another 3 minutes until well incorporated.3-4 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- Fill a prepared piping bag with frosting and pipe it onto the cupcakes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy.
- Measure the flour properly with a kitchen scale or by using the spoon and level method.
- Don't overmix the cupcakes or overfill the cupcake liners.
- You can spread the frosting over the cupcakes with a knife instead of piping.